Tuesday, October 16, 2018


Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine.

June 5, 2018 by  
Filed under Ent., News, Opinion, Weekly Columns

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(ThyBlackMan.com) Empathy:

1. The imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it.

2. The capacity for participation in another’s feelings or ideas.

The stories dominating the news cycle and generating outrage last week were about two comediennes, Roseanne Barr and Samantha Bee, making racist and vulgar comments. Meanwhile, it was also reported that deaths on the island of Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria exceeded 4,600; more than 9/11 and Katrina combined. It’s telling about our times that this story barely generated a whimper as compared to those others.

We have forgotten how to empathize, walk in the other guy’s shoes. We’re so busy trying to make our points that we don’t even listen to what else is being said. Conversations are not so much dialogs as a series of monologs. And that’s too bad.

At the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals, one of the psychologists testified that a complete lack of empathy was a major contributor to allowing such atrocities to happen. Not only the absence of the ability to see the other person, but to see them as fully human as well. This was also the great tragedy of the Atlantic slave trade and the basis for continuing racism. Until we can see the validity of other points of view, ways of life, expressions of belief, we will continue our holy wars against any who dare be not like “us”.

I guess it’s the logical consequence of a society that puts such great emphasis on the value of the individual. This didn’t just start with the so-called “Me Generation’. It’s structural, baked in. English is the only language in its linguistic group, and the only one I know of, where the first person singular is always capitalized. That says something about how we think.

We need to understand that “truth” is not always absolute as expressed in mere words. Take a half glass of water for example. Is it not just as true to say it is half empty as to say it is half full? We spend too much time arguing points of view thinking we are arguing right and wrong. When you can see that there is more than one way to view a situation or position, you have begun to grasp one of the fundamentals of empathy.

You don’t give up anything when you acknowledge there could be another side. In fact, viewing the situation from another vantage point will invariably help your own. It will either strengthen your belief that you are right or, horror of horrors, make you accept that your own view may have been faulty. That you didn’t have the full picture. After all, isn’t that what it’s supposed to be about to have a meaningful discourse, “getting to the bottom of it”? Not defending your view against all evidence to the contrary.

We have to let go of the belief that “our way is the only way.” How many ways can you make seven? This mathematical fact should be our philosophical approach as well. Is my 5+2 better than your 4+3? Wouldn’t we all agree it would be foolish to argue that one is “more seven” than the other? Well…

See the other person as a person, with the same motivations that you have. The need to be loved, the need to belong and yes, the need to be right. You can enlighten each other. Share your pieces of life’s puzzle. Together, your pieces may make a more complete and coherent picture. You have not lost your point of view but have gained a deeper understanding.

Empathy is a part of our basic humanity. It enables us to form families and communities because it is based on caring. Caring for something outside of ourselves. It doesn’t weaken us, it strengthens us. It gives context, helping us to understand why someone is who they are. In its fullest expression, it will allow you to appreciate the diverse beauty of humankind, as you do the varied flowers in a garden or colors in a picture.

Staff Writer; Harry Sewell


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