Today, I want to talk about empathy. We humans aren’t very strong. We don’t have the sharpest teeth. We don’t have complicated systems of biological camouflage. The fastest of us are relatively slow and our eyesight is relatively poor. We don’t have much as far as basic animal defenses go.
But we do have keen, curious, and social brains. We have dominated this planet because of our ingenuity and our ability to work together in a unit. Our most prized resources are those to our left, and those to our right. Empathy is the key to anything good we have accomplished. Without it, our collective strength crumbles, and we are left as easy prey.
It is here that we run into a problem. We have created a world so interconnected as to outpace our empathy. We are wired to extend our empathy to a few (about 200-300) humans while creating a world that requires us all to depend on one another in more and more complicated ways. If we want to continue to progress, it is important to extend our empathy to wider and wider circles.
Each of us travels through life on a bumpy road–some roads bumpier than others. We all carry with us the harm we’ve endured. We often choose to inflict harm upon the world because it feels cathartic, or because it seems fair. This sometimes ends up with self-reinforcing cycles of destruction. We damage others, we damage ourselves, we damage things, we damage ideas. Amidst all of this, the only real hope is empathy. Underneath the harm we carry is a yearning to fix what has been broken. In the end, I want to live in a world full of people who actively work to understand the harm they have endured and fix the harm that has been inflicted. Let’s call it the empathic civilization.
I like this YouTube video on the subject: