Friday, September 5, 2014

Put Yourself There

It's simple, what's happening in this photo. Simple in the way that a venti-iced-skinny-sugar-free-extra shot-no-whip macchiato is simple.

Here's what happens. Constantly. 

Rose decides she has displeased Gracie in some way and begins licking Gracie's mouth to soothe her. Gracie loathes having her mouth licked, which she demonstrates to Rose by pulling back her lips in a warning snarl. Rose, noticing Gracie's rising disapproval, licks with more gusto which makes Gracie add a growl to her snarl. Frantic over upsetting Gracie and ashamed of herself for doing such a poor job of licking, Rose redoubles her efforts until Gracie loses her cool entirely and erupts in the sound of the Warner Brothers' tasmanian devil and walks away.

To me... this photo is about empathy. The absence of empathy. 

Each dog is stuck in the groove of her own reaction without understanding how the other one feels. Rose knows what she knows (that a good tongue bath will calm Gracie), and Gracie knows what she knows (that Rose is trying to annoy her). 

I give Rose and Gracie a pass, because chances are they don't have the mental capacity to put themselves inside the head and heart of one another. But we humans have no such excuse. Heck, our brain size is what we flaunt to all those lesser creatures so far beneath us on the animal ladder. 

And though I don't believe my superior intelligence makes me more important than other animals in the kingdom, I'm smart enough to know that when you're talking brain function, size matters.

The question is, what amount of good am I doing with my enormous potential? What if we each committed a few nanoseconds every day to focusing our lazer-ray brain function on someone else who could use the extra understanding? 

Our great gift of empathy lets us climb inside the head of a person (or other animal) who's annoying us, specifically to fumble around for how that creature might be feeling

There is a person in my life who did a horrible thing to me once upon a time, and the wound still throbs with pain and anger I can't seem to get rid of. But I can at least get to my forgiveness place when I put myself inside of this person's skin and realize it was fear behind the decision to do me harm. I can feel sorry for a person who is fearful. And my sadness crowds out my pain and anger for awhile. 

So, really, empathy for another creature is something I do for myself.

Today I think I'll conjure up someone else who is hard for me to bear (because of annoyng tongue baths or some other perceived transgression). I'll try to share brains for awhile to feel what I can feel.

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Be engaged, but be nice.