Varieties of Empathy

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

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.

Cumulative Review Part 1 – The Crap!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

From what I’ve seen, read and talked about with others, the consensus is that the first decade of the new millennium, the first decade of actual worldly-awareness on my part, sucked. For the most part, I’ve got to agree. Global terrorism, genocide in Africa, two unwinnable wars, Americans torturing people, two recessions (or economic downturns, or bubble-bursts, or whatever safer word you want to use), and those are just the top 5.

Personally, the new decade hasn’t started out much better. On New Year’s Eve, Bram was sick. On New Year’s Day I came down with the same thing and lost 7 pounds in 36 hours, probably should have gone to the hospital, and spent the next 3 days hobbling about like an old man. During this time Debbie’s brother got whatever it was. And the babysitter, and the babysitter’s husband, and another kid she watches, and that kid’s parents.

So Tuesday I feel up to going to work. I put on my dress shirt and lo, a tear in the left elbow. What the hell? Whatever. I put on another dress shirt and lo, a tear in the left elbow. What the fuck? Whatever. I put on a sweater and go to work. While walking to the bus stop, I get a call to find out that my uncle’s father died the night before. He wasn’t blood kin, but he might as well have been. 92 years old, a great and good man, a patriarch of the 20th century.

So enough of the crap from the last decade.