Acts of Compassion: Caring for Others and Helping Ourselves by Robert Wuthnow

By Robert Wuthnow

Robert Wuthnow reveals that those people who are such a lot fascinated with acts of compassion aren't any much less individualistic than a person else--and that those people who are the main intensely individualistic are not any much less interested by taking good care of others. Robert Wuthnow unearths that people who are such a lot eager about acts of compassion aren't any much less individualistic than an individual else--and that those people who are the main intensely individualistic aren't any much less focused on taking good care of others.

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She tries one more time to offer a generalization, but quickly retreats into a statement referring only to herself. “I think everyone has some selfish motives, including myself. Like I said, it helps me to help other people, so that’s selfish, even though the outcome is good. ” Unfortunate, but in what sense? ” . 9 . In their own unique ways Jack Casey, Marge Detweiler, and Janet Russo all reflect the dilemmas our culture imposes on those who would be compassionate. They try hard to care deeply about others, but they are also intensely individualistic, and so they struggle as they talk about themselves to find a language that allows them to be both.

The discourse in which such behavior is inscribed is no less a part of the act than is the behavior itself. The possibility of compassion depends as much on having an appropriate discourse to interpret it as it does on having a free afternoon to do it. To ask whether compassion is possible, therefore, is to ask about the languages on which its very conceivability depends. But to ask about language inevitably moves us from the level of the individual to the level of society. Each of us must use language to make sense of our individual experiences; this is why the words of individuals like Jack Casey and Marge Detweiler and Janet Russo are so important to understand.

We must ask, does caring for others primarily help “our selves,” as individuals, or can it also help “ourselves,” as a society? 46 PART II LANGUAGES OF COMPASSION This page intentionally left blank CHAPTER THREE Talking about Motives N OT LONG AGO a local newspaper carried the story of an elderly woman who made quilts. For more than half a century she had sewn quilts, donating the proceeds to various causes, such as a hospital, a senior citizens’ center, a school for autistic children. Most of the story was no different from hundreds of others printed in local newspapers each day.

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