About Empathy and Hand Grenades
Empathy is defined thusly: the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
That’s a pretty deep description, but it’s a deep word.
It’s hard to be empathetic, cause hey, understanding yourself is difficult enough, let alone the next guy or gal. In fact, understanding yourself is technically impossible, if you want to get all technically technical about it.
So empathy is a pursuit. It’s not something you can achieve. You can’t ever really identify with someone else’s shiz, but you can give it the old college heave and see what shakes. Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and empathy.
So what to do? I think I’ve got the answer.
Fiction. Yep. I said it. And though it’s self-serving of me to do so, it also happens to be true: If you want to be more empathetic, read fiction.
Not non-fiction. Honest-to-God, tried and true make-believe.
There is no better method in the universe for flexing your empathy muscles. When you read stories, you’re literally slipping into someone else’s skin. All of it. There is no other part of that character. What you know is what he knows, all the way. It’s a magical thing, and it can’t really be achieved by any other method.
When you open a book and insert yourself into another’s world, it’s something that almost compels me to believe that it was ordained to be a transformative balm for all the undulations of the world. Designed. Or if you don’t believe in that sort of thing, it just works.
Think about it for a minute or two, if you get a chance. Think about knowing your wife or friend or coworker completely. It’s kind of scary and exciting at the same time, but no worries. You’ll never get the chance. Like I said, you can try. You should try. Empathy is one of the noblest of all pursuits, and one to run after swiftly until the race is over.
You go to the gym to stay fit. You pay your bills so they don’t kick you out. We read stories to understand the other guy a little bit better.
Cheers. See you after.