Sometimes I really don’t understand people.
SO I’M GOING TO YELL AT YOU ABOUT BEING NORMAL TODAY
We’ll start with empathy.
Or, to go etymologically:
[I love German words]
Wikipedia tells us that Empathy is the capacity to recognize feelings that are being experienced by another sentient or semi-sentient (in fiction writing) being. Someone may need to have a certain amount of empathy before they are able to feel COMPASSION.
So how do you EMPATHIZE?
Well, one theory connects empathy to MIRROR NEURONS. Mirror neurons, as many of you may know (and some of you may not) are part of the brain. As their name might suggest, they are involved in neurological processes.
SPECIFICALLY, mirror neurons fire when we perform an action AND when we see someone else perform the same action. The mirror neurons in our brain fire when we open a door and when we see someone else open a door, when we watch someone do a parkour vault and then when we do a parkour vault.
We can take this in a very interesting direction and explore the mirror neuron as a subjective projection of the self into objective reality but I DON’T THINK WE REALLY NEED TO DO THAT RIGHT NOW.
No, what I think is in ALARMINGLY short supply nowadays is the ability to be A DECENT HUMAN BEING.
Now OBVIOUSLY my blog post is not targeted specifically at anyone (a) because I DON’T DO THAT because it’s a GENERALLY SHITTY THING TO DO and (b) because I don’t really think that most of the people who are likely to read this aren’t decent human beings (NAMELY ALL MY FRIENDS BECAUSE I KNOW YOU’RE ALL AWESOME). BUT IT’S NICE TO HAVE REMINDERS ONCE IN A WHILE, ISN’T IT?
SO what is the first part of being a decent human being?
IN MY MIND it is NOT EMPATHY, but I’ve already started talking about empathy so we’ll go through that first.
So what is EMPATHY really? I feel as though I’ve talked about this before, but it is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. To try to put yourself in their place and understand where they’re coming from. Some people can’t do this, or don’t do this, which always confuses me in the same way that people would confuse me if they walked around with their nose plugged all the time.
SO let’s get all ANALYTICAL PHILOSOPHY UP IN THIS and create a MODEL that MAY BEAR NO RESEMBLANCE TO REALITY.
Let’s imagine a man named BOB.
NOW, BOB has a friend named TED. And TED has a cat.
BOB really likes to shoot things. Especially living things. He’s kinda crazy. At this point it’s only a matter of time before he snaps and does something that I could make a really offensive joke about but won’t, because I’m a very good person and I don’t do that.
Now, TED, who is a very trusting and innocent soul, asks BOB to catsit for him.
So BOB does.
Now, it’s about six hours in and BOB is bored. He’s watched Snatch, Pulp Fiction, and Boondock Saints and now he’s all out of DVDs. So he starts thinking about shooting Ted’s cat.
NOW IS WHEN EMPATHY KICKS IN.
If Bob uses his sense of empathy, his ability to understand where other people were coming from, he would imagine what it would be like to care for a small, furry animal and love it unconditionally. He would realize the sense of attachment that Ted must have, and understand the feeling of heartbreak that would come if anything were to happen to the little kitty.
LUCKILY FOR BOB, Bob is a sociopath, an individual DEFINITIONALLY INCAPABLE OF EMPATHY, so he shoots the cat and goes home to watch Tron.
…well. That didn’t turn out to be quite so lucid of an explanation as I had hoped. We’ll try again later.
IN THE MEANTIME
I mentioned that EMPATHY is not necessarily top of my list on HOW TO BE A GOOD HUMAN BEING. It is however arguably impossible to disconnect from the quality that IS on the top of my list, which is, namely, and I quote, THE ABILITY TO MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS.
Let me flesh that one out a bit. What do I mean by this? Well, I could go to Plato/Socrates and say JUSTICE IS EVERYONE MINDING THEIR OWN BUSINESS but I don’t really like agreeing with Plato (it makes me feel a bit funny inside) and Socrates doesn’t always convince me as much as he does Glaucon.
FIRST AND FOREMOST is the ability to RESPECT LIMITS. Everyone has limits. Some people don’t like to be hugged. Some people don’t like to be bothered during certain hours. Some people don’t like to be SHOT IN THE FACE. To each their own. The ability to MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS is the ability to UNDERSTAND the relativist nature of personal limits.
WHICH IN ENGLISH MEANS the ability to RECOGNIZE that there is no UNIVERSAL STANDARD for PERSONAL DECISIONS.
Which basically means that if someone doesn’t want to high-five you, it doesn’t matter if you’re THE GODDAM POPE, you still have no right to claim that they are in the WRONG.
Because this is a fundamental thing that I believe about BAD SHIT that happens to PEOPLE.
