These are fascinating times. Competing, and equally extreme, groups are vying for our heartstrings and lives are literally on the line in their self-inflicted wars. I propose that such animosity and blind hatred is born from a surplus of affective empathy and a dearth of cognitive empathy. As a empathetically blind observer, I have no dog in the fight between the extremists on the left and those on the right, except inasmuch it may ultimately affect me if either side should prevail. However, let’s explore in particular the atrophy of (cognitive) empathy that is fostering this current environment of dehumanization and violence.
These are strange times. My intellectual grasp of the interconnectedness of the world is at peak form even if I do not hold an emotional state toward others living on this earth. Cognitively, I realize that every action I take affects someone else in some fashion and that every action another takes may affect me. In this sense, the grand dance that is life is slowly being revealed to me. What will eventually come my way from such a focus on the intertwined nature of life is yet to be seen. I do not believe in karma, but I do believe that if one seeks to be part of the world, they must respect the world. By respect, I mean that the individual must realize that others have their own unique positions in life and that they exist separate from the observer’s point of view. There are times in which my selfishness and callousness shines through, but by and large, I am morphing into a new being. This is no accident. Months and years of meditating upon my place in the world have brought me to this point and a lesser mind certainly would not reach the same conclusions that I have. These are strange times indeed.
Heavily bandaged, shrapnel in my side, the shell calls me again. The shell. The self. The shell. The self. Where does one end and the other begin? The barbed-wire baton is passed back and forth quicker than the eye can see. No reflection. All reflections. Introspection. Contradiction. Why cannot I maintain who I am?
This is a continuation of the previous post. I decided not to attempt to console the family member whose mother passed away. The reasons for this may surprise you, however. While it is true that I am irked with the man because of past sins he committed, I felt that it would be wiser to avoid the possibility of leaking my indifference. I can feign incompetence if asked why I did not call – “Oh, I just forgot!” – but I cannot feign feelings of true compassion and sympathy that are rooted in empathy. In a way, I am being kind by shielding him from my true apathy. As should be obvious, I have chosen to embrace apathy and have not worn my mask for some time now. As such, I do not even know how to put it back on. The actor has become aloof and uncaring and no longer knows how to play the part.
The mother of a real prick of a family member passed away the other day. I’m supposed to give him some words of consolation and show that I care, but I haven’t worn a mask of compassion in so long that I don’t even know where to begin. This is the man that refuses to gender me properly and that came to my doorstep so many years ago to question my sanity when I first came out as transgender. Maybe I hold a bit of a grudge over it all, but I like to think that I’ve cast him aside into the realm of apathy. However, I am supposed to behave civilly and respectfully, even though I could care less in the end. This highlights a problem that I’ve written about before. The more that I refuse to wear my mask, the harder it becomes to ever put it on again.