Are compassion and empathy real? Are they possible? What are they? What do they mean? How are they manifested? Are they learned responses?
I have a button that says: REALITY IS WHEN IT HAPPENS TO YOU. I believe that completely. The only things that are real, are the things that are happening to us personally. Everything else is happening to other people, even other people we care about.
When the same thing happens to two people, they have something in “common,” but that’s about it. Their experiences will have been different, even though the event is the same.. That’s why they have “support” groups…they have them for those who have had similar experiences. They HAVE those groups because the people who have NOT HAD the same experiences, are not able to understand what the people in those groups have gone through, or are going through. The people in the group have a better chance of being understood by the rest of the group, than they ever would be by those on the outside. Those who couldn’t possibly understand what any of them actually went through.
It’s like that with everything. If we aren’t poor, and never have been, we can’t possibly understand what it’s like to be poor. All we can do is imagine what it’s like to be terrified and beaten, if it has never happened to us . Empathy doesn’t really exist. Similar experiences do.
It seems to me that compassion is often very short termed thing. People see someone begging and feel sorry for the person, give him/her a few dollars, then walk away. Compassion, if it actually exists, doesn’t necessarily lead to ACTION. It doesn’t work to change the system of enforced poverty, or racism, sexism, or agism, or anything else. The person handing out the money, doesn’t HAVE the problem and is free to walk away and think of other things. Horror at the system and fighting back would help a lot of people, long term, but then we’d have to work together to overthrow the “machine” that keeps people miserable and that’s just not gonna happen.
People get involved with raising money for diseases, or to stop drunk drivers, etc., AFTER they have experienced a loss, or some other horrific incident. REALITY IS WHEN IT HAPPENS TO YOU…kickstarts people into action. When it happens to you, you finally understand what that thing is.
I think commonality exists between those who have had similar experiences. There is an immediate understanding between those who have lost a child, or those who have been beaten. People can look at each other and nod, acknowledging the pain, that others can never understand.
I supposed we have to define our own personal definitions of the words we use. Those definitions will be based on experience, brainwashing, belief and place.
Compassion, if it exists, always seems sad to me. It’s always connected to something terrible and it can easily turn into pity, or some icky kind of thing that serves the person who is supposedly being compassionate, not the one who is having a bad time.
Empathy, to me…is the nod between those people I mentioned before. Those who have had a shared experience. They understand what happened, and acknowledge the loss, realizing the experience was different for each one. If you aren’t part of that group, you can’t have empathy. It’s impossible.
I think kindness is good for all occasions…good or bad…and for all beings and the planet itself. It’s a universal thing.
The other words, compassion and empathy, are too heavy, too negative, and can be hurtful, or insulting. I don’t like them. I don’t use those words at all.
KINDNESS works for me.
The thing is, all words can get grubby and manipulative when used by bad people. That’s a big problem for all of us. Even kindness can be used to cause harm. Unfortunately, there are far too many bad people, which makes life a living hell for so many others…EVERY SINGLE DAY.
See, that’s the thing…misery and terror, hunger and inequality, violence and all the rest, don’t go away. They hurt people every minute of every day and it’s only because the people in charge (government), those who just voted themselves ANOTHER RAISE IN PAY, are selfish, greedy, hateful, completely unaffected, tyrants who never think suffering has anything to do with them, even though they are the CAUSE.
We are all guilty of being blind to things that don’t touch us. We can’t possibly be aware of all the problems in the world. It would be overwhelming. We wouldn’t even be able to understand all the horrors out there.
But we don’t really work together to stop injustice and violence. We want someone else to do it. Women work against other women, brainwashed by a republican, christian system that enslaves and controls them. Our problems could be easily solved, but they won’t be. Solving the problems would mean less for the white males who get rich off the suffering of others. They encourage fear, division, and violence, because that works for them.
There are so many people out there doing wonderful things. Getting fresh water for villages, helping women survive by teaching them new skills, bringing medicine to those in need. It’s truly beautiful. The thing is…why are those things ALLOWED to exist in the first place? Why do any of us continue to accept the 1% who rule over us and enslave us? Why don’t we wake up and say, “SCREW YOU.” All the horrors in the world are caused by the rich, by governments, by greed. There are more of us than there are of them and yet, we bow and scrape and nothing ever changes. It’s incredible to me that we are brainwashed by male institutions to fight EACH OTHER for their benefit. And the saddest thing is that people constantly try to work AROUND the systems that have been put in place to keep the ugly status quo up and running.
Anyway, that’s what I was thinking about on this dark dreary morning…waiting for the snow to begin.