When someone SHOOTS YOU IN THE FOOT, it’s bad because BULLETS HURT. But would we think anything was wrong if you ASKED someone to shoot you in the foot and they complied? Well, yes, we would, because WHO THE HELL GETS WILLINGLY SHOT IN THE FOOT, but we wouldn’t think that the shooter was necessarily morally culpable.
NOW OF COURSE YOU CAN MAKE BAD personal decisions. People do it ALL THE GODDAM TIME, and it’s INFURIATING. BUT, there’s not really anything you can DO about that, IS THERE?
If it’s a BAD ENOUGH decision, SOCIETY will provide the backlash and the countermanding force. For EXAMPLE, the decision to stay up until FIVE drinking shots of vodka with peanut butter ice cubes may have been a POOR ONE, but the REAL punishment for that decision is not going to be provided by a friend who gives the drinker a tongue-lashing, it’s going to be provided by the BOSS or TEACHER who waited for them for SIX HOURS and didn’t get the REPORT they wanted.
THIS ESPECIALLY APPLIES TO RELATIONSHIPS, BY THE WAY.
Because a relationship is FUNDAMENTALLY about TWO PEOPLE who RELATE to one another. A relationship can be INDEPENDENT of the two people in a certain emotional way, but it is nonetheless INEXTRICABLY LINKED to their CONTINUING DECISIONS.
WHICH MEANS of course that a RELATIONSHIP is always subject to personal decisions, because as soon as one individual makes the decision to NO LONGER RELATE TO THE OTHER PERSON, it is then NOT A RELATIONSHIP, somewhat by DEFINITION.
SO A VERY BASIC POINT, and one I follow perhaps too well sometimes, is RESPECT PEOPLE’S PERSONAL SPACE, and that means IN ALL CONTEXTS. ALL OF THEM.
NOW we can return to EMPATHY. While I will concede it is POSSIBLE to respect someone’s personal limits without empathy (for example, the majority of sociopaths can generally control themselves as long as it is made clear that a limit is a rule; sociopaths do very well with understanding and following rules), I will say that once you have empathy you are much, much, much more likely to respect a person’s limits.
WHICH, let me POINT OUT, is really NOT EVER A HARD THING.
Because EITHER it’s someone you REALLY DISLIKE even when you CAN understand their point of view and therefore you don’t actually NEED to worry about INFRINGING ON THEIR PERSONAL SPACE EXCEPT WITH A KNIFE because YOU CAN’T STAND THEM (in which case just don’t deal with that) OR it’s someone you’re ACTUALLY QUITE FOND OF in which case YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO EMPATHIZE WITH THEM, in which case you should WANT THE BEST FOR THEM AND NOT BE ALL WEIRD ABOUT IT. Both of which should be relatively simple cognitions.
Both of those points, by the way, are things that I have experienced. The complete profound disgust with another human being and the “OH GOD DON’T BE CREEPY” sense of self-control and extreme respect for other people’s personal space.
SO YES, I suppose in a way I am setting myself up to be a good person by my own definition. Although you will note that I only set the bar at “decent human being,” so I hope I’m not making too bold a claim.
I’m not sure how that reflects upon my blog post, although I suppose the PROOF IS IN THE PREMISES, insofar as if I can be a good person, then what I say might be slightly true.
THIS POST by the way ushers in a WHOLE NEW AGE OF ME, wherein I tell you that I’ve got ANOTHER NAME FOR YOU.
Whereas previously IN THIS BLOG I referred to myself as TOR for reasons that were EXTREMELY NERDY and have to do with the massive unpublished novel that I’ve posted on DeviantArt for lack of a better thing to do with my time (It’s at ddllives.deviantart.com if you’re bored and have nothing better to do, which is extremely unlikely as there are many things that are better than my writing including STABBING YOURSELF IN THE EYES WITH A PENCIL), I have decided HENCEFORTH to take ONE OF THE MORE COMMON NAMES IN THE UNITED STATES and also the name of the PATRON ANGEL of SOLDIERS, DOCTORS, and WARRIORS, which I rather like, myself.
So yeah, my name’s MICHAEL now. If you call me “Mike” I WILL END YOU.
Greetings, earth creatures.
I’ll be posting AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK HERE, which is to say AT LEAST EVERY FRIDAY, but I will also NO LONGER REFRAIN MYSELF from posting something on a DAY THAT IS NOT FRIDAY.
YOU WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO PREDICT WHAT WILL HAPPEN AROUND HERE.
COMING UP NEXT ON JUNGWILDEANDFREE
I YELL AT ATHEISTS UNTIL THEY GET ANGRY
I RANT ABOUT HOW TO BE HAPPY ALL THE GODDAMN TIME.