I filled out some personal profiles online today. I made one for LavaLife (in the intimate encounters section ^_^), and was in the process of filling out the best profile on Fark personals and it told me server error. Here’s what it says to me:
Please note: This personals site powered by Spring Street Networks will be temporarily unavailable as we perform maintenance to make the personals better than ever! We apologize in advance for the inconvenience.

I guess the reason I’m really pissed off is I wanted to send a message to this one super cool chick that I found there. All I read was her profile and I was impressed with her responses. I’m pretty sure that her mailbox is probably inundated with messages from would-be Romeos, but I was so convinced of our matching interests that I would have paid money for it. Yes, I would have paid for this dating service. It seems kind of lame but this is what my life has lead me to.
…Anyways, enough about that. I want to talk about empathy. I want to try and figure out why this most powerful emotion seems to be malnurished in our cynical society. I have some thoughts on why that is, and what can be done about it. It seems pretty egotistical to claim that I have answers people are looking for, yet at the same time I don’t really think that I have any answers. All I really have are questions. Questions about life and the Universe around us.
I suppose that mentality, the Universe around us, is quite outdated. Generations have passed since it was first revealed through science that we are not in the center of the universe, that we are in fact in a galaxy that’s expanding at a phenomenal (relative) rate away from the point of the Big Bang, where it all went down. However, it’s my belief that as huge as the Universe is, as mysterious and savage as the space surrounding us can be, we should probably remember that relative to us and our goals as a species we might as well be at the centre of the Universe. I mean why the hell not? I don’t see anything else out there. Sure there’s lots of theories, but I’ve never seen anything concrete. It’s a subtle shift – that mentality. When you think about earth and it’s insignificance when compared to the rest of existence out beyond our threshold and then place us at the center, then it brings about a greater sense of purpose, of deeper meaning than just our day to day idles. It’s as invigorating as it is depressing. Why is it depressing? Do I really have to answer that?
Empathy is a powerful emotion. It takes a certain frame of mind, but it’s fundamental for spiritual experience. If you believe that you can grow as a person, then you should try and exersize some of these mental muscles. Why am I always advocating the act of thinking? Well thinking men don’t fight, they debate. Debating never led to weeping mothers. Discussing never orphaned any children.
The key to empathy is self exploration. Introspection. How can you know somebody else if you don’t even know yourself? And there’s lots of benefits from knowing someone else – perspective is one, camraderie is another, respect is a third. I don’t think anybody can convince me that it’s better off not knowing anyone at all. That just seems almost selfish.
I also think that some people out there won’t get this message. They won’t understand why the hell anyone would care about another’s suffering. You can classify these people as being defficient in empathy, it’s really that simple. Almost like it’s split down the middle, half on one side, half on the other, or at least that’s the way it seems to me. The only way to deal with these people is to try and talk to them anyways, despite their reluctance. Eventually they probably will get the message, it just takes some longer to process.
I suppose all of this must sound rather religious at times. I don’t really know what to say about that – I’m not a religious person in the traditional sense of the word. I know I said earlier that I’m a bright, yet after close inspection I don’t know how much like that I really am.
I’m tired. I gotta somehow find more time to write, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying it. Gnight all.

18 thoughts on “Empathy”

  1. The real question is, would you want to meet anyone else who frequents Fark? 🙂
    I have to disagree with your “self exploration” statement. I know what you mean by people with no empathy. They are devoid of the meaning of it, and yes, that is selfish. But there are people who can’t be cast as epitomic villains: they may be unable to know themselves, but they can hold open a door, listen on the phone at night, or do something short of distributing food in sub-Saharan Africa (which I am inclined to say is not part of being an empathetic person). Generations of people have been caring without self-reflection or spiritual realizations.
    But why are so many people unempathetic now?
    Through scientific enlightenment (and I do mean enlightenment), we’ve lost our “place at the centre of the universe”. Would you not think this would free us from “unhealthy thinking”; self-glorification and other obstacles cluttering a mind? Without thinking, people either adopt a religious standpoint (“it’s a bloody lie”) or a anthropomorphic standpoint (“we’re faster, stronger and smarter than every other life form on the planet, thus we must be their betters and adoptive parents”). Ok, this has nothing to do with my point, but I felt like ranting.
    You can’t blame a person for everything. Society has been singing a lullaby to us for a long time. Class separation? Treat those working for you as objects. Industrial revolution? Not working yourself to death? We, the royalty shall make laws to brand you, humiliate you and make sure you never forget that your body belongs to someone else. Civil rights? People fought against the movement. Why? Their ancestors taught them well.
    And now there are four thousand years of history boiled down into a world defined by a trade of misery to support a trade of the opposite. Unrestrained and untrained emotions aren’t allowed.
    What I said isn’t anywhere near structured and glosses over lots of nice facts that should be learned. I hate giving the impression that I know a little of a lot.

