Friday, June 13, 2008


“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” Ex 20:17 (ESV)

Theodore Dalrymple:
We are enjoined, when we suffer or feel unhappy (which are not necessarily quite the same thing, of course), to consider those who are yet worse off than ourselves. This is supposed to relieve and console us, but it rarely does. The most that it achieves is to make us feel guilty that we are so miserable over comparative trifles when others have so many worse travails than ours; and this in turn makes us feel more wretched than ever. Moreover, there is a curious moral assymetry at work: while the thought that there are always people worse off than ourselves is supposed to be edifying, the thought that there are always people better off than ourselves is not. Indeed, it is the very reverse, a powerful stimulus to resentment, the longest-lived, most gratifying and most harmful of all emotions.
When I think of those worse off than me, it does not induce guilt - it does put my pitiful complaints into perspective. But I very much agree with his second point.

The Pains of Memory - New English Review

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