Take Time to See the Harmony
All of us genuinely desire to see our own sentiments, our own thoughts, feelings, judgments, whatever they are about the things we care about--we want to see those echoed in other people we care about. He thinks that's just a fact of human nature. So, the sympathy of sentiments you and I have--it's not that I feel sorry for you. Sympathy means more harmony. Harmony or concord--those are other words he uses. So, if you and I go to a lecture, and the lecturer is giving a talk and I lean over to you during the lecture and say: Boy, this guy's full of it. And you say: I actually think it's brilliant. Well, then we are not having a sympathy of sentiments. Then we are having an antipathy of sentiments. Or, to take an issue of morality, if somebody sitting in the front row takes a phone call and I say: Boy, that's rude. And you say: Well, come on, sometimes you have to call. That would be another example of where we would be unsympathetic with each other and I would have been unsympathetic with the caller's decision to take the call.
I’m curious as well about the idea of patience in the discussion on sympathy. It seems to me that sometimes we expect an immediate response from people, that prevents them from pause and reflection before speaking. Such as if a waiter makes a mistake on our order at a restaurant, and we challenge them immediately about it - expecting a quick response.
Perhaps this might also be a source of our difficulty sympathizing at times. For example, if after realizing our sweater is destroyed in the wash we paused and took a moment and made an effort to focus our energy on a positive of that day instead, it might temper our initial burst of passion. It might require more effort but maybe it would enable us to sympathize better with those who wronged us?
That's a great point about patience, Shal. We learn from Smith, at least indirectly, that the impartial spectator must weigh a number of factors, such as an actor's intentions, the volubility of their sentiments, etc., before he can render judgment. The more interesting question might be how MUCH time? And how much time for the impartial spectator to arrive at a judgment about his OWN conduct versus the conduct of others? Thanks- I hadn't thought about this before!
I think it might be one of those things that varies based on the people involved and the situation. But I think it’s safe to say that some emotions we are quicker to enter into than others, and perhaps the ones that we enter into immediate are the ones most as risk for being misguided?
Being immediately excited for example, at good news, is something that we are often quick to enter into. And that’s appropriate conduct in many cases, such as a friend announcing an engagement. Compare this to being in a rush on the way to work and driving behind a slow driver. Some of us would be quick to anger, which upon reflection may have been unnecessary and not what the impartial spectator would have done.
Perhaps we ought to be concerned about our negative passions, since they are most likely to create a barrier between us and others and therefore hinder our ability to sympathize?
Very good stuff. I think your experience with the usher also highlights another point Smith makes about merit and demerit. He points out that if we unjustly receive demerit, and even if that demerit is believed by all our friends and family, we take solace that, in the end, God (or the "all seeing Judge"; Smith never uses the word "God," so this is a little of me imputing my own perceptions onto Smith) will know our true merit and give the honor we had lost (see TMS, pgs. 130-132).
So, your happiness is restored not only through the sentiment with the usher (although that is part of it), but knowing that, though the demerit be unjust, it is not earned and thus you will be ultimately vindicated.
While I'm far from being a master at it, patience has improved many social circumstances for me at this point in my life and teaching career. I think I gained practice through the 'wait time' I slowly learned to embrace in the classroom that enables a chosen student the time to formulate a response. Fellow students learn to not blurt out or otherwise assist the called upon student until an appropriate amount of time has been offered after they get used to the practice. I've heard from and learned more about introverts and had to change assumptions about who may or may not have a conversation gem to contribute.
Alice, I love the example of wait time here! One of the hardest pedagogical skills to master...who knew how looooong 10 seconds can feel?
Jon, you're right about unjust demerit, and thanks for the citation.
P.S. Alice was with me in the theater! ;-)