Tag Archive: empathy


If ‘life’ is viewed as a perceptible entity, then it can be understood that ‘life’ is not focussed upon the longevity of any given individual, but on the continuation of life.
Do not believe for one instant that in the grand scheme of things, you or any other person is special, or should be entitled to anything more than another. You will live a while, you will die. Perhaps you will even produce ‘mini-me’s’, but in the human experience on this mortal coil, it is what you do with your time here that matters.

No person should ever seek to gain through the pain of others. We are not entitled to believe our needs are greater than another. In doing this, one is judging the value of one person against another. It is a false measurement… an illusion.

We all live a while. We all die.
It is what you do with your time here that matters.

We all have talents… not all discover what theirs are. Some are more profound, others are not. Some are subtle, some are far from subtle! But all have the potential to improve the lives of other people. Follow your heart, find your talent, practice your talent, use your talent to lift the spirits of others.

We all live a while. We all die.
It is what you do with your time here that matters.

Within the last couple of weeks, I have discovered something that I thought was true, but now I have experienced it, I know it to be true.
Six months ago I was diagnosed as having testicular cancer. Thankfully this was caught early and after having the offending anatomical item removed and analysed , I was told that I was in the 5% to 10% bracket of not having to do anything else.
Great news!
However, this was not to be true. Four months later I got the call that a CT scan showed that three lymph nodes in typical positions for the spread of this cancer were a little enlarged and I was going to have to go through a course of chemotherapy.

After following the sad demise of a friend who suffered from a far more aggressive form of cancer (Cholangiocarcinoma), and her experience of chemotherapy, I was more than a little anxious as to how bad this experience was going to be.
The course I was put on was a nine week course of three lots of three week cycles, back to back, with the chemotherapy drugs known as BEP. The first five days of each three week cycle was as an in-patient, then on day’s nine and sixteen I would go in for a top-up of one of the chemo drugs in particular.
After the first cycle I went home and felt a little under the weather, but to be honest it wasn’t anything more than the feeling of contracting a heavy cold for a few days. I was still able to function and think and do all the usual day-to-day tasks, just without the energy to do any physical activity.
Not too bad.
The second cycle was a little heavier, and so when I came home on day five I went straight to bed with a low level of energy, then was pretty incapable of anything useful for a couple of days after that. By day nine I was feeling a lot more alive and able to do most things slowly.

However, the ‘something I discovered’ that I speak of in the first line was learned after coming out of the third cycle (and I’m still in it at the moment – I’m typing this at day ten).
Until last night – day nine – my energy level has been so low that even sitting up was an immense effort. To walk would require something to hold onto every ten metres or so. Even just standing was so exhausting I couldn’t do it for any longer than a couple of minutes.
For a person who is used to leading an active life, I found this complete physical inability emotionally and spiritually draining. Being dragged down so low and not being able to do anything was quite possibly the worst experience of my life. It was like the essence of me had been removed… it was quite literally draining my life–force from me.

…and this is where the lesson was learned…

Something so important to my life… my feeling of purpose… my method of achieving self-worth and accomplishment… the ability to be physically active… having had it so completely removed allowed me to see that that ability is the very essence of what makes my life worth living. The loss of it is something that I NEVER want to experience again.

If life is most profoundly experienced by doing that which makes the spirit soar,
then death is to have that ability removed from ones being, and mere existence is all that is left.

For the rest of my life I vow to be active to whatever degree my body allows… because if I am not, then I am already dead!

Those who would laugh at you, ridicule your attempts to show them something of worth, mock you for the cheap trick of getting a laugh themselves; do they have something to offer that is greater?

If not, then don’t take their words to heart, they are merely jealous of your greater ability (…though they probably don’t realise it) and their jibes can be ignored, because if all they have to offer is derision without substance, then they have nothing to offer at all.

Be confidant with your gifts and skills.

Go forth and express your being; your self, show the world who and what you are!