  2. A few points.
    a) What’s wrong with fark? As if it’s not the best place to get the low down on the meme of the day.
    b) You disagree with my statement about self-exploration being the root of empathy. While this may be true, I don’t think you’ve convinced me yet. There’s something way deep inside of us that we have to get in contact with before we can really start making connections with others.. Sure this all sounds like meta-physical bullshit but at the same time I feel pretty strongly about it.
    c) I believe losing that ‘self glorification’ is causing a lot of despair in the world. When somebody begins to understand how insignficant we are compared to the size and grandeur of the rest of the Universe there is a period of ‘existentialist despair’.. The ‘classic’ existential philosophy so to speak. You exist but for what purpose? Purely random, entirely by chance, there can seem to be no point. However when you realize that all there’s going to be for a long time is just us, then why not glorify ourselves? We exist in this vast apparent emptiness, and yet we do exist. Let us not forget that we owe it to ourselves as a species to survive no matter what the cost. I’m not advocating you go out and club a baby seal for it’s soft pelt but if it came down to a choice between an endangered eagle and an infant boy, I’d save the infant boy every time. We should have pride in the challenges that we collectively have faced and overcome, and yet at the same time be humble before the fickle dangerous hand of nature.
    As for the rest, I totally agree with you.

  3. “Why am I always advocating the act of thinking? Well thinking men don’t fight, they debate. Debating never led to weeping mothers. Discussing never orphaned any children.”
    This is your comment referring to the topic of thinking.
    I disagree and I would just like to say that opinions like that are exactly why humanity is doomed to repeat the horrible parts of it’s history.
    There is a misguided view out there that Man is by nature good , this is a Lie! The Truth is that man is in fact actually evil. You are born that way and taught to be good and to choose things that are acceptable to society.
    The mind grows by what it feeds on.
    So if you think up in the clouds that’s exactly what will come out of your mind ….. nothing… If you feed it with Lies, the thoughts that come out of your mind will be sadly misguided and most of the time remarkably dangerous.
    If you feed your mind with truth, what comes out may not always be comfortable or may not please everyone, it may often even go directly against what society deems acceptable and yes it may even leave a weeping mother, But! your thoughts will be with out a doubt Wise.
    I’ll leave you with a quote.
    There is nothing good nor bad, but thinking makes it so.

  4. Man is by nature good because of the good that can can be created. Evil is a balance. Your view just depends on whose side of the fence you’re on. I agree that there is a time and a place for violence, unfortunately. I may preach the possible goodness, but I am realistic to the true nature of man, and thus the balance. Nonetheless I refer you to recent history, specifically to Mahatma Gandhi and his remarkable success with non-violent resistance. It’s refreshing to see that his method was so successful in the removal of British colonialism from India. I would have no objection to seeing this ‘horrible part’ of history repeated, as I believe, neither would you.
    What’s up in the clouds may surprise you.
    I’ll leave you with this quote:
    We must not believe the many, who say that only free people ought to be educated, but we should rather believe the philosophers who say that only the educated are free.
    Roman Philosopher and former slave

  5. man is not good. i know i’m not good and niether are you. if man has to create goodness does this not imply that man is void of it in the first place?
    you may believe right and wrong is completely relative and that man is good and the world is getting better as time moves on, however I know that that’s not true.
    Deep down inside of me this is a truth and absoloute that I know and believe with all my heart, Mankind is always getting more evil and will eventually self anhilalate. It is my belief that denile of this is infact blindness.
    I don’t try to be negative but you just have to look at the big picture. Greed ,Hate and power have consumed man long ago and MAN left to his own devices has nowhere else to go but down.
    There is no way to stop it and nothing anyone will do about it, why? because it is man’s nature.
    Now I don’t know how you get along in life (actually pot probably helps you along with that:)) but i personally sleep better knowing these facts and the truth, I do not bother trying to live in denile believeing lofty unrealistic things. The glass is half empty! you just have to accept it and go on, smile and wave!
    That’s about it , speaking of sleep i must retire bye!

