Well, on the subject of “ask, ask, asking” for empathy, about which I was venting yesterday – the flip of that might be, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. So maybe some persuasion is in order.
What’s in it, to ask for empathy? Why not just lean into the feeling of certainty, of security in the power of individuality and self-reliance in which we revel as good Americans?
As I’ve tried to demonstrate, the biological fact of the matter seems to be: We can only get a peek into how our minds work. The best we can hope for is partial objectivity. We can learn to expand our awareness, but there’s a certain biological and unconscious level that’s just plain out of our reach.
Others, though, can accompany us where we cannot go alone. As Dante well knew, we need our Virgils. Exploring what we don’t know can be a confusing process. Without boon companions, it can be fraught with uncertainty.
As I’m coming to learn with Bugs, our friends from other species are a terrific help. As I’m coming to learn with my NONVIOLENT COMMUNICATION buddies, though, when I connect through empathy with my own species, the feeling is truly like coming home.
Empathy is being kin. It’s being related to, working in partnership with, another person. Marshall Rosenberg says it’s listening with the whole being. Reaching for the respectful understanding of what self and others are experiencing. The word derives from the German “feeling-in” or the Greek root “passion.” Empathy is compassion: Understanding the feelings of self and others, to give aid and support.
We ask, of each other: What is your genius, your particular essence? What do you really value in life? We can share those values. What are they for you? And what is the particular flavor of beauty that you, I, in our unique genius, bring to life?
So sectarianism has the advantages of the crisp & visceral. Quick & dirty. With us or against us. Part of the solution or part of the problem. My way or the highway. Us-versus-them, love-it-or-leave-it. This feels good. Sure. And we can tell ourselves that this agreement serves efficiency and promotes limited internal social harmony.
But to me, this way of being is the death of free exploration. It’s the choking-off of learning, by which self and others grow to become understood and then enlarged. To me, empathy feels even better than certainty. It engenders respect. It furnishes the means whereby we can put our heads and hearts together, to come up with ideas and methods designed to serve more and more of those values that we and others hold dear.
In so doing, we repair agape. We mend the breach of faith that’s been damaged by repetitive past experience of isolation and alienation. Connecting with empathy, in the present moment, contradicts the past. Things change. When the past no longer re-enacts itself, evolution has occurred. A new adaptation has been born.