It’s a widespread condition, because in order to feel full, you need to feel. And nothing moves us anymore. What else to expect when the “independent media” raves about the latest piece of performance art, during which the “star” eats his own flesh or drinks his own blood, or a movie that features simulated sex with pigs? When, during a recent “Otvoreno”, the viewers are treated to an exclusive video of young kids yelling “f... you” , "f... the world", and "I hate the world", and the latest “hit” novel has as its main characters a bevy of dildos and vibrators. When you turn on the radio and, instead of the lilting scales of a Vivaldi or a Chopin, you hear from various popular rap singers the following lyrics:
"you gotta daughter over 15, I'll rape her in front of you, whaddya gonna do?"
"I don't wanna beat the girl, but she asked for it...get her outta here before she gets kicked, even if she's pregnant.."
"I'll kill Satan, kill whitey, kill whitey all night long...kill the devil Jew...kill whitey for fun..."
While this all might actually move one to tears, these are not the tears of empathy, but frustration, disgust, and powerlessness which lead nowhere except to total apathy.
The first step is to turn off the television, radio, and computer, boycott the majority of movies, plays, and daily newspapers, and get out a good book. For those who have forgotten, a book is comprised of a few hundred or so pages of text, preferably written by someone who is a magician with words, and can craft an image and conjure an emotion that wrenches one’s heart from the body and sends it spiraling up to the stars like a rocket.
Take, for example, Oscar Wilde’s “De Profundis”, one of the most beautiful pieces of literature ever written. Wilde has been sent to prison for “morals offenses.” As he is brought down from his prison to the bankruptcy court in handcuffs, disgraced, and in the deepest despair, a man standing in the crowd gravely raises his hat in respect to the great artist. About this simple act of empathy for a fellow human being in the throes of profound suffering, Wilde writes:
“I store it in the treasure-house of my heart. I keep it there as a secret debt that I am glad to think I can never possibly repay. It is embalmed and kept sweet by the myrrh and cassia of many tears. When wisdom has been profitless to me, philosophy barren, and the proverbs and phrases of those who have sought to give me consolation as dust and ashes in my mouth, the memory of that little, lovely, silent act of love has unsealed for me all the wells of pity: made the desert blossom like a rