The Laws of Physics. The Laws of Morality. The Laws of the Nation.
Everyday, people everywhere look to each other for support, for opinions, for the rights to think or do what they want. They look to people they know or to society as a whole to set rules and laws. They look for others to allow them to act certain ways and prevent others from acting differently. They look for others to define what can and cannot happen in the universe. And they, themselves, enforce these codes on those people they come across. When the majority opinion shifts, so do the laws of the universe. Sometimes the shift comes with new knowledge and brings society closer to the truth. Other times, this simply does not hold true. Anything we, as humans, do to quantify or qualify our surroundings can never reach the true truth and will always fall short of true reality. There’s a saying: “If the mind were simple enough to be understood, it could not understand.” The universe is the same way–any new piece of data we receive leads to far more questions than it answers. This is not to say that we cannot try to understand. This is not even to say that we shouldn’t try to come as close to full comprehension as possible. The point is that sometimes acceptance is the solution to a problem. Sometimes words cannot describe a feeling. Sometimes a picture cannot portray the magnificence of an event. We need to learn how to believe and act, even when logic fails.
In class the other day, we were given a list of emotions with obscure names no one recognizes. These ranged from the fatigue caused by senseless violence to various forms of loneliness to some other extreme metaphysical sensations. Everyone feels them, yet no one can describe them without difficulty. Later, while reading a friend’s blog, I came across another example: the need to express thoughts through actions rather than words. Everyone feels far more than they can express, and words (including onomatopoeia) can convey only a small fraction of these transferable impressions.
Yet we continue to sympathize and empathize on very deep levels.
The current topic up at youth group is relationships (both romantic and non) between people. After being asked to list different qualities needed for a strong relationship, the Pope’s words were shared and Forgiveness and Empathy were named the two most important aspects in a relationship. Forgiveness is the ability to move beyond past wrongs committed by both oneself and another person. Everyone has heard of it’s importance and struggles to live in it to some degree. Empathy, however, is addressed much less in society. By drawing from personal experience, we are all capable of trans-locating ourselves into another person’s shoes fairly well. The difficulty is truly making ourselves accept what we see and feel while outside our own beings. The near impossibility then comes when we are given the chance to act on our new findings.
The moment we are called to action is when logic begins to fail. We are all taught that a kind word can heal any wound. What is often left out is the very idea that makes feeling empathy difficult: our inability to use the language we have chosen. Empathy is felt most strongly, and therefore expressed most frequently, with those who have done wrong or have been wronged. As a result, it relates very closely to both forgiveness and sympathy, yet any verbal attempts at its expression usually come across as sympathy, which can do more harm than good in many situations. Despite any eloquence that may be backing a supportive speech, logic leaves the building under grief, stress, euphoria, and other strong emotions. Sympathy places one person in a superior place to another person or group when the “inferior” group is at its lowest–it is perceived as a kick to a man who is down. We are all equal, and just as we cannot qualify life, we are not qualified to place anyone in a superior position to anyone else.
The sole difference between sympathy and empathy is that empathy supports two people fighting together on the same ground. In order to bring ourselves to the same levels as everyone else, however, we must recognize the same faults in ourselves as those we see in everyone around us. At the same time, it is essential to hold onto the hope that we can be as pristine as we originally appeared to ourselves in our jaded mirrors. One more funny drift from logic: hope is one of the most abstract ideas in life, yet it is always regarded as the most universal. And it is our job to spread the most universal theme in life to everyone we meet, regardless what position they’re in.
Give someone a hug and let them feel comforted and secure where they are before you judge them and try to drag them into your “enlightened” lifestyle.