The monologue that runs in our brain is loud. It’s heavy-metal loud compared to the quiet signals we get from the rest of the world.
All day, every day, that noise keeps going. It’s the only voice that has seen everything we’ve seen, believes everything we believe. It’s the noise that not only criticizes every action of every other person who disagrees with us, but it criticizes their motives as well. And, if we question it, it criticizes us as well.
Is it any wonder that projection is more powerful than empathy?
When we meet people, we either celebrate when they agree with us or plot to change or ignore them when they don’t. There’s not a lot of room for, “they might have a different experience of this moment than I do.”
That noise in our head is selfish, afraid and angry. That noise is self-satisfied, self-important and certain. That noise pushes intimacy away and will do anything it can to degrade those that might challenge us.
But, against all odds, empathy is possible.
It’s possible to amplify those too-quiet signals that others send us and to practice imagining, even for a moment, what it might be like to have their noise instead of our noise.
If we put in the effort and devote the time to practice this skill, we can get better at it. We merely have to begin.
“O MAN, scorn not that which is admirable in you! You are a poor thing in your own eyes, but I would teach you that in reality you are a great thing! . . . Realize what you are! Consider your royal dignity! The heavens have not been made in God’s image as you have, nor the moon, nor the sun, nor anything to be seen in creation. . . . Behold, of all that exists there is nothing that can contain your greatness.” — St. Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335 – c. 395): In Cantica, Homily 2.
“As we should be genuinely sorry for tramps and paupers who are materially homeless, so we should be sorry for those who are morally homeless, and who suffer a philosophical starvation as deadly as physical starvation.” — G.K. Chesterton: Illustrated London News, Nov. 24, 1934.
With a hat tip to the GKCDaily blog…
“Sometimes the light’s all shining on me
Other times I can barely see
Lately it occurs to me
What a long, strange trip it’s been.” — Hunter/Garcia
Steven Pressfield posted this today:
I have a theory about the Hero’s Journey. We all have one. We have many, in fact. But our primary hero’s journey as artists is the passage we live out, in real life, before we find our calling.
The hero’s journey is the search for that calling.
It’s initiation (or more precisely, self-initiation).
On the hero’s journey, we see, we experience, we suffer. We learn.
On our hero’s journey, we acquire a history that is ours alone. It’s a secret history, a private history, a personal history. No one has it but us. No one knows it but us. This secret history is the most valuable possession we hold, or ever will hold. We will draw upon it for the rest of our lives.
The hero’s journey ends when, like Odysseus, we return home to Ithaca, to the place from which we started. We wash up on shore. We have survived. We have come home.
Well, what? There’s a calling, that calling, the one that’s mysteriously been whispering and talking and yelling and screaming obscenities at you/me all along. Only now, it’s explicit. It’s there, not “out there” but “right there” and there’s some question but not much and not enough to put it off anymore.
It’s been a long, strange trip, and it isn’t over. Hell, it’s not much more than just started.
“IF I had only one sermon to preach, it would be a sermon against Pride. The more I see of existence, and especially of modern practical and experimental existence, the more I am convinced of the reality of the old religious thesis; that all evil began with some attempt at superiority; some moment when, as we might say, the very skies were cracked across like a mirror, because there was a sneer in Heaven.” — G.K. Chesterton: If I Had Only One Sermon To Preach
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
— William Butler Yeats, 1919
“A great deal of false history was written, by people who never strayed north of London, about working-class hardship in those parts. Yes, there was plenty, but what we get from the entrepreneurs of socialism is twisted to their agitprop needs. Rewriting the history, to make it more true, makes another nice hobby; and in the course of it we discover that the ugliest of the capitalists often did less damage than the philanthropists.” — David Warren
A “critic” is a person who creates nothing and thereby feels qualified to judge the work of creative people. There is logic in this; he is unbiased — he hates all creative people equally. — Robert A. Heinlein
“IF Americans can be divorced for ‘incompatibility of temper,’ I cannot conceive why they are not all divorced. I have known many happy marriages, but never a compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such, are incompatible.” — G.K. Chesterton: What’s Wrong with the World.
Quod minimum, minimum est,
Sed in minimo fidelem esse,
What is a little thing, is (just) a little thing,
But to be faithful in a little thing,
is a great thing. — St. Thomas Aquinas De Doctrina Christiana, IV,35