Varieties of Empathy

There has been a lot swirling around my head late­ly; some gen­er­al themes include: fore­sight & hind­sight, the evo­lu­tion of the human capac­i­ty for change, aging, empa­thy, the very dif­fer­ent impli­ca­tions & respon­si­bil­i­ties inher­ent in dat­ing as a father, and why my dog farts uncon­trol­lably when my son plays with his toy heli­copter (pro­nounced, and this is very impor­tant: “hel­lapoc­k­er”).

So I’ve been think­ing too much to write, much less coher­ent­ly. So I’m going to try and catch up a bit, right now.

Foresight & Hindsight

When I was real­ly lit­tle, I had a book about Thomas Jef­fer­son and the val­ue of fore­sight. Although I’m not sure I ful­ly grasped the con­cept at the time, it stuck with me. It’s some­thing I con­sid­er to be a rel­a­tive strength of mine. I can look ahead long-term and see what the path I want to fol­low entails and act accord­ing­ly. I fig­ure that the bet­ter and more prac­ticed your fore­sight, the less it will dif­fer from the 20/20 of hind­sight. I also fig­ure that not very many peo­ple under­stand the val­ue of fore­sight or are capa­ble of it. Or, I’m an arro­gant dick.

Capacity Changes & Aging

In terms of inter­est, life seems to be a pro­gres­sion from the gen­er­al to the spe­cif­ic. A child is inter­est­ed in every­thing (except a var­ied diet), an ado­les­cent is inter­est­ed most­ly in the things they like, and in try­ing things they haven’t yet been able to do. An adult tends toward the enjoy­ment of things they have estab­lished as life-long pas­sions, and los­es inter­est in try­ing new things. I’m speak­ing in grand gen­er­al­i­ties, here. Wrap­ping it all togeth­er with the fol­low­ing…

Empathy

I think empa­thy can encom­pass more than just shar­ing in another’s feel­ings; includ­ing aspects of fore­sight & reflec­tion upon the capac­i­ty changes that aging brings about. As aggra­vat­ing as it is to be an ado­les­cent who feels patron­ized by “you’ll under­stand when you’re old­er”, what is seen as con­de­scen­sion is actu­al­ly nos­tal­gia for (and there­fore empa­thy with) the feel­ings & capac­i­ties of ado­les­cence & child­hood. Fore­sight is a kind of prepa­ra­tional empa­thy or an empa­thy with a future self; I look ahead and in the act of judg­ing pos­si­ble out­comes, place myself in a cer­tain posi­tions and reverse engi­neer the best path to reach the place I want to end up.

Glad I’ve cleared that up for myself.