  6. Examine for a moment why you believe mankind with self-anhilate. Do you have any justification for this? Is there any evidence that you’ve collected that will conclusively proove? Perhaps you were taught something at a young age, and you took it to heart. One of the things that I’m finding pretty strange is that people are always thinking about armaggedon… Damn those lonely old men who wrote the bible! Now we get to see life imitate art on a catastrophic scale.

  7. I am more or less with Mc P on some of this. I feel that humans inherently are more prone to evil then good. To be selfish and greedy are things that are evident even in small children, sharing has to most times be taught. The root of most if not all evil is selfishness.
    Oddly enuff to me the thing about empathy is that empathy is in its purest form, a complete lack of selfishness. In order to be empathic towards another, your focus is on the other person and their emotions and situations.
    Thing is that empathy is not something that is taught nowadays over here in North America. Our western culture promotes individual gain for self. You know, I realized something just now….I am more or less rambling and have no real point. Mmmm… ah hell back to work….

  8. You guys are mistaking savagry for evilness. Nature is inherently savage. A child who grows up without any contact with humanity will be in essense an animal, unable to understand any of our complex social ideas (like sharing). The very act of teaching is fighting against the barbarious nature of, well, nature. All of what we know and how we think is determined by what we’re taught when we’re raised – the question is are we teaching the right thing to our childern?

  9. wow… i’m soo glad i don’t know many people like you.
    you really won’t live in the real world with us until you reolize selfishness is the building blocks of all of us.
    Admit that self preservation is the most important thing to humanity and that nothing comes before it. the nice good things that we experience in our civilized culture only happen because we are not in need. As soon as you and a bunch of other people are put on a small island with limited food, the need for politcal correctness and sharing become obsolete in a very fast hurry. selfishness will rear it’s head and humanity will not be able to hide behind the curtian of politness.
    My friend Chuck says it’s easy to talk about philosofical things when your looking at the world through the smoke from a bong.
    I concur. 🙂

  10. Self preservation is the most important aspect of humanity – but only when it’s applied to preservation of humanity and not just the individual. Hard times are coming – its a feeling that’s almost palpable. However only through collective work, selflessness in the face of adversity can we pull through to salvage something of humanity.

  11. As for the pot references – different strokes for different folks. Any pro-marijuana sentiment I establish here will just be ignored and / or laughed at as you’ve already made up your mind, so I won’t even bother.

  12. Humans are not inherently evil (nor are they inherently good). A cop-out you say?
    Not really. Good and evil are concepts which are rooted in moral truths. Morality is highly dependant on time and place. The concept of evil in Japan 100 years ago would be very different from the North American definition of evil today.
    The idea that man in inherently evil can be found at the root of many religions. Take Catholicism and the idea of ‘the original sin’. (i.e. The sin that all human inherited due to Adam’s sinful taste of the old forbidden apple.) This idea leads to a moral structure where man is a slave to countless rules in place to “keep us good”.
    Societies shaped by the influence of Catholicism tend to take this idea even further.
    If man is inherently evil then it is best to punish rather than to attempt to reform. Take the US penal system for example. Yes, the land of the free has a higher percentage of its citizens behind bars than any other country.
    If man is inherently evil then it is best to restrict the freedoms of all citizens in order to protect them from themselves.
    It’s a slippery slope.
    I agree with Chef on this one. Man is inherently savage. We are all animals after all. The structure of society (especially the pull of power and money) teach us from young that exploitation and greed are desirable qualities. (Perhaps man is inherently corruptible?)
    As a side note… Selfishness isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Many people use the word “selfish” to describe regard for one’s own welfare to the disregard of the well-being of others. In reality it is much more selfish to keep others in mind while still looking out for number 1. Keeping the people around me safe and happy will benefit me in the end. I digress.
    In the end, this discussion reaffirms my thoughts on the importance of family and education. If man is inherently savage (and corruptible) then a loving and caring family base is important if we want to give our kids a head-start on the path towards good. Education and the lifelong quest to fight ignorance will nurture this path.
    And Mc P… Don’t be too hard on the pot. I dare say that this site and the discussions held within it would not exist were it not for the influence of the herb. So if you enjoy this site then you are indirectly enjoying the ‘spoils’ of drug use. 😉
    Inspiration can be found in many place… some people find it while looking through the smoke of a bong. Others don’t.

