It is possible to respond to common apathy toward important matters and common ignorance about them with frustration, with discouragement, with contempt, with despair, or with the realization that what has been neglected and ignored becomes more important than ever.
Those with commitment to the most difficult questions (broadly, of philosophy) and pervasive problems (of psychology) and challenges (to human welfare and potential), and with the discipline to pursue them on all fronts through years of preparation—always too few among too many—must observe around themselves in the crowd a sea of blind concern for just the most superficial ramifications extending from the roots, or preoccupation with narcissistic attention and everyday distractions instead.
Any rounded human being attempting to live a participatory life inevitably becomes a hermit among the many, fascinated and drawn to identify with humanity, though he may also be repulsed by its discord. What Baudelaire wrote about poets applies to those given-and-sentenced to the philosophy of men:
Multitude, solitude: identical terms, and interchangeable by the active and fertile poet. The man who is unable to people his solitude is equally unable to be alone in a bustling crowd.
But, if he discovers it, compassion for the human condition plagues him with attachment. He feels bound to the results of all his efforts to intervene in the muddled course of broken men around him.
To the mobs and the masses concerned with minutiae, living miniaturized lives measured by minutes and material goods, the true humanitarian wants to say: “you can be whole men!” Their indifference to consequences obliges him to add, “And you are men, whether you like it or not.”
It is hopeless, he finds at length; he seems to argue with mindless forces of nature, and yet he is attached to empathy with minds among them. Responses are rare and disappointing. The human he once imagined yearned to be liberated and realized seems to be inchoate, resistant to becoming, hiding among bits and pieces, even clinging to them like panicked men drowning in flotsam.
He may be torn apart between his attachment and his effort, or he may find that only devoting his resolve to a higher and more profound compassion can mediate his premature attachment to fragmentary people.
For those who care profoundly, even those who practice the disciplines to know deeply and act with patience, this is probably the hardest of all lessons to learn and last of all abilities to develop: an enduring optimism so joined to making the future it can become inspired by fatalism concerning the present, instead of resigned.
“We are all drowning and there is the shore,” they cry, but the sea of men cannot hear. It is the most belated and contrary instinct that finally takes hold: let them drown, if they wish; though I must drown with them, the shore remains ahead of us.