In “Shame,” Michael Fassbender powerfully depicts the soulless misery of a driven existence.

The other day, I saw a man deep in the throes of this. He stood, leaning against a “down” stairway, his eyes furtively glancing up the stairs to see who would be coming down, what they would be wearing. Women in skirts and dresses got his full attention. I saw his head turn, as if pulled magnetically, whenever a woman between, say, 15 and 55 passed. His expression was unchanging, serious, even intent.

I saw myself in him. It’s not, at all, how I am now. I’m joyous, happy, generous, respectful. For the most part. You know, except when I’m not.

And I was struck by how easy it would be to judge him, to see him as a letch. And how much harder, but better, to see him as a soul.

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