Through a variety of literary texts (including Ramayana) and historical events (India's 1947 Partition; 1992 Demolition of the Babri Masjid), I offer a brief meditation on three intertwined themes: the possibilities of nonviolence; identity politics, which almost always leads to violence and genocide; and the need for sympathy as invoked by poet William Blake and philosopher Simone Weil. Blake reminds us that there is, on any given day when violence threatens to disrupt the life cycle, an unexpected moment of peace or love—let's call it “the good”—that tempts us to act with sympathy and imagination toward the Other, who is radically different from us. A similar double-consciousness marks Weil's deeply troubled thoughts on brute power, the “sleep of reason” and the “disasters of war.” We must acknowledge, she insists, that violence, used to resolve human affairs, is both intoxicating and degrading. Only if we understand this in the quietude of our being, she avers, can we overcome hate and find imaginative ways of living with all that is sentient and nonsentient on earth.

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