Stephen Fry on Confidence

"We all suffer alone in the real world; true empathy’s impossible. But if a piece of fiction can allow us imaginatively to identify with a character’s pain, we might then also more easily conceive of others identifying with our own. This is nourishing, redemptive; we become less alone inside. It might just be that simple."

— David Foster Wallace, from “A Conversation with David Foster Wallace,” by Larry McCaffery. (via oliveryeh)

(via oliveryeh)

Many years ago I was the moderator of a pretty active set of GLBT message boards. One of the most active participants was a heterosexual woman who was “straight but not narrow.”

One thing she didn’t understand was the proverbial bumper sticker of “sticking in people’s faces.” Because she was sincere, and not a jerk, I took the to ask her what she meant - “Why do you have to mention the type of relationship you’re in, or who you’re dating? Straight people don’t do that.”

And the challenge was on.

I told her to try and go for a week without mentioning husband or kids (this was long enough ago that would create a heterosexual presumption - heck, it still does).

She assumed it would be easy, and said, “You’re on!”

She was abashed the first evening she came back to report. “You’re right. I couldn’t do it.”

When I asked what happened, she noted that on her way to work, that very first morning, somebody noticed her keyring, which her husband had given her, and had a picture of him and their children. How could she say what it was, who it was from, without “coming out” as a straight person.

She began to understand further when she got to her office and noticed that she had  pictures of her family on her credenza. Should she take them down? They said “what” she was - and even if they didn’t, what if somebody asked?

This was towards the end of the week, and as folks started discussing their weekend plans. She and her family were going camping. How could she discuss that - “My roommate?” “My, uh, well, friend and, uh, our kids….”

One of the duties of the artist – not the only duty, but a central one – is to impel people to imagine the complexity of thought and feeling inside another person. Art complicates moral action, because we have to accept that other people matter, that their hardship and suffering, even their rage and sorrow, are, to some extent, our responsibility.

Propaganda has the opposite aim: it is intended to simplify moral action. People get to disregard the humanity of others. This makes them easier to ignore, deport, imprison, torture, enslave, and kill.

"In fiction, also, we are able to understand characters’ actions from their interior point of view, by entering into their situations and minds, rather than the more exterior view of them that we usually have. And it turns out that psychologically there is a big difference between these two points of view. We usually take the exterior view of others, but that’s too limited."-Keith Oatley, professor in the department of human development and applied psychology at the University of Toronto and a published novelist himself, who details the latest findings in the area in his online magazine, OnFiction.

"But while Christ did not say to men, ‘Live for others,’ he pointed out that there was no difference at all between the lives of others and one’s own life. "

— Oscar Wilde

"Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are."

— Benjamin Franklin

"If we have no imagination, if we are unable to put ourselves in the place of the one we are judging, then it matters little whether we go abroad or live in our own little house. Our world is bounded by our own petty desires and ambitions"

— Eleanor Gordon, “The Worth of Sympathy” (Unitarian, minister, reformer)

(Source: uuquotes, via revnaomiking)