To show how these two minds work, let us place them within the dilemma of a familiar story. Here is the parable of the lost sheep from the Gospel of St. Matthew: "If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray."
This parable is the product of an eminently sympathetic mind, but for the moment that need not distract us. The dilemma is practical enough, and we can see readily how the two kinds of mind would deal with it.
The rationalist, we may be sure, has a hundred sheep because he has a plan for that many. The one who has gone astray has escaped not only from the flock but also from the plan. That this particular sheep should stray off in this particular place at this particular time, though it is perfectly in keeping with the nature of sheep and the nature of the world, is not at all in keeping with a rational plan. What is to be done? Well, it certainly would not be rational to leave ninety and nine, exposed as they would then be to further whims of nature, in order to search for the one. Wouldn't it be best to consider the lost sheep a "trade-off" for the safety of the ninety-nine? Having thus agreed to his loss, the doctrinaire rationalist would then work his way through a series of reasonable questions. What would be an "acceptable risk"? What would be an "acceptable loss"? Would it not be good to do some experiments to determine how often sheep may be expected to get lost? If one sheep is likely to get lost every so often, then would it not be better to have perhaps 110 sheep? Or should one insure the flock against such expectable losses? The annual insurance premium would equal the market value of how many sheep? What is likely to be the cost of the labor of looking for one lost sheep after quitting time? How much time spent looking would equal the market value of the lost sheep? Should not one think of splicing a few firefly genes into one's sheep so that strayed sheep would glow in the dark? And so on.
But (leaving aside the theological import of the parable) the shepherd is a shepherd because he embodies the Sympathetic Mind. Because he is a man of sympathy, a man devoted to the care of sheep, a man who knows the nature of sheep and of the world, the shepherd of the parable is not surprised or baffled by his problem. He does not hang back to argue over risks, trade-offs, actuarial data, or market values. He does not quibble over fractions. He goes without hesitating to hunt for the lost sheep because he has committed himself to the care of the whole hundred, because he understands his work as the fulfillment of his whole trust, because he loves the sheep, and because he knows or imagines what it is to be lost. He does what he does on behalf of the whole flock because he wants to preserve himself as a whole shepherd.
He also does what he does because he had a particular affection for that particular sheep. To the Rational Mind, all sheep are the same; any one is the same as any other. They are interchangeable, like coins or machine parts or members of "the work force." To the Sympathetic Mind, each one is different from every other. Each one is an individual whose value is never entirely reducible to market value.
The Rational Mind can and will rationalize any trade-off. The Sympathetic Mind can rationalize none. Thus, we have not only the parable of the ninety and nine, but also the Buddhist vow to save all sentient beings. The parable and the vow are utterly alien to the rationalism of modern science, politics, and industry. To the Rational Mind, they "don't make sense" because they deal with the hardship and risk merely by acknowledgment and acceptance. Their very point is to require a human being's suffering to involve itself in the suffering of other creatures, including that of other human beings.