Item 1589 - Does the news destroy compassion?

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Reference code

CA ON00389 1-9-1-1589

Title

Does the news destroy compassion?

Date(s)

  • September 1976 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

3 p. of textual records

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(1932-1996)

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This item is a 3 page article by Henri Nouwen entitled, ‘Does the News Destroy Compassion?, published in The Sign, September, 1976, pp.25 -27. Nouwen begins this article by making reference to the monk, Thomas Merton who read no newspapers, nor watched television, nor listened to the radio but who had a strong sense of solidarity with humanity. Nouwen quotes Merton ‘ My first duty is to start to live as a member of a human race that is no more and no less ridiculous than I am myself’. This, Nouwen suggests, lead Merton to compassion. ‘It was because of this compassionate solidarity that Merton was able to speak out and to offer criticism…to distinguish illusions from reality’. Nouwen then speaks about our modern exposure daily to images and descriptions of deep human suffering that we can do nothing about. He says, ‘ I am wondering, more and more, if day-to-day confrontation with human suffering with which identification is impossible does not, in fact, create more anger than love and more disgust than compassion’. He then asks, ‘How can I become a compassionate person?. Nouwen indicates that most of Merton’s information came from personal sources, letters, from individuals rather than collectivities. “In these letters Merton saw the world with its pains and joys; these letters brought him in contact with a living community of people who had real faces, real tears, and real smiles’. Nouwen concludes the article ‘A compassionate person has an eye for small things and is able to trust in the simple response. The great temptation is to make things so complex that any response seems inadequate and meaningless’.

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Published in The Sign (September 1976): 25-27.
There is a photo at the head of the article of a nun with a number of malnourished children.

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Accession Number

2000 01

Location

Box 294

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