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The Compassionate Life by Marc Ian Barasch

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2

ROOTS, BRANCHES, AND THE CLEAR BLUE SKY

Therefore I say, grant reason to any animal with social andsexual instincts, and yet with passion, he must have conscience.

—Charles Darwin

SOMETIMES WHEN THE WORLD SEEMS A LOVELORN PLACE, I contemplate a snapshot over my desk of two bonobo apes hugging and kissing with lush abandon, and I perk right up. I’m inspired by these fellow primates whose social life is, in the words of one zoologist, “ruled by compassion.” They are, I like to think, a reminder not only of where we come from but of what sort of creature we are at heart.

It isn’t the usual picture of our evolutionary heritage. The official family portrait that science hangs over the mantelpiece depicts us as brainy, aggression-prone apes driven ...

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