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Verses of empathy

Sunday 9/26/21

M: Wow. That was a lot! You have got to be an English major of some sort!!! I have always been better with math verses English. You take the trophy in English.

C: Great, good luck.

(NB: I'm just going to use "M" for moron going forward with these things. And no, I am not especially tolerant of such people. It's not like being born with an affliction. Not being an idiot is often a choice to educate one's self, to learn, to grow. I don't respect people who don't make this choice. It's not an ability thing. It's an effort thing. It's called having standards for yourself.)

Completely creepy when people--and this is common--post stand-alone photos of their children on dating sites. One photo after another of just their kid or kids doing something, as though they are entering their offspring in an abduction raffle.

There will be some blood on the decks this week. The posts are written.

I sent a strong pitch to Outside about reading in the woods. Sitting on the actual forest floor, alone in nature, and reading for an hour or two, and what books work best for this. I also came up with Halloween and Christmas ideas to pitch them.

I gave an interview the other day about the Sam Cooke book. I don't even know what it was for, to be honest. Things are worse than ever. I'm just trying to find a way to keep going. I create. I answer the phone, answer some questions. I go back to creating.

People will never let you done so much that there's a saturation effect; it's always possible for someone to let you down more. This is less likely if you are someone who lets people down. Because you will not have certain standards. You'll be oblivious, too. Your idea of a friendship will be talking about the NFL, beers, some laughs. Nothing else.

I don't think people know how to have healthy relationships of mutual respect and fealty, with empathy. I don't think people have marriages like that, save with rare exceptions. I think people are scared of being alone, and that is why most marriages happen. Rarely do I think there is any actual love or connection within the marriage The family unit fills a need--it often gives someone who otherwise would not have something to focus on something to focus on.

Friendship then becomes like incidental music in a sitcom. People do not know how to have a friend, or be a friend, because they have no "need" for a friend. That's not their focus and they are not capable of having different kinds of focus. The family unit is. Friendship is not friendship but diversion. And that's not what actual friendship is. I am not sure I know anyone who has a single friend, unless they are counting me as a friend, because I behave, always, no matter my suffering, as a friend. The deepest, the truest, the most giving. But I know they are not my friends.

Do you know what no one seems to know about empathy? Everyone thinks they have empathy. They think it's not wanting something, for instance, to be a certain way for someone else. Or feeling bad for what they're going through, or feeling good. Because empathy isn't just about pain.

But I will tell you something about empathy that is true: empathy actuates behavior. One, for example, thinks about someone in a situation, leaves their own life, in a way, to place themselves in that other person's situation. They ask themselves what it would feel like if that was them. They are there. In that room. In that day. In that office. In that hospital. Whatever it is. They can smell it. All but touch it all. They ask themselves how it would be if they were in a situation that looked that way, was that way, felt that way. How would they react? How would they feel? What would they do? What, crucially, would they want and need from someone else? What would it be like if they did not ever receive anything like what they wanted or needed?

The person who is thinking this way, feeling this way, who is empathizing this way, is then compelled to action; to behave a certain way. Because what they're experiencing is as if it is happening to them, too. They can feel it; they get it, at least far more than they would, without empathy. To not then act accordingly is to make a conscious choice, and that conscious choice would be one of cruelty. Choosing to be cruel; to hurt. An empathetic person, by definition, is not cruel. So that's not an option, that particular choice. All that remains, then, is action.

You will know if someone has actual empathy towards you, for you, by how they behave. Not by what they say or what they say they want for you. That can be part of it. By what they do is the only true indication of the presence of empathy. Again: empathy actuates behavior. If behavior is not actuated, that person has no empathy for you. They are probably incapable of having empathy at all. If you say any of this to them, they will become angry, because people must lie to themselves, and think certain things. They're not strong enough to do otherwise. That's not in them. They're not strong enough to face, own, work to fix. Virtually no one is. Less and less so, too, the way the world goes now. If you don't know, like most people don't know, you just go along with the general devolution. Of intelligence, character, self-awareness. No one takes offense. No one is roused to think or feel or ever look at anything differently by you. You're part of a great post-human network of enablers. You find a family unit so you have something to focus on. You talk about the NFL with a person who is not really your friend, because you have no friends, when you need a break. You're going to think your kids are the best kids ever, no matter how shoddily, lazily you might parent them, which is what you'd think about any kids you had, which is what everyone thinks about their kids. Because it's not actually about those kids. They're symbols in a play that have what someone else needs projected upon them, into them.

But what do you do if you know? If you grow? If you have all of the forms of the cognizance. Do you lie? Who do you meet? How do you find meaning and connection? With whom could you possibly? Where are those people? Who is that person? What do yo do in the meanwhile? How do you have any relationship? When you know it is wrong, when you know there is nothing there that is real? When it is just perfunctory. When you are treated as you'd never treat anyone? What can you do? Say something? That person will just go. They're not "friends" with you to be friends with you. They can take you or leave you. They're busy with their lie, and smashing what they need to smash up right in front of their face, as closely as possible, without being able to see anything else, so as not to have to see anything else. You can't be honest, no matter how the words come couched, or the good or necessary place they come from. You can't have any standards. Because you won't even have someone who might phone you once a month. Their emptiness, their lack of character, their absence of growth, of passion, is tantamount to leverage with you. They have the leverage, whereas you are someone who cares because you understand what value, meaning, and consequence are. They're the pathetic ones, but you become the pitiable creature. Because you know. And they don't know fuck all.

I don't believe I've ever known a single person who knows what empathy really is. I wonder if I know a single person who could understand that, upon having it said to them, or reading it in writing. I very much doubt so.

Here's something else: people will talk to me about how real my characters are. How they are more real than anyone they know. That they even redefine what it means for someone--I mean someone; not "a character"--to be real. Why do you think that is? It's because I have empathy for them. It's because I have a bottomless quantity of empathy for every last one of them.

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