Sunday, March 28, 2010

Henry James, "The General Sum of Suffering"

She only wants not to suffer — she is immensely afraid of that. Therefore, she wishes to be universally tender — to mitigate the general sum of suffering, in the hope that she herself may come off easily. Poor thing! she doesn’t know that we can diminish the amount of suffering for others only by taking to ourselves a part of their share. The amount of that commodity in the world is always the same; it is only the distribution that varies. We all try to dodge our portion, and some of us succeed. I find the best way is not to think about it, and to make little water-colours.

from “The Impressions of a Cousin,” Henry James, 1884