Compassionate Love: Bearing Transcendence

Tattva - Journal of Philosophy 6 (1):55-72 (2014)
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Abstract

The view that charity consists in an expansion of existing interpersonal relations is rather misleading. We need to see it as a radical transformation, of existing relations, even if this suspension is only temporary. In charity we see a person as someone who is no longer capable of reacting appropriately. Someone who is no longer capable of behaving as a „person‟ nevertheless continues to be a person. She does not lose her personal sanctity or dignity even if she has lost a practical grasp on controlling and guiding the course of her life. Today we often tend to reduce charity to a compassionate form of helping, or aid-giving, such as when materials, doctors and psychologists are sent to regions that are torn apart by war or famine. It is much easier to understand charity when it can be measured against the reduction of physical and emotional distress. It is much more difficult to understand charity in cases where aid proves to be powerless, when there is no measurable return or change that is brought about. While ethics cannot teach us what to do once compassion, benevolence and forgiveness fail to make any difference, prayer can help us to move forward. Praying for others, more specifically, the long-suffering involved in prayer, is a particularly important form of charity. It has the power to lift us above our inability to do anything helpful. We pray at the very moment when we experience our powerlessness to help.

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