Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Compassion is not a quantity.

I am not a sports fan--never have been.  I have a fully developed appreciation of athleticism, but because of many other interests, I never gave much time for the enjoyment of sporting events or team play.  

However, once or twice in my life, I have been swept away by a Great Sporting Drama.  I was completely seduced by Torvil and Dean at the height of their powers.  I was equally transfixed by the age of McEnroe, Borg and the Connor comeback.  Talk about drama, emotion and dazzling prowess.  Really killer.  

The Edmonton Oilers dynasty of the 1980's was profound.  When every single person in a city of 1 million is rooting for a team, it is practically impossible to avoid the electricity.  For a while, everybody likes everybody else--it is quite lovely, really.  Later, after Gretzky was traded to L.A., streets and buses and markets were all out zombie land.  Moping hordes--lost in the haze of a child who has lost a beloved pet. Edmonton, in those days, was in real mourning.

In the last day or so, one of my facebook friends posted a photo meme.

The trope presented by this image and text is glib and callow.  In plain English, it is bullshit.

Yesterday, the T.O. Maple Leafs lost an opportunity to play for the Lord Stanley Cup, the top prize in the NHL.  The seventh game of a seven game series was in Boston, against the legendary Bruins.  The Leafs have not won a cup since 1967, so fans, indeed the city itself, camped at Maple Leaf Square to watch the game on a big outdoor screen.

Until today, I was not even aware of this drama.  Like I said, I am not a sports fan.  I heard about it this morning, watching the local news over coffee and smokes with my Mom.  

Here is an image of the fans celebrating a goal by the Leafs, followed by the same fans in shock at their loss.

More to the point is the live video of fans feeling the loss. You'll have to watch a short commercial, but please look at it--all of it. You'll have to do so if you want to feel what I'm after.

Now I already know every argument to counter my theory here, and all of them are wrong.  Some will say that this event and the feelings it created are out of a shallow principle, felt by shallow people.  Others will chalk it up to ignorance or stupidity--I mean it's only a game, right.  Somebody's got to lose.

These and other arguments are the source of the third rate philosophy of the photo meme, so-called bumper-sticker philosophy. This type of philosophy is no longer confined to the pages of cheesy self-help books or the high minded attitude of New Age self-righteousness.  It is rampant on the internet and it is wrong.

Compassion can not be quantified.  It is not possible to feel more or less compassion.  One type of pain, or one magnitude of pain, is no more or less problematic than another type or magnitude of pain.  Pain hurts, and if you have real compassion, you feel it too--regardless of the imposed dignity of its source.

Things are important for one reason only--because people think they are important.  Importance is not instinctual or animal, it is an aesthetic.  Only humans possess aesthetic values.  In a very real and completely binding sense the position one holds on, say, the drone strikes in Syria, is no more than an aesthetic value.  An animal would not "think" about such matters.  An animal would get herself and her children the hell out of there or die trying, and if she was far away from the action, she would have no way to feel it directly.

Only humans can think about the other side of the world or the vastness of space.  This "thinking" is not the origin of our existence, but it is the origin of our humanity. 

No one can tell another that what they feel, love and think is "not important" or that it "doesn't matter".  If something matters, it is because you think it matters.  Everyone has the right to think how they choose, and although some are better at it that others, and able to see more of the intricate puzzle of human consciousness, these betters do not feel any more or less pain when they get hurt.

Last night, the city of Toronto took an awful blow.  This blow was not aimed at the high-minded or the in-the-know, but at real people, people with feelings, and anyone who thinks it doesn't matter is a nitwit.

If you want to know just why this is such a gaping wound, consider the fascinating mystery of Bill Barilko while you listen to the song below.

Barilko was only 24 when he died.  His people loved him.  Turn it up loud and tell me it doesn't matter.

Bill Barilko disappeared that summer
He was on a fishing trip
The last goal he ever scored
Won the Leafs the cup
They didn't win another till nineteen sixty two
The year he was discovered
I stole this from a hockey card
I keeped tucked up under

My fifty-mission cap


Sensei said...

Sports… especially team sports… are not merely a symbolic/mythic passion play, not simply a shared metaphor for the travails of life… they are an opportunity to experience the epic heart-break and glory of human endeavor. To do battle… to seize the advantage… to go down in flames… together… all with the luxury of the “do-over,” is a scarce commodity in today’s world.

John Bourassa said...

Hey Wiz,

The Leafs actually won the Stanley Cup a few more times after 1962. The last time they won was in 1967 - Canada's centennial year.

Ever since the Chicago Black Hawks won the cup a few years ago, Toronto has the distinction of being the NHL team to go longest without winning a cup - 46 years and still counting.

Mark LeClair said...


Thank you for the editorial critique. I have made the necessary change.


Peter Greene said...

Interesting take...I think you said it well, about people having feelings and all. Still, one looks dorky painted blue and weeping.

zzzz said...

Don't hang onto the baggage and belief systems that don't belong to you, and thus you will be free to be more of yourself. Be your highest Joy, act it out, and drop all else.

Your outer reality is nothing more than a reflection of your current strongest belief systems. So just be your highest joy, and don't get invested in or carry other people's baggage lest it gets reflected back to you.

Yes, I got this from Bashar...

Yoda missed the final step: 'do not do, only be'