Irony is when we judge others as lacking empathy

We look at our hands
and see the fingers,
often forgetting to appreciate
the spaces
between them.

Yet,
without spaces
there are no fingers.

In much the same way,
we may look at a chain
and see the connections,
forgetting to appreciate
the boundaries
between them.

Yet,
without boundaries
there are no connections.

The word respect
is made of
re and spect.

Re as in “anew,”
Spect as in “to look.”

Interestingly enough,
a popular Korean phrase
“다시 보다,”
—which literally means
“to look again,”—
figuratively means
“to see something
or someone
anew
due to the unexpected revelation
of something worthy
of appreciation.”

p.s: Thanks to Connie Crawford, for having been the first person to have directed my attention to the roots of the word “respect,” back in 2011.

Standing alone
requires
being supported
by a solid foundation.

May we not conflate
standing alone
with
not needing support.

When we hyper-empathize,
unlike when we empathize,
the distinctions
and boundary
between “self”
and “other”
vanish.

So when we feel
the “other”—
be it a person,
a thing,
or an idea—
is in danger,
it feels as if we
are in danger.

This makes it natural
for us to throw ourselves
onto incoming traffic
to save the lives
of such an other.

To us,
this does not feel
like a sacrifice.

It merely feels
as if it’s a universal
human
reflex.

So much so
that sometimes
we think the other
would have done the same
for us.

Whether or not that is true
is beside the point.

Within what we call
our “self.”
there are many
“others.”

“Others,”
we aren’t fully aware.

“Others,”
we don’t fully understand.

“Others,”
we don’t fully appreciate.

I often hear people say
empathy
is about the “other.”

If so,
may our pursuit of empathy
begin
with the recognition
that our understanding of empathy
will become more clear
as the separation between “self” and “other”
becomes less clear.

We often say
we need
“alone time,”
when what we mean
is we need
connection time.”

A time,
when we can feel connected
to nature,
to an imaginary character,
to a singer who seems to understand
what we’re going through,
to our thoughts and emotions
through an author
who is willing to help us
reflect.

When it feels
as if we’re not doing enough,
a useful question to ask
can be
“From whom do I need recognition
or validation?”

Often times,
what makes something “enough”
is not what we do,
but knowing how certain people feel
about what we do.

It can sometimes be difficult
to admit
that we need recognition
or validation.

But we all need it
from time to time.

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.