It was 1998 and life since my 1986 graduation had been quite an adventure. The first time that I heard What It's Like by Everlast I was struck by the connections... I truly felt it surmised my personal experiences in life and in my empathy journey. Hearing it again recently, I was reminded about its impact on my ideas about empathy. What It's Like is a brief but brutally honest examination of the human condition and our often inhuman responses to our fellow man. Judging others is one of our greatest weaknesses. For me, the grittiness of the song echoes the sentiment that empathy is not always a soft, warm feeling but rather it is a radical, powerful, catalytic reaction. Empathy can be rough, cut deeply, and wound us. It is uncomfortable, challenging, and at times, it is easier to just look away... because looking someone in the eye forces us to see ourselves, to recognize our shared humanity, to accept our interdependent existence, and that requires us to respond. Empathy takes us beyond ourselves into the 'bound' experience of humanity which is fraught with hurt and hardship but it is ours to share. The 'oneness' of the human experience has always brought me comfort and peace as well as dared me to be better. It may be particularly difficult to imagine empathy in perilous times but it is now that it is most needed. Clashes over racial injustice, denial of the causes, and rising political tension serve only to separate us. Working together is how societies overcome problems, and working together is the only way to stem the spread of CoVid19.
A friend of mine said 'this is a time to listen more and say less, to show compassion instead of asserting one's opinion, to be at peace instead of demanding it, to transform instead of expecting others to change, and to feel how others feel.' I agree. This year may be the X Games of empathy...difficult but incredible and inspiring. Let's be EmpathyBound in 2020.