Empathy kills revenge


At times … I wish I could meet in a duel the man who killed my father and razed our home, expelling me into a narrow country. And if he killed me, I’d rest at last, and if I were ready — I would take my revenge!


But if it came to light, when my rival appeared, that he had a mother waiting for him, or a father who’d put his right hand over the heart’s place in his chest whenever his son was late even by just a quarter-hour for a meeting they’d set — then I would not kill him, even if I could.


Likewise … I would not murder him if it were soon made clear that he had a brother or sisters who loved him and constantly longed to see him. Or if he had a wife to greet him and children who couldn’t bear his absence and whom his gifts would thrill. Or if he had friends or companions, neighbours he knew or allies from prison or a hospital room, or classmates from his school … asking about him and sending him regards.


But if he turned out to be on his own — cut off like a branch from a tree — without a mother or father, with neither a brother nor sister, wifeless, without a child, and without kin or neighbours or friends, colleagues or companions, then I’d add not a thing to his pain within that aloneness — not the torment of death, and not the sorrow of passing away. Instead I’d be content to ignore him when I passed him by on the street — as I convinced myself that paying him no attention in itself was a kind of revenge.

– Taha Muhammad Ali, Palestinian poet
His poem Revenge is beautifully read by himself in Arabic and by Peter Cole in English here. Thank you Diti Ronen for sharing this deeply touching poem.