Is it possible to empathize with those who have made choices that inflict pain on themselves and those around them?
These three poems, Fractures, were written in 2012 for an operatic recital called The Other Woman. They were also part of the inspiration for an earlier blog post called Of Mud and Poetry Contests and are linked to synkroniciti even though they predate her founding. It was during the time that they were written and performed that I began to have the ideas that would become synkroniciti.
Triangles, magdalen, and Homecoming served as linking material between musical pieces arranged to reveal a desperate love triangle. To me, these poems are like tortured postcards from people who are falling apart. The difficulty was to make them stark and descriptive without being sentimental and avoiding either judgment or excuse. Words skip across the page as if they were cut from a magazine and pasted together, enhancing the feeling that the fabric of human thought has been destroyed and communication lines are fractured. All that is left are snippets of feelings, almost too painful to endure, and lifeless memories.
It has often struck me that those who develop relationships outside of proscribed limits are judged as harshly as murderers and rapists, sometimes even more so. If they inflict pain and damage on themselves and those around them, isn’t that enough without observers adding their disapproval? Some might argue that this disapproval is necessary to keep others from such behavior, but I wonder if it doesn’t just serve to make it more attractive to those who are desperate to rebel. The greatest reason to avoid any risky type of behavior should not be a fear of punishment, but a fear of inflicting pain.
These poems are an attempt to empathize with both the betrayed and the betrayer, realizing that we all carry within us our own breaking point. Perhaps this is the reason for our harshness.
7 thoughts on “Through The Eyes of Betrayer and Betrayed: Fractures”
I completely disagree. The similarity to rape and murder is real. It’s violation and soul death that they cause and they do it voluntarily, why shouldn’t they be judged? To not judge them is to condone. It’s got nothing to do with deterrence it’s simply justice. And yes, they should fear inflicting pain, on others. But they don’t because they have no guilt. No remorse. The cheating husband often does (not always) but the other woman, I can only say I’ve read maybe 2 that have any remorse. And none that really apologised to the wife.
I don’t see how one would empathise with someone who inflicts pain with no remorse. That’s sociopathic. And I don’t see why you would try. But then I know what they really are guilty of. Most observers “don’t judge” and thus condone, because they don’t understand what was done to innocents.
I respect what you are saying, but I believe that it is always appropriate to empathize. This doesn’t mean that we think that person is guiltless, but that we sorrow for the person they failed to be and give them space to come back from whatever brink they are on. This is mercy.
Empathy is not the same as mercy. Nor is mercy appropriate where there is no remorse. Even in religious traditions (not they they’re necessary as a frame) there has to be an act of contrition before absolution, and that’s a divine standard not a human one. In the poems you posted there’s no remorse. Just self pity they didn’t get what they wanted. Very different. They “failed” because they didn’t get the person they schemed to get, they don’t even recognise they did a terrible thing to someone else. There’s no mention of that at all. It’s pretty typical I must say. And presumptuous to think they ought to get any empathy when they show none.
That’s interesting. I believe there is always room for mercy and empathy. Can you see the final poem as narrated by the betrayed? I think these are all about the terrible things they did to someone else, which they also did to themselves. That’s the thing about these kinds of missteps, they are toxic to everyone involved. And what’s to say that these people weren’t successful in getting that person, but found the “victory” completely empty?
Nephila, it means a great deal to me that these pieces struck a chord with you, even if it wasn’t a comfortable one. I can’t imagine what you have been through, as these pieces are fiction and afford me detachment. I don’t expect anyone in the situation itself to feel much empathy. Best wishes on your journey and thanks for having the guts to write.
I see no empathy with the betrayed in these poems either. Nor is it possible to do both. It is zero sum. If you care about the betrayer you take away from the betrayed. Pretty simple. I don’t think rebellion has much to do with why anyone has affairs. Entitlement and narcissism more.
Can you separate the betrayer from the betrayed in these poems? I can’t do that myself. I find it very difficult to know who is speaking at any given moment, or if it is just a narrator, perhaps even the ego. My belief is that one should try to care about everyone, betrayer and betrayed, those who inflict pain and those who hurt.