Philosophy Tuesday

This is a philosophical statement. It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

“Every time you open a new book, you’re getting inside someone else’s experience. You’re looking out through their eyes, hearing through their ears, feeling what they feel, experiencing a different life.

And after you’ve read enough books — I think a couple hundred is the magic number — you become a different person. You become a person who has a sense that the universe is larger than you have ever imagined — and you are not alone in it.

And from that, you start to get the glimmer of understanding that others have thoughts and feelings, wants and needs and desires of their own. And you start to become respectful of that.

We call that empathy.

It is my not very humble opinion that most human problems stem not from a failure to communicate — but from a lack of empathy, a failure to care, a failure of respect.

I think readers — especially the readers who challenge themselves — gain an enhanced sense of empathy. We start to notice and care about people outside our own immediate circle. We start to notice and care about other living things — animals and plants. We start to notice and care about our entire planet. That’s empathy. And from there — we can even start to think about the possibility of life on other worlds, who might live there, how they might be very different than us and who we have to become to meet them.

Empathy is path to true sentience — awareness of others, awareness of the effect we have on them, awareness of the effect we have on our environment, awareness of the future we’re designing for ourselves. From that awareness, we develop wisdom— as individuals, and as a species.”

— David Gerrold

One of the many reasons why I believe that imagination is one of our most important faculties that ought to be cherished, encouraged, cultivated, and developed, is what is expressed above.

Without imagination, we are trapped within the boundaries of the sum total of our experiences, and, even more restrictedly, the sum total of our identity’s experiences.* By the very definition of life, we cannot know everything, experience everything, and especially cannot live everyone’s life experiences. We live the life we are living, whilst others are living the lives they are living, lives that start from very different places, experience very different events and circumstances, and are faced with different triumphs and supports and setbacks and pitfalls and challenges and institutional influences. Without imagination and exploration and playing so-called make-believe – yes, even well into adult life, and it is what we are doing when we read fiction – we can only have a small world upon which to form reality.

And in that reality, “I” am right.

In a world where we all want to be liked and loved and enjoyed and respected and validated and live exciting, happy, peaceful lives, empathy is of primal importance. Thus it is that imagination, and the prodding from extraordinary books and movies and plays and storytelling and more, is equally critical in the development of that empathy.  Letting our imagination inhabit others.  Cultivating empathy.**


* – For the identity will colour and interpret and latch onto and create and record/remember only a rather narrow range of experiences, even given the myriad of events we may encounter.

** – “It is my not very humble opinion that most human problems stem not from a failure to communicate — but from a lack of empathy, a failure to care, a failure of respect.”  I especially love this powerful statement.

4 thoughts on “Philosophy Tuesday

  1. philrowley818 August 25, 2015 / 19:59

    Absolutely beautiful. couldn’t have said it better myself…

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