In our moments of self-pity and weakness we have a tendency to flock to the appetites for comfort. The sensual pleasures are something that moral people do not routinely base their lives upon, but in moments of weakness or rationalization even a moral man can brutalize his soul through pursuit of the appetites. I use the word ‘brutalize’ because in the long run that is exactly what he is doing. Over consumption of alcohol, cheap food and even sex in excess have a deteriorative effect phenomenologically on the human condition – two of them also have long-term health consequences; sex doesn’t asides from the risk of STDs or even worse the evils of bringing forth a new life into this world.
It is when we feel the most sorry for ourselves we allow ourselves to do things we wouldn’t normally allow ourselves to get away with. And though in the short-term, and in small doses, this can have a therapeutic effect, generally speaking one lowers themselves through pity, the actions and the consequences of pity. We stop acting on our nobler impulses, stop pursuing art and enrichment, and instead pursue sensual appetites that do nothing to enrichen or embolden. The soul shrinks when it feels pity for itself. It acts in a way that it knows through experience will not bring lasting happiness, fulfillment or virtue but in weakness it acts in a narrower and “selfish” way in order to escape from one’s self rather than have the self grapple with these problems that are innate and inevitable in life.
Leisure generally speaking is a good. To live in comfort and away from the hardships that plagued most of the human race and still burden most of humanity today. Truly it would be better never to have been born, but since all of us are born we who do live in comfort should be thankful at-least for this. However, there is a type of “leisure” that is harmful, even brutal. It is the savaging of the soul through inertia, through lethargy that creates a harsh person – both to himself and to others. Through pity he thinks of all the cruel and selfish people who have wronged him, and it makes him small in pity. The soul is not concerned then with expanding itself through creativity, wisdom or compassion, but instead of the self-acknowledgment that wrongs have been perpetrated, and to be alive in the world (particularly this world but any will do for some sorrow) is indeed a very sad state of affairs. But this weakness is not perpetrated out of sorrow but pity. Sorrow is nothing more than despair over this sad state of affairs, whether the affairs one despairs over is general or specific is secondary in nature. Pity is the state of being of a soul that doesn’t wish to improve itself or even to particularly mourn for one’s self but instead to feel entitled or deserving to wallow in atrophy. A sad man wants to be happy, or wants the world to change so peace, justice, freedom and happiness is attainable to all – a pitiful man is a selfish and small man who cares only for his own pitifulness.
In this sense, despite the way the word is used or what it “means” broadly speaking, in some ways pity is the anti-thesis of compassion. Compassion is sympathy for another human being and wishing them to not be in pain – acknowledging this fundamentally awful state of affairs and empathizing with our fellow sufferers. To pity is to give a type of emotional penance to someone and to act pitiful is to ask that others give yourself this emotional coinage. A insincere “oh, I’m sorry…” this is not the soul reaching out to another being, human or animal, that can and is in great pain, but instead is simply a meaningless semblance of words that contains significance only through its masquerade. When we see someone who is pitiful, we do not truly mourn for them, but feel slight disgust over their inability to accept the harshness of this life. When we see someone suffering, and they show “legitimate pain” that is pain not created out of self-pity, a compassionate human being will empathize because they know that life is hard and pain is awful.
The self-brutalization that comes from pity cannot be helped, but just because in the causal sense nothing can be helped does not mean that we should encourage or accept all actions. We cannot place fundamental moral blame on the pitiful, the hateful, the vicious, but we can see that if their actions or state-of-being brings about more pain (even in themselves alone, but this is seldom the case, since misery, and particularly pity, loves company) that they are states that for their own sake as well as for others should be corrected. Usually compassion and love offered, as well as material resource is at-least part of the remedy. But sometimes harshness, or “tough love” is a better one still. To say, “get over it,” or “move on,” is not, with proper understanding, to say that one does not understand life’s injustice, but instead it is to say that one is paradoxically being too easy, and consequently, too harsh on one’s self. We are best to ourselves when we challenge ourselves. When we stimulate our intellectual and emotional capacities and grow, rather than treading mud in the swamp of pity; the stagnation of wallow.
The harshness of intellectual and moral leisure (that is people being intellectually and morally lazy, not the leisure of intellectualism or morality) is rampant in our society. The stagnancy of pity has run deep through great suffering and a lacking of great will which the average person, well, lacks. We must always encourage creativity over passivity; spontaneity over stagnancy; and most importantly empathy for others and determination of the self over pity.