A couple of thoughts by way of explanation and introduction. Feel free to skip some of this and jump back in further down the page...
I've written before about how I am addicted to footnotes in the books I read. They can expand your thinking beyond the author's original premise, and can introduce you to yet more books that need to be read. I've also talked about how following links on the net can take you down some serious rabbit holes. Well, what are hyperlinks but footnotes on speed?!
This particular trip unfolded as follows: First, I listened to the fantastic audio exchange between Ken Wilber and Kurt Johnson as they talked about Kurt's new book, The Coming Interspiritual Age. This is very exciting stuff and that book has been added to my ever-growing digital "To Read" pile. Something Kurt said in the dialogue really caught my attention. He referred to some folks on Wall Street who were thinking in terms of human consciousness and spirituality, and who were trying to bring about change in the predominantly me-focused mindset there. Given my previous life on Bay Street, and my current life of... whatever it is, I was intrigued.
I emailed Kurt and asked him if there were people I should be paying attention to in this regard. He sent me back a kind and helpful reply, which added yet another book to the pile. He also introduced me to the work of economist/activist David Korten. Not only did that link add yet more books to the pile, it also pointed me to Yes! Magazine (where David blogs.)
Still with me? Good. This is where the empathy idea kicks in: I subscribed to the Yes! Magazine newsletter, and the first edition that showed up in my inbox linked to the wonderful RSA video of cultural thinker Roman Krznaric discussing this fantastic concept:
(Krznaric is a founding faculty member of London's School of Life, something I'll be looking into further.)
The idea of empathy is something that I stumbled across before finding Ken Wilber, Integral Theory, or anything to do with the evolution of human consciousness. It was Jeremy Rifkin and his book, The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis, that started all this for me.
To keep things simple, I have a couple of basic definitions that I use to differentiate between sympathy, and empathy, the latter being a relatively new phenomenon in human psychology.
Sympathy is feeling for someone else.
Empathy is feeling as someone else.
The difference is critical. Sympathy is good, empathy is better. Empathy is seeing the other, experiencing the other, at a more developed level. Empathy is movement along the spectrum of loving the other. Empathy--a relatively new word in the human lexicon--is proof that we evolve. And so is this movement from introspection, a very real and necessary practice, to outrospection. From Me to We to All of Us.
This past week my sister sent me this quote from Dostoyevsky that seems fitting. These words were written in 1880... Here was a man born well ahead of his time.
Love all God's creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it.
Love every leaf, every ray of God's light.
Love the animals, love the plants, love everything.
If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things.
Once you perceive it, you will begin to understand it better every day.
And you will come at last to love the whole world with all-embracing love...
Things flow and are indirectly linked together,
and if you push here, something will move at the other end of the world.
If you strike here, something somewhere will wince;
if you sin here, something somewhere will suffer.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov