Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Serving Empathy

I enjoy solitude as much as having a one to one conversation if there is stuff to talk about.  But because I can be indecisive and prone to changing my mind, I  like to venture out on my own whether to grab a coffee or a bite or just to walk around a place. I decide where I eat according to where is convenient and whether I could get a park. The food is secondary, the company is important. It is easy to eat  alone, I can change my mind without having to account to anyone . It can be productive to eat alone as you need the time to read and think about things generally. It is not that I do not like people. I find people fascinating. Only opinionated know-it-all bore me, people who have quirky sense of humour and are open to exchanging their stories and thoughts interest me.

I like to think that I am open minded and versatile in accepting what comes may but in truth I find that everyday can be a challenge as it is never easy to just accept what you see and what you hear without forming an opinion, a conclusion or a thought. So I try to stock up my level of empathy. Perhaps the first thing one should be taught in school is to have empathy. In fact the reality is not every man for himself as it should be every man for his own salvation. In the world of politics , it may be every man for himself but we must all know that nothing lasts for ever. Every individual has to seek his or her own salvation because as humans, we are consumed with desires for one thing or another and desires are our drawbacks.

Often I feel that I get to where I am by default. It is easy to know what one does not like or want to do  but it is hard to know what one really wants to pursue or do, so one might end up where he or she is  by way of elimination process . By trial and error, some of us are fortunate to arrive at decisions they do not live to regret. We are told that we have to will things to happen if we want them badly. We call that positive thinking. Sometimes things may not happen when we want them too badly to happen. I feel that could be because you think you really want something badly but you do not really believe that you will get that something you want badly, then that something  you want badly will not happen . So eventually it is still about positive thinking. Positive thinking arises from self possession. It is a matter of having self confidence and faith in what you do. But then there is also the other theory that everything is about destiny, so if it is already in the book of the universe, you cannot change it. If that is so, we should not fret or be too disappointed if we do not get the results we want.

Often we procrastinate when we have to do something we do not like. One day I had this insight and I said to a couple of colleagues, “ In life one must learn to get good at doing something you don’t like doing.” There was no response. I could hear a pin drop. Perhaps that kind of sound depressing and I gave myself away by uttering the comment. It probably crossed these lawyers’ minds that “ She does not like what she is doing.” I definitely have this desire of only doing things that I like and I know that will be unrealistic.  As we are so often told that we have to love what we are doing , we should stop doing what we don’t like doing and only do what we  feel passionate about.  However whatever it is that you love doing, you might end up not liking it after a while so  you cannot just follow your desire unless you are ready to face the consequences whatever they may be.

We cannot sit on the fence. When I try to think about both sides of an argument, things can get a little muddled up. In the novel “ The Submission” by Amy Waldman, a jury gathers in Manhattan to select a design for the memorial to be constructed for the victims of a devastating  terror attack and after deliberating, the jurors opens the envelope only to discover that the winner they have picked is an American Muslim. Instantly the jurors are cast into a controversial debate about the claims of grief surrounding 9/11, the submission, its art  and the meaning of Islam. One of the jurors, Claire whose husband died in the tragedy was told by one of the victim’s brother. “ You don’t know what you want,” he said, haltingly in front of her, peeved by the difference in their height. “ You know what you’re supposed to want, but not what you really want. Step aside, Claire. Let people who know their own minds fight this out.”

“No people like me, who can see both sides, are needed. It’s called empathy.” Her tone had turned patronizing, superior.

“ Cowardice is what it’s called! You can see all the sides you want, but you can only be on one. One! You have to choose, Claire. Choose!” He was yelling now.That familiar, dreaded tightening ,the build of frustration  ,had begun……

In life we have to make many choices and we are all afraid to make the wrong choice. Perhaps we are afraid not for ourselves but also for our successors and the many next generations to come but we must know that we can only decide based on what we know at present. Everything in life is subject to change, it may be change for the better for some and worse for some, or it may not be better nor worse just different. We have to try to understand that one cannot be guided by passions or emotions alone. There are always the reasons for it and the other reasons against it. If only the people could try to be more objective and think rationally and not be overcome by emotion. Still we must not sit on the fence.

Nice, France (Oct 2012)

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