Thursday, June 30, 2005

Empathy on the road

Empathy is defined as

Identification with and understanding of another's situation,feelings, and motives.

The attribution of one's own feelings to an object.

Do we know what empathy really means? And do we really have it? Or we think we have it?

In my case

If I had not empathy then I would have long burned out as a teacher. Iwould be like a star that has burned out to be a brown dwarf! Ateacher (especially a university teacher) is always on fire andempathy for students is just one of the fuels. And still I burn redhot so my students say.The teacher's job is to stoke the fires for amyriad futures (as myriad as the students I meet every semester). Thisis not an easy job. There are a lot of futures at stake and I realisethat some will not turn out to be good. We stoke the fires for amyriad good futures and pray to God that all will be right. And amyriad expressions of empathy is needed at times. I sometimes end the day extremely drained as a result. Am I developing compassion?Probably I am. Now what is compassion all about?

We have to look at how in myriad ways can empathy be expressed before casting judgement on a person's fullness of lack of it. Perhaps the travails of your job may cloud your vision of it. The world is not limited to the confines of a Makati office tower, your school, your business and blogs and e-groups. And years ago I had a job that required being in front of aPC for hours and this had a telling effect on me. The traveller beingalone and seeing different places and situations or being transientin one place may have a sharper vision of it. The haze is suddenlylifted. This empathy for me is strong while talking with people in themyriad airport loungues I have been. I will write more of my conversations at numerous airports and the aeroplane "crash" I was in.

And that's the reason why I have to suggest that we get to know at least one of the nameless faces you are now familiar with while on the FX taxicab, or train, or plane, or ships. True empathy is really understanding the situation of other people.But empathy should morph into compassion. Compassion begins when weknow the name of a nameless face and get to know the soul behind theface. Then we have known a person. And thus we may lose compassion in cyberspace because we know and even experience the soul but not the face. We have known not the person. Weneed to keep that in mind. The road to anywhere interesting is littered with what the Gospel calls "pearls of great price". The most unfortunate thing we can do is to take these treasures for granted.