Saturday, December 3, 2011

Empathy

Scott Bradley


"Whatever you do not want done to you, do not do to others." — Confucius (6th cen. BC)
"Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." — Jesus (1st cen.)

A great deal of sectarian hay has been made comparing and contrasting these two essentially identical statements. This is understandable since it is much easier to argue them than to live them. Yes, one is passive while the other is active. Yet, should we understand the heart and root of both, I think we will find it to be the same — empathy.

Empathy is the experience of "feeling with" another person. It is the ability to see oneself in another. And that defines our relationship to the world.

These statements have been called The Golden Rule, which is fine if we understand that any 'rule', to be authentically realized, must in some way be rooted in who we organically are. We do not apply it; we are it.

This rootedness begins, I think, with a realization of one's own humanity. One must know oneself in order to know others. The journey of self-discovery is also an unfolding of the heart in openness to others. 'The way out is in' is a statement with many dimensions of insight, and one of these is, I believe, this understanding that our sense of oneness with others arises from our oneness with ourselves. It is no mere cliché that we cannot love others until we love ourselves.

As I follow my own path of self-discovery, as I find and become the heart of my own humanity, I discover an openness suggestive of vulnerability. Yet it is a vulnerability without fear of hurt. Openness requires that walls come down, that defenses be dropped. And this can only take place when there is nothing to defend.

Self-discovery is a 'mystical' and 'spiritual' endeavor. I use these terms for lack of better. Our deepest personal reality is not a thing we can know; it is a happening, an arising, we can only experience. And to become this happening is to become one with the every other personal happening, and the happening which is the world.

Becoming this happening is a process of denouement, of disrobing. It is a letting go of the essential fallacy that I am a concrete someone, and of all the encrustations that adhere to it. It is this fallacy which gives rise to ‘self and other’ and hinders us from finding ourselves in others.

Empathy, therefore, requires no rule. It is an expression of our being who we most essentially are.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

4 comments:

  1. Some scientists put sensors on monkeys heads to watch which part of the brain was activated when they grasped for a banana.

    During a break the apparatus was still live and the monkey was resting. One scientist reached for a banana in eye shot of the monkey and *BUZZ* the very same part of the monkeys brain illuminated a when the monkey had been tested doing the Acton herself.

    Many experiments later on monkeys and humans confirmed that this accident lead them to discovering the phenomenon of empathy as seen in the brain. Whichever part of the brain which was activated by doing any act was also activated when watching someone else doing the same.

    Now I wonder if we even need to try to show empathy at all as it is a natural occurrence.

    When the scientists found a subject, as they always seem to manage, who had had this part of the brain damaged in an accident, no empathy. For everyone else it is automatic.

    I'm not raising this to argue against the post because I would love a world where the only rule was the golden rule, this world would be my kind of ideal place! I'm raising it to stir minds in the light of interesting findings.

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  2. And yes, in response to the post itself. Empathy is a forced concept resulting from the mistaken identity of being someone apart from oneness.

    Were people free of that false divide of me/the world, then no act which seemed absent of empathy would ever occur.

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  3. Not sure what grasping for a banana has to do with empathy. It would be more interesting to know what was happening when its mother was slaughtered or its child was abused..not that I'm suggesting an experiment.

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  4. they did experiment further and with humans. The banana case was the accidental discovery leading to the further research. In the banana experiment they were not looking for or ever expecting to find this. The result was noted and the new accidental discovery was explored resulting in finding that brains of those watching any act triggered in the same way as the one having the direct experience.

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