I was recently in a corporate office when a thud interrupted the whir of strategic planning.

“What was that?” someone asked.

“A bird hit the window,” said another.

There were a few sounds of sympathy, and one woman said, “I want to go hold it.” Another woman spotted it on the ground one floor below, and, her voice lilting hopefully, said, “Its wing is still moving.”

At this point things seemed to shift. Compassion, nurturance, and mourning were hurled against the staid wall of workplace norms. Who can practically weigh the life of an injured bird against the collective inertia and consensus of repressiveness among coworkers needing to pay rent?

“It’s just a pigeon,” announced the first voice, interjecting a mechanistic perspective. It was well timed. It seemed to quell the uncertainty of emotion and the complexity of empathy, returning an air of rationality to the initial out-pouring that could...

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