Among the things Winston Churchill knew that I don’t (a rather lengthy list, incidentally): “There are learned men who do not know that byss is the opposite of abyss. He knew it; he had been haunting J.F. Moore’s bookshop and the school library.”
Pete Seeger had the edge on me too, although in this case, it’s really one of Pete’s disciples that we admire.
” ‘How are we going to resurrect our humanity?’ This is the sobering question that Peter Yarrow — the “Peter” from Peter, Paul and Mary — asked a group of Woodstock-era grownups who are gathered in his Manhattan apartment. ‘We were the generation of protests and movement and revolution,’ he reminded us on this cold January evening. ‘We are working to fill a black hole of empathy.’ “
The writer is describing a gathering that took place sometime before Seeger’s death. Even I could figure that out. I couldn’t figure out whether “Peter” was the tall bearded one or the short bearded one. I’m pretty sure Peter was not the blonde, beardless one who sang about wanting to be a single girl again.
Regardless of which one it was, it takes a certain nerve to contrast empathy and sympathy. One authority does it this way:
“Empathy. Sympathy. Empathy is the ability to imagine oneself in another person’s position and to experience all the sensations connected with it. Sympathy is compassion for or commiseration with another.”
Pete Seeger famously had a hammer or the desire for one. I’m sure he would have had the ability to distinguish between empathy and sympathy too.