Both places have the same set-up; large dining tables filled with delicious food. However, the forks are too long and it is impossible for the diners to eat with them.
Those who dwell in He11 live in eternal frustration and hunger at not being able to eat the food. Those who dwell in Heaven, however, simply smile and use the long forks to feed each other.
She describes compassionate behaviour as subject to a battle for supremacy between conflicting instincts, one to reach out to someone in need and the other to protect ourselves from the unknown.
I'm always rattled by a story in the news about someone coming to someone else's aid in a street altercation and being killed or seriously injured for their pains. The woman who stood up to the man in London recently who had just butchered a soldier in plain sight risked more than she probably knew, but her instinct for compassion (she wanted to keep him busy so he wouldn't hurt anyone else) won out.
So, too, did it for the father and daughter in Toronto who recently jumped onto a subway track to rescue a man who had fallen in and couldn't get up. They were assisted by a quick thinking individual who knew how to turn off the power to the third rail. The father didn't even think of how much danger he was in until he saw his daughter jump down beside him to help out, and then his compassion for her added even more urgency to the situation.
When things work out, we wonder if we could do the same thing, but when they don't, we think it's not worth getting involved. Emiliana Simon-Thomas, quoted in the aricle, says that "feeling safe" is the key to whether someone chooses to help or not. If we occupy a position of comfort with ourselves and our environment, it gives a sense of invincibility which erases any reason not to intervene. We basically don't think of the danger fast enough. But when we're insecure in ourselves or our environment, we naturally think of the consequences to ourselves first, and choose not to act.
The consequences of not acting, however, can also be painful if the victim is hurt and you feel you could have done something. Survivors guilt is built on this. And then there are the cases where you do act but it's insufficient, or you wonder if you've been taken advantage of.
Recently I was at the supermarket checking out a small order when a man came up with some Tostitos and three kinds of dip, and asked me very directly if I would buy them for him. I asked why, and he said, "So I can eat them." I verbalized my assumption that he couldn't pay for them himself, and when he nodded I said sure, put them on the belt. This totally disconcerted the guy behind me, who couldn't believe the guy's bravura and thought I had been had. He asked if I had felt intimidated by the guy, and I said no.
Thinking about it later, I rationalized it this way: assuming the guy was really broke, he had some choices: he could steal, he could starve, or he could ask for help in some way. I live downtown and pass by people asking for money most days, and mostly I don't give. In this case, faced with a direct plea, I guess my comfort level was such that compassion won the day. I couldn't say no, not because I was scared, but because I wasn't. I had money, I had food, I had a home to go to. Why not add a few bucks to my grocery bill for someone else? It's like having guests to dinner, or a neighbour ask for some eggs. My dominant feeling was ultimately, we're all in this together.
As long as you don't carry a knife.