Don’t Waste Your Time

Boudhanath in Kathmandu, before the earthquake, prayer flags flying

If you are here to help me, then you are wasting your time.  But if you come because your liberation is bound up in mine, then let us begin.

Lily Walker, an Australian Aborigine activist

The casual observer of a poor person can conspire to humiliate him.  It is your surprise, your anger that denies him humanity.   V.S. Naipaul, quoted by Paul Theroux

Affluence, unless stimulated by a keen imagination, forms but the vaguest notion of the practical strain of poverty.  It is one thing to live comfortably with the abstract concept of poverty, another to be brought into contact with its human embodiments.  Lily had never conceived of these victims of fate otherwise than in the mass.  That the mass was composed of individual lives, innumerable separate centers of sensation…that some of these bundles of feeling were clothed in shapes not so unlike her own, with eyes meant to look on gladness, and young lips shaped for love – this discovery gave Lily one of those sudden shocks of pity that sometimes decentralizes a life.

Edith Wharton, The House of Mirth

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