It might also be of little help to other people because experiencing others’ pain is exhausting and leads to burnout. This issue is explored in the Buddhist literature on morality. Consider the life of a bodhisattva, an enlightened person who vows not to pass into Nirvana, choosing instead to stay in the normal cycle of life and death to help the masses. How is a bodhisattva to live? In Consequences of Compassion (2009) Charles Goodman notes the distinction in Buddhists texts between “sentimental compassion,” which corresponds to empathy, and “great compassion,” which involves love for others without empathetic attachment or distress. Sentimental compassion is to be avoided, as it “exhausts the bodhisattva.” Goodman defends great compassion, which is more distanced and reserved and can be sustained indefinitely.
Neuhaus’s experiences as a pastor in the New York slums and his passionate opposition to abortion had led him rightward in the 1980s. But he was disturbed by the racial politics of Chronicles , and also by what he termed its “insensitiv[ity] to the classical language of anti-Semitism.” Neuhaus contemplated severing the connection between his institute and Rockford. Word of his dissatisfaction filtered back to Illinois, and, one day in May, Rockford struck back. An executive from the institute jetted out to New York, fired Neuhaus and his entire staff, ordered them literally out onto the streets, and changed the office locks. The paleos at Rockford exploded in dumbfounded rage when the foundations that had been supporting Neuhaus’s work refused to switch the money over to them instead.