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I wonder if there is an innate, primeval desire in the psyche of humanity that draws us towards suffering no matter it severity. Why else would crowds gather at the scene of an accident or stand silently around burning building, if not for a subconscious need to witness other people’s distress?

There can be no pleasure in seeing a corpse carried from the scene of an accident, or in observing the distraught family members coming to terms with a sudden tragic event, but still we stop, and we stare, and inadvertently consider ourselves luck, because it so easily could have been us in the black plastic body bag.

Do we need to bear witness to the precariousness of life, to reaffirm the truth that life is better than death?      Is witnessing suffering in any of its physical, emotional or even spiritual forms, an inexpensive but essential pick-me-up for any ailing soul, a source of natural reassurance that our own lives are not that bad.

 Is pity not an enticing sentiment, one that we all have the potential to exploit for both our personal and social gain; a tragic tale can be a shrewd snare, with which to catch the attention of a passing stranger, an inattentive friend or dismissive lover.

The attractiveness of suffering, I believe is beneficial to the fabric of society and necessary to each family unit and personally essential to the well-being of every individual.  I suspect that this innate need to respond to the misfortunes of the others, bonded our earliest ancestors into fledgling communities, and through the arousal of emotional curiosity, compassion and empathy emerged as essential human traits, and that the interaction between individuals on an emotion, or possibly spiritual level, formed the first foundations of family groups.

It is natural for us to care about others, caring as a human characteristic is in the fabric of our DNA; it is part of the human condition.     We can never truly know the deeps of anyone’s physical and psychological pain no matter how much we try to emphasise.  This is not a failing on our part, but an evolutionary restraint to ensure our own personal survival.    However, how we respond as individuals towards other people’s misfortune is important to the wider health of society and more crucially to ourselves.  We may choose to avert our eyes, to filter our contact with those prone to physical impairments or ignore the existence of those people with challenging psychological or emotional behaviours, we could pretend the world is as we wished it to be, and delude ourselves into believing, that we ourselves are perfect, in an imperfect world.

I do not take is approach.  I know, that I am not perfect, in this imperfect world.   I can also acknowledge that I have manipulated people in my past, and, as others have manipulated me, under a pretext of pity and pain, for personal gain.   I have known suffering, and I know that I have inflicted much pain on others, and that they live with the consequences of my actions still.

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