Forgetting remembrance

Yesterday was November 11th – Remembrance Day, and as always, I found myself in two minds when observing two minutes of silence in remembrance of our fallen, as I also observe so many around me for whom those two minutes pass unheeded.
I always have the thought of “Why the hell haven’t they put in the miniscule amount of effort required to make sure that they each observe Remembrance!
Remembrance always puts me in a sombre mood, but in recent years it also leaves me with a smile.

What’s the smile for?
Well, for the very fact that those who do not make the EFFORT to observe the two minutes of silence, live in a world where they can do this!
They live in a world where the sacrifices made by those who died in the hope that our futures would be safe and free (whatever that really means today…!?), has become a real future… a future where they CAN be forgotten.

I think that if I had fought and died, I would have been happy that my children’s children and their grand-children could forget about my sacrifice if they were living in a world better than, for example, the one the Third Reich was trying to generate.
It would mean that my death had not been in vain.

Perhaps the forgetting to remember is actually an indication of a good thing… but I, for one, shall never forget.

‘Forgiveness’ is the most natural of human instincts… or so was said in the film Revenge ‘.

This phrase made me think of the ‘survival’ bandwagon that we each so easily jump on.
Why should we forgive, when in survival terms it means forgetting the reasons we were first in rejection of that which guided us away from harm?
I’m intrigued by this thought, so ‘answers on a postcard’ please !

Is it possible to make a decision without emotion when the emotions of close friends or family will be affected?

If the decision was, say, to send a beloved car to the scrapheap, then it would be possible to remove the emotions from the decision, so that personal attachment and sentiment didn’t stop you making the right decision. The car will have no reciprocal emotions.
But when the decision involves the provocation of negative emotions in those close to you, is it possible to make the right decision without involving your own emotions?

If you want to give something great, then you do so knowing that it will make them feel good, but this is also done because you enjoy feeling good about the giving.
If you feel the need to take something valued away knowing that it will make them feel bad, then you won’t want to do the taking as it will also make you feel bad… and you know that it will also be a negative mark against the relationship whether this be short term or long.

7th Dec ’11 (taken from my personal journal)

Richard Bach said “Your life is yours, and yours alone. What you choose to do with it is up to you.

After a lot of thought about how one relates to, and how it fits in with family, I can no longer agree with this… although, in the past I strongly agreed – possibly a throwback to the BAMA way of thought…?

If the condition of partnership is applied, be it; lover, husband or wife, a person to live with, close friends, etc, then at the point that one enters into any of these relationships, one is giving away a part of their life to the other. But it is traded in trust that they are also giving you a part of their life.

The use of the word ‘life’ needs to be clarified here. It is used with the following intent:
When one chooses to partake in a lasting relationship, one is, by default, surrendering a part of themselves to allowing the actions, thoughts, ideas, loves and hates, desires, emotional attachments, etc, of another to have their subsequent effects (desired or otherwise) to affect one’s own way of life.
When choosing to partake in a close relationship  you are not only allowing another person into your life, but are also accepting that they are allowing you into their life. It is an agreement of trust and of mutual consent.
There is also a bond of trust that you will not walk away from a difficult situation, but that you will stay and fight their corner with them.

If a person later becomes a parent (intentionally or otherwise) then the same sharing of your life does not occur.
It is a different mechanism.
By becoming a parent, you are bringing into existence the life of another. You are not choosing to bond with them (although, that invariably occurs anyway), but you are placing yourself in the position of mentor, friend and disciplinarian… it might be argued by some that you own that life as it is an extension of your own.
However, I can only see that the viewpoint of ownership would create a relationship of dictator and subject… not a healthy one.

When it comes to relationships with work colleagues, fellow knitting club members, or similar, you start in the position as advocated by Richard Bach above, until you reach a position whereby you are acting as friend to individuals, or the group. At this point, you have again, given away a part of your life.
This becomes evident when frustration is felt when working hard on their behalf, but seeing that others are not giving help back.
The frustration is a product of you giving away a part of your life with the understanding that you will, in turn, be receiving a part of theirs. When this is not returned, negative emotions arise. One is then, eventually, faced with the decision of whether to stay as a part of the group, or to turn around and walk away.

