Category: Reality

Empathy, acceptance and tolerance

This is a followup to my last post, because it seems mildly incomplete. I should have perhaps mentioned empathy.  Empathy seems to me the only means of truly communicating with anyone, of understanding them. It’s what we all want, for someone to see the world as we see it. And yet, a fully empathetic experience, actually getting into the head of another, being in their mind and experiencing emotions from their perspective, is not possible. Nor, I suspect, are we capable of understanding just how far apart from one another we really are. All of this begs for tolerance and acceptance of differences as critical to building relationships.  And it goes a long way towards explaining why the human race is in such trouble…and maybe why humanity today can be such a lonely...

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Ask for acceptance, don’t expect understanding…

Coming back from Europe last week reminded me of coming back from Chile and the Peace Corps back in 1980. This time I was only gone five months, back then it had been 30. Trying to explain to anyone what I had experienced was pointless, because no matter how carefully chosen your words, no one who hadn’t been there could really know. And, with the exception of the uniquely insightful and curious, I suspect few really care.   I shared this insight with a young French college student a few years ago and he understood immediately. He commented that he had recently spent a full year drifting around the globe, only to return home to his parents in Normandy who’d questioned him for 15 minutes. Then they began discussing lunch. And our experiences pale alongside those of soldiers returning home from war. How could any of us who haven’t been there grasp that? But then there are many things I can’t know: What it’s like to have a son or daughter, to shoulder commitment to a wife and family? To be extremely wealthy, or even poor? To be a woman, or black or Muslim? To be an addict, or live in a Haitian slum? All of of this is just an amateurish way of commenting on individual lives and the perspectives those lives create within each of us. We...

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Now you see it, now you don’t…

This last weekend, my little adopted town in East Tennessee held a annual three-day festival, a big deal. Takes a week to set up, with tents and booths and bandstands and vendors and competitions spread over many acres.  Thousands of people gather, laugh, eat and drink, buy and sell, play or listen to music, compete in games.  I was there both days, and Sunday afternoon sat in the beer tent drinking and talking with friends for hours as evening closed in on us.  Then today, Monday, I went back to help tear it all down. In one day it was virtually gone, and by tomorrow it might never have been. I’ve had similar experiences.  I used to go to an annual music festival where we’d arrive Sunday with a couple thousand other campers and pretty much build a small city in one day.  For the next week, activity was virtually nonstop:  People doing what people do when we gather.  Then, the following Sunday morning, we’d wake up and within three hours, it would be gone.  And a few years after my father died, we sold the family home and the new owners moved the house away to clear the lot.  I visited the site and sat on the foundation piers, gazing around me at the tiny area that had been our life.   Forty years of all that a family is, now...

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