Thoughts of a child

This afternoon I was trying to explain to one one my students what “sympathetic” meant. He picked up on the “pathetic” part. I tried to tell him that to feel sympathy was to understand how a person felt. Always choose your words carefully. I made the analogy of running for a bus in the rain and getting splashed as the bus pulled away. Later, you’re driving and see someone else running for a bus in the rain and being splashed as it drove away. Because it happened to you, you’d know how they felt. “Yeah,” he says. “They’re pathetic.” How do you argue with that?


One thought on “Thoughts of a child

  1. Speaking of picking one’s words carefully….(if I may)

    Sympathy — “The word derives from the Greek συμπάθεια (sympatheia)[3], from σύν (syn) “together” and πάθος (pathos) “passion”, in this case “suffering” (from πάσχω – pascho, “to be affected by, to suffer”).” (wiki sympathy etymology)

    Whereas “pathetic” doesn’t really jibe with that — “pathetic”
    1598, “affecting the emotions, exciting the passions,” from M.Fr. pathétique “moving, stirring, affecting” (16c.), from L.L. patheticus, from Gk. pathetikos “sensitive, capable of emotion,” from pathetos “liable to suffer,” verbal adj. of pathein “to suffer” (see pathos). Meaning “arousing pity, pitiful” is first recorded 1737. Colloquial sense of “so miserable as to be ridiculous” is attested from 1937. Pathetic fallacy (1856, first used by Ruskin) is the attribution of human qualities to inanimate objects.

    I think the words are related… but not too closely connected.
    Sympathy gets a bad rap — I went through a hard-ass libertarianesque phase where I was really down on the virtue of sympathy or compassion — but the older I get, and the more setbacks I have had with my health, the less of a hard-ass I am becoming.

    I guess… the best way I can explain it is this… When I was much younger, I felt that JUSTICE was the highest ideal to strive for and demand in human action… These days, I find myself more slowly, gently and contemplatively reflecting on the fact that I would actually prefer to see mercy… rather than justice.

    It kind of worries me to hear of young people seemingly entrenched in an attitude of callousness at such a tender age… Perhaps, they will be lucky and outgrow the calousness, indifference and affectations of cynicism as they mature. I hope so.

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