So, it seems that one could live their life in the manner of Richard Bach’s maxim above, but they will find that they will never fit in with social or familial groups.
As a result, it seems that he is right in what he says, but what must be understood is that if one does not choose to sacrifice / give away / or share a part of their life with another, then it will be a lonely, less rewarding life.

13th September 2011 (taken from my personal journal)

In the past I have said that there is no right and wrong; it is only in the eye of the beholder.
I have said that Adolf Hitler must have believed in what he did, so he was right… in his eyes. But now my view has changed.

After watching the BBC series ‘Ocean Giants’ with the observed behaviour of dolphins and whales, and thinking back to other documentaries where primates appear to show a compassionate side to their nature, I now think that compassion and empathy are a fundamental part of what makes up mammals, and so the phrase ‘the eye of the beholder’ now has a much much wider scope because the ‘eye’ is now what is seen as acceptable behaviour by mentally stable (i.e. the majority) mammals… the meaning of the phrase now seems to go further than only humans. *

So, what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’ is now guided by that which is socially acceptable at the level of nature, not at the level of culture and of indoctrinated, dogmatic conditioning.

To clarify; to me it seems that those we would consider mentally stable are those that can interact in the normal manner (yes, this is subjective!) with the world around them, and it is those who’s actions are only rarely to the detriment of others, and even then it is an action that they would consider as acting for the ‘greater good’.
I apply this to forms of life other than solely human. 

* (added 16th Sept ’11)
…perhaps we, the human race, should start to consider ‘family’ as being beyond the human species, i.e. perhaps we should also include most, or all mammals.  I have often wondered why we see baby animals as ‘cute and cuddly’, but in my experience that applies even more so to baby mammals… and I have thought that this must be because we can identify with mammals more readily than we can with, say, baby crocodiles.

So, where we see baby dolphins and whales in the program mentioned above; and where we see baby monkeys, cats, dogs, horses, cows, chimpanzees… and we find them ‘cute and cuddly’ it is because we can identify with their mannerisms, their curiosity, their fears, and ultimately, their mental development as they seem to see the world in a more similar way to us than a baby crocodile. They also have a more familiar need for empathy and compassion and a sense of belonging and of acceptance.

They say that one can see into the soul of a man by looking into his eyes.  I think that we see something similar (maybe the same thing?) when we look at a baby mammal.
I specify mammals, because for me, I don’t get the same feeling if I look into the eyes of a baby reptile, bird, fish, spider, etc. I only get the feeling of cold detachment… like their soul is missing… like they are biological robots without feelings… maybe not so much with a bird, but the coldness is still there.

I’ve had one profound experience that would suggest the opposite to this though.  Whilst on holiday with Karen in Turkey in 1994 I went snorkelling around the submerged part of an old Roman building, and hiding in the place of a missing stone there was an Octopus (incidentally, this is a mollusc, not a mammal) with its legs wrapped protectively around itself leaving an eye looking out. I looked into its eye and made a connection with this creature.
I remember it feeling as if it was looking not at me, but into me. There was an intelligence of a high level. The experience was profound enough for me to promise the Octopus that I would no longer eat another one of its kind.

I’ve had one other very profound experience that would suggest the above connection with mammals is possible. I was visiting Bristol Zoo where a large silverback Gorilla was seated within easy sight of the visiting hordes. I was stood at the back of the crowd already feeling that I was doing the wrong thing and in the wrong place, when he and I made eye contact. The impact was immense and for a moment there was only he and I… then I walked out of there holding back the tears.  It was if this great magnificent creature had communicated the following to me;

I’m supposed to be the big strong one here, dominating everything around me, yet because of a little bit of glass I can’t get at those who jeer and point and laugh and make fun of me. I feel depressed and dejected and that I’m in the wrong place, and I know it, but I’m trapped and I can’t do anything about it.

… I haven’t been able to go in there since…