Irony is when we judge others as lacking empathy

Sometimes,
we pit two concepts
as opposites,
when, in fact,
they are perpendicular.

For example,
if we pit
honesty and kindness
as opposites,
we may feel forced
to choose either or.

But if we pit them
as perpendiculars,
we can aim
to learn a new choice
with which to do both
at the same time.

Telling someone
who feels stuck
to have more patience and grit
is akin to telling
a drowning person
to keep holding their breath.

There are times
when progress is merely slow.

Then there are times
when we are stuck.

When progress is slow,
our direction need not change.
Thus,
with patience and grit
we can prevail.

But when we are stuck,
we must significantly change direction
—even if momentarily.

The question is
in which direction?

To support someone feeling stuck
may we be there
by their side
to help them learn
the requisite new choice
of direction.

The Chinese character
for person (人)
are two strokes
leaning against one another.

As if to signify
that to be a person
is to be there for each other
as each other’s support
at. all. times.

At first,
this seemed
impossible.

After all,
we cannot
actually be there for others
at all times.

That is,
until I realized
that others can sense our support
even
in our absence.

Thus,
being there for them
at all times.

But then it seemed
unnecessary.

We don’t
actually need
others to be there for us
at all times.

That is,
until I realized
that the moment we sense
we have no support whatsoever
is often
when we take
our own lives.

Thus,
needing someone
to be there
at all times.

One dictionary says,
business
is “the practice
of making one’s living
by engaging in commerce.”

The same dictionary says
trade
is “the action
of buying and selling
goods and services.”

When we first found our companies,
we tend to do business,
because we want
to make our living.

But after a while,
there often comes a point
where we forget to inquire
into the meaning and value
of living,
as we stop doing business
and start trading,
in pursuit of an image
of life.

Suffering,
signals feeling stuck
without a choice.

To be relieved of suffering,
we need to learn
a new choice.

Often times,
this requires the support
of others.

As new choices often arise
out of a surprising shift
in perspective,
it’s easier
to let others surprise us,
than to surprise us
ourselves.

May we
be such a support.

May we
reach out
for such a support.

Gratitude
is an emotion.

Indebtedness
is a judgment one makes
on top of gratitude
to inject our being
with a noble burden.

One that whispers
“You must pay this back.
If you don’t,
you’re not good enough.”

A burden
that sometimes leads us
to hyper-empathize
with the person
to whom
we feel indebted.

We sometimes resent
not being heard by someone,
unaware
that the reason why they won’t hear us
is because
they are in dire need
to be heard by us.

We sometimes resent
not being supported by someone,
unaware
that the reason why they won’t support us
is because
they are in dire need
of our support.

We sometimes resent
not being respected by someone
unaware
that the reason why they won’t respect us
is because
they are in dire need
of our respect.

By whom
will this Gordian Knot
be severed?

Each moment
we try to act,
as we struggle
to find ourselves in different roles:
a son,
an adult,
a parent,
a professional,
an employee,

And just
as a novice actor struggles
as she mistakes acting
for pretending
to be someone they are not,
we struggle
as we mistake playing roles
for being who we are.

As our minds
try their best
to keep us calm,
to seek and to retain certainty,
they construct false notions
of what it means to be good,
kind,
or even authentic
from clichés and stereotypes
we mistake for the real meaning
behind those words.

Our very desires
to “be somebody,”
even if it’s as benign
as a good son
or a good friend,
often result in nothing more
than bad acting.

pg 168 Realizing Empathy: An Inquiry into the Meaning of Making.

“I have to repress it.”
said the CEO.

“Why?” I asked.

“I’m afraid
I’m going to crumble,
if I let myself experience it.”
she responded.

The ‘it’
being unpleasant emotions.

Most people
have difficulty processing
unpleasant emotions.

It’s no wonder
positive thinking life hacks
such as gratitude journaling
has taken off.

Except,
they merely mask the symptoms,
and blinds us
to the valuable information
encoded in the unpleasant emotions.

When I was researching art,
it was remarkable to witness
how actors-in-rehearsal
were supported
by their director and scene partners
in decoding the information
encoded in unpleasant emotions.

I also witnessed
over and over again,
how the information,
when decoded,
inspired the actors
to unleash their potential
for a brilliant performance
that lay dormant until then.

This
is the kind of teamwork we need
in business.

It’s tempting
to think of some relationships
as having a unilateral
power dynamic.

As if our parents
have unilateral power
over us.

As if our bosses
have unilateral power
over us.

As if our investors
have unilateral power
over us.

What we inevitably learn
is that we also have power
over our parents,
over our bosses,
over our investors.

Why?
Because they have a vested interest
in our success.

Given this,
we can choose to see these relationships
through the lens of
“They only care about us
because they have a vested interest
in our success!”

or

through the lens of
“I appreciate
that there are people who care about us
enough to have a vested interest
in our success.”

At least two choices
we can learn.

Only one of which
helps us use
power with.