Why We Should Try
A bunch of people have been linking to and discussing the recent New York Times piece on empathy. The assertion is made that while people often state variations of we need to walk a mile in another person’s shoes, we are awful at actually doing so and the task may be impossible in practice.
So where does that leave blogs? Because part of my reason for reading blogs is to imagine a life unlike my own. I’m less drawn to blogs that mirror my own way of thinking and more toward blogs that serve as a window into a life different from my own. I mean, every life is different from my own since… you know… that whole every human being/situation is unique thing. But you know what I mean.
So is there a reason to keep reading blogs? Do they become solely entertainment if they’re not actually a tool for building empathy? I know some people read blogs as if they’re a reality television show, tuning in for the next installment to see what happens to X or what was the outcome of Y.
But for those of us who tune in not to be entertained but instead to be taught… can we really be taught? Or is that all just hopeful thinking in our brain?
Because I agree with the NYT’s author:
It’s impossible to actually imagine what it would be like to have certain deeply significant experiences, such as becoming a parent, changing your religion or fighting a war. The same lack of access applies to our understanding of others. If I can’t know what it would be like for me to fight in a war, how can I expect to understand what it was like for someone else to have fought in a war? If I can’t understand what it would be like to become poor, how can I know what it’s like for someone else to be poor?
If others can’t really imagine what it is like to be me, how can I believe that I can imagine what it is like to be someone else? Our imaginations are really really really limited.
Still, this is a case where I think giving it the old college try is more important than success. Maybe we need to start from an understanding that we won’t have success and be okay with that. Instead, it’s the effort expended, the attempt made, the desire to try. That a willingness to consider someone else’s reality is more the point than actually succeeding in understanding someone else’s reality.
At least, that’s my hope.
A side note: tomorrow is #MicroblogMonday. Get writing.