13 January 2011

91: Lesson #3: Colder?!?! Sympathy vs Empathy

I've never liked the concept of Wind Chill. I don't like the idea of the Heat Index. What about that stat on the weather that says "feels like" and then lists some alternate temperature?

If it "feels like" 106, can we just call it that? If it "felt like" 26 on Tuesday and I had to get out and ride in that (and I did), then what good does it do for me to call it 36?


Can we be really honest here? Are you sure? Thanks.

Tuesday morning sucked.

"Feels like 26" is cold. My lung was burning, my muscles were all tied up in knots, and my eyes were watering ("hey look, that crying hipster cyclist!!").

Getting to the bus stop is only a temporary hope, since you know that once on the bus you eventually have to get off again and hop back on the bike. My best hope is that by the time I disembark the "feels like" temperature might be a sultry 31. Or maybe it'll be raining again.

So what could I take from a day of brutal cycling and painful (like legitimately can't feel my fingers or toes) waiting on the bus?

I have officially moved from sympathy for the poor who must commute daily on the bus to sure empathy. I can no longer pity them from afar. I can now say that through even our so-far brief shared suffering, I feel the pain with them.

What would it take for us to really know the pain of people for whom we don't love and empathize but rather only pity and feel sympathy towards them instead?

Ever lived in an old-folks home?

Ever spent a night homeless?

Ever been a recovering addict?

We can't find experiences that allow us to move to empathy in every situation. Where we can, though, I think it is upon us to take the leap...and freeze if we have to.

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