We try to have empathy for others with little knowledge of ourselves. Incomprehensible!
' Remember .....
everyone is fighting their own battle
confronting their own demons
taking another step,
upon their own path '
~ ki ~
EVERYONE IS FIGHTING THEIR OWN BATTLES
THE UNSEEN CONFLICT
Life can be really tough, sometimes. I know that mine is, and has been the most difficult one, of how many I do not know, that I have ever experienced, or can remember. It is extremely difficult not to get wrapped up in those things that impact your life and your own well-being. I am not sure we should call it selfish, exactly, although it is certainly pretty much all about you. But someone has to manage your life, and it should be you, and not someone ‘else‘.
It can be exceptionally hard to think about what other people are going through when there is so much on your own plate. But, what can you do? The options are many. They run the gamut from intricately complex to the relatively simple. The real question is, what are YOU going to do? I can tell you that we are not going to tell you what to do. We do not expect you to go out and save the world. Unless you want to. And of course, unless you actually can.
It is always nice to have a couple of people out there, somewhere, trying to make things right. You know, somebody that will get it done, like Superman, or Dirty Harry. Or at least someone who has all the answers, like Lucy (from Peanut ) or Al Gore (from some bizarre reality beyond comprehension). Somebody who will take care of the problem, so we won't have to.
But it is not realistic to expect anyone to take on the world. The complex answers are, by their nature, intricate and involved. They require groups, or even government, to implement and manage, for a successful resolution. And you cannot begin to fathom how reluctant I am to ask the government to do anything, for obvious reasons. The time, and effort, and money necessary for these things to work are not expected from individuals, although many have tried, and some have been somewhat successful. But groups and especially governments are open to corruption, incompetence, and mismanagement. But when they work they can be very effective.
As an individual, you can be a part of these endeavors, from leadership all the way down to patrons and benefactors that give some time, and maybe donations. We are a nation that likes to donate. It makes us feel good, and we can get back to our own lives. Not criticizing. Maybe a little. But it can be efficient. And we can’t all be running around fixing things on our own, duplicating effort and probably being woefully inefficient, as we neglect our own families and lives.
I know it is a platitude, and a fairly lame one at that, but the first time I heard someone say that there is always someone worse off than you, red flags went up, everywhere, through my mind. What the hell does that mean? Of course there are! And there are just as many who are better off. How does that help me in any way, shape or form? Should I derive some small degree of happiness that someone has a life that is more difficult than my own? Does that make my life any better? Does my situation improve, with the knowledge that someone else is struggling along their path to a greater degree than myself? Absurd! Absolutely not!
I, of course, want my life to be better. That is what I want for everyone, even people I don’t particularly like. Again, Why? Because, the fewer problems anyone and everyone may have, the less likely they will be impacting my life in a negative way, from welfare and crime, to support and conflict in my personal life. In fact, if their lives improve, they may actually be able to help me, or someone else having their own brand of difficulties. Someone else’s misfortunes will never be of any benefit to me, unless I am devoid of philosophy, integrity, compassion or empathy.
Ahh, empathy. That is what I intended to talk about today. I guess it’s about time that I got around to that. Like Arlo Guthrie, in his song ‘Alice’s Restaurant‘, at one point he is playing his guitar, for quite some time, and he says to his audience; ‘I’ve been singing this song now for twenty five minutes. I could sing it for another twenty five minutes. I’m not proud… or tired‘. That is the way it is for me. This disease I have, this thing called philosophy? It puts words in my head all the time. Every waking moment of my life. Every sleeping moment as well. It’s harder to remember those, but they come, relentlessly, and aggressively. If I am tired, it is only because of fatigue from typing. The thoughts flow, never ceasing. Philosophy ensures that.
So, can empathy really help us with ourselves and how we interpret others? I believe it can, but it is the epitome of complexity. How can we decipher what other people are going through when it is so difficult to understand ourselves and our own lives? At least with self, we have some idea of the things that have happened to us in the past, as we traversed our path in life. How can we hope to understand someone else, even when we know quite a bit about them, when we have never walked in their shoes? It may very well be impossible. But we attempt to do so, if for no other reason than to try and impact our own reactions and interpretations of another’s behavior, be they actions, or words.
We do not, or at least we should not, allow ourselves to react in an uncontrolled way. What blame can we asses an individual if we do not comprehend the thoughts, the motivations, and the experiences of another, irrespective of what they may say or do. Believe me, I do not judge here. I am as guilty as anyone, if not more so, as to the responses I have exhibited over many years. It is easy to lash out and attempt to hurt others, when you yourself have been hurt. It is human nature. It is a reflex. It is self-preservation. It is ultimately survival. And, at times, it may be a deserved reaction. I do not particularly promote ‘ turning ‘ the other cheek, as it were. Sometimes, it is necessary to return what we get, in any way we can. I am just saying that it should be rare, or at least less rare, than what we experience in our daily lives today.
I also do not want to give blanket forgiveness to those that are having their issues. Their problems need to be recognized and given consideration. But for that to happen, we need to understand what has gone into their life experience. If we cannot question them, then we need to interpret their problems from a meager offering of information, and to form conclusions that are so much more complex than they may seem.
But we can do some things. We can give them the benefit of the doubt. Walk away from confrontation, when possible. Attempt to talk with them, having a conversation, always trying to discover and comprehend more of their puzzle. Try to show them other alternatives. Explain other opportunities. I do not believe that compassion and sympathy are a direct part of empathy, but they can go a long way to helping to resolve confusion and frustration.
We cannot fix another individual. We have difficulty fixing self. So do not try. In the end, it is ultimately our own responsibility to find the answers to our issues. As it is for others. The attempt to understand opens options for ourselves to grow, and consequently, for others to receive the advice and understanding that can go a long way to resolving their issues. These people did not break in a single day.
It normally takes a barrage of circumstance to bring them to their knees. It may well take at least the same amount of time to bring about restoration and resolution. We can only try to help, and help ourselves at the same time, by doing the right thing, to the best of our knowledge, and the best of our character. All of this becomes so much easier, as we develop and evolve our philosophy of life. I did not say easy, only easier.
I cannot stress enough, the necessity and importance, of developing that structure of philosophy. We need to be able to discern the difference between the GOOD, the BAD, and the UGLY, being the worst kind of bad, which is EVIL. We need to separate right from wrong. The conflict between self and others.
When we are able to control self, we will begin, possibly, to fix the problems that plague our country and our relationships. You will never resolve the great issues of our time by demonstrations, especially when they contain violence and ignorance. Voting for people and issues that you do not comprehend will never bring about a better life, for you, or your family, or anyone else. When you understand that giving everyone the same benefits, and responsibilities, and letting go of that completely selfish imperative, you may just start the evolution of a new mindset, where you may achieve your goals without the use of hatred and coercion.
I hope, for all of our sakes, that this will eventually happen. My optimism gives me hope for the future. Unfortunately, my pessimism makes me wonder. I try every day to be a better person. A person with integrity, that anyone should be able to trust and respect. If you do the same, and others follow, we may just have a shot at change. It may be the only shot we have.
Be kind. Be considerate. Do the right thing.
All the time. Or at least as much as you can.
Think of others. Try to understand.
Empathy will bring you Peace.