  13. This was a comment that I had previously written on moral relativism but it applies here as well showing that self preservation is not entirely a bad thing and it is in fact this notion of selfishness that sets the standards of ‘good’ or bad in society.
    Lets begin a construction of society beginning with the individual. When you are alone with no potential of interaction with beings other than yourselves, there is no need for moral codes. Now lets say we have a 10 people community. Rules and regulations are introduced for the welfare of this community. Lets say that one person kills another for food. This food was earned by the victim and was taken unfairly. So the others in the community who are interested in self-preservation will see the danger that is inherent in allowing such acts to continue and will enact laws to prevent it. We simply cannot have people stealing food because then nobody will be willing to go out and hunt and society will breakdown, it will not be safe for individuals. The act of stealing becomes immoral as it is so conditioned, with good cause, by punishment. This punishment is not just physical but also psychological (seclusion, derision, enmity).
    As the society becomes more advanced they begin religions to explain what is going on around them. The ancient Egyptians had gods for every natural phenomenon they couldn’t explain.
    Leaders of these small societies realise the advantage in imprinting moral codes in religions. They realise that the community will more readily accept their rules if they believed them to be inspired by the Divine.
    A few thousand years forward into the society’s evolution; the community has become a civilisation. The religion has changed to meet the needs of this society. As we figure out more things about the nature of the universe, many of these gods become redundant. Now we have a God to explain what is left unexplainable, and that is the beginning and purpose of the universe.
    But the moral codes that were tied to the religion at its birth is still there. People have forgotten that it was society that imprints religions with morality, not the other way round.
    Sure there are experimentations of moral relativism in all societies. Experimentation is necessary in order to throw out outdated rules that hinder the welfare of the society and bring in the more relevant rules that will be conducive to its existence. Here is an example. A few centuries ago nationalism was a virtue. Pride in your race and the desire to protect it was a virtue. This was for the protection of your society. Now we know that nationalism is in fact the cause of many wars and is destructive to the welfare of the community. Now nationalism is a vice. Equality is a virtue. In a few centuries patriotism might no longer be encouraged.

  14. Hey, um…I’ve never been here, before – I was searching for a site on Empathy, on Google (like, picking up other people’s emotions – ‘psychic’ Empathy), and this was top of the list.
    I know this is an old post, but just for anyone who reads this comment – I couldn’t help noticing that everyone keeps talking about ‘truth’ – “…this is a Lie!”
    You’ve gotta define your terms, if you’re gunna use them.
    I mean, really, the only Truth is, “It is what it is”, because everything else is subjective. As soon as you try to describe something or explain it, or whatever, you weave your own limited interpretation into that.
    The things people here have claimed to be ‘true’ are really just opinions.
    You can argue that all you want – and someone will probably say (as Nietzsche did) that there is “no such thing as truth”, anyway (a statement that totally cancels itself out – ’cause if he was right, then he can’t be – because to say “there is no such thing as truth” would be a Truth).
    Sorry – I’m ranting.
    Just…yeah…I think it’s naive of people to think that their opinions are ‘true’, just because THEY believe they are.
    Hope someone gains something from my rambling.

  15. While I agree with you about most truths being relative to the perception of the individual, what about so called hard truths, like the sky is above us and the water is wet? Or is everything relative? I suppose if you were an alien orbiting around us you might say the sky is below you…
    Maybe then we should focus on creating common truths – truths that everyone in a particular set of people can agree upon as truth. Common Truths might be more practical, as it’s acknowledged within the definition that it is not absolute, it’s just a working absolute. Almost like an Engineer who realizes that for all practical purposes, close enough is good enough.

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