What is wanting [in Twain’s description of his brother Henry’s death in Life on the Mississippi], apparently, is the tragic imagination that, through communal form or ceremony, permits great loss to be recognized, suffered, and borne, and that makes possible some sort of consolation and renewal. What is wanting is the return to the beloved community, or to the possibility of one. That would return us to a renewed and corrected awareness of our partiality and mortality, but also to healing and to joy in a renewed awareness of our love and hope for one another. Without that return we may know innocence and horror and grief, but not tragedy and joy, not consolation or forgiveness or redemption. There is grief and horror in Mark Twain’s life and work, but not the tragic imagination or the imagined tragedy that finally delivers from grief and horror… . In old age,…[Twain] was finally incapable of that magnanimity that is the most difficult and the most necessary: forgiveness of human nature and human circumstance. Given human nature and human circumstance, our only relief is in this forgiveness, which then restores us to community and its ancient cycle of loss and grief, hope and joy.
For with us pity for others is the price we are anxious to pay for the privilege of our self-pity.
Robert Penn Warren. World Enough and Time: A Romantic Novel. Random House, New York. 1950. Pg 7.
One thought on this: pity is not compassion, but it seems similar.