The poor beetle

Isabella:
‘And the poor beetle that we tread upon
In corporal sufferance finds a pang as great
As when a giant dies.’
[Measure for Measure, 3.1.78-80]

Without empathy we would be unable to understand or relate to anything outside ourselves. We would be completely alone all of the time. To feel how others feel, whether they be beetles or giants, and to realize that others can feel as we do, is surely the greatest gift to humanity, and of life. To connect with all the worlds around us is our freedom and our beauty.

But then, just as the feeling of being at one with another is to find heaven, to feel the pain of another is akin to hell. Nobody wishes to face that. But in place of the giant of yore who could feel the misery of the beetle and act accordingly, we have created an altogether unfeeling giant—the corporation, the system, the machine—which without the capability of caring for anything other than its own business works to destroy our
innate sympathies.

The tools to which we are addicted are working at the expense of everything natural and good in this world. We are increasingly programmed to conform, creating a superficial unity that is light years away from empathy. Politically acceptable subjects are bandied about divisively, whilst other crucial issues are just as divisively overlooked.

Our first responsibility must be to the ‘earthlings’ that share this planet with us. When we undermine them, we diminish ourselves as well.

Take Physic, Pomp!

[The authors wish to acknowledge that although they may appear to have taken this particular passage from Shakespeare out of context, the playwright often undercut the meaning intended by a character – in this case the unsympathetic Isabella – with another sense in keeping with a deep and humane vision.]

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