This Has Nothing To Do With Sonia Sotomayor
But it's awfully topical, given our current obsession with empathy (a subject that, funnily enough, never seized the nation's imagination during the Bush years). It's a quote from Concord Free Press editor-in-chief Stona Fitch, talking to The Washington Post's Ron Charles:
"If you can have empathy for a person made out of words, you can muster up empathy for your three-dimensional community."
As it happens, Fitch is speaking about the philosophy behind the nonprofit Concord Free Press' practice of giving its books away and requesting that readers, in effect, pay it forward. The notion is explained this way on the publisher's website: "All we ask of readers is that they make a voluntary donation to a charity or someone in need. And pass their book along so others can give. It's a new kind of publishing based on generosity."
But even out of context, Fitch's words about empathy are words to live by. There's a particular challenge in them, too, for bookish types who find it easy to feel for people on the page, whether they're fictional or real, yet have trouble translating that warmth into positive interactions with flesh-and-blood human beings. All of us have days like that; some of us lead lives like that, disappearing too entirely down the escape hatch that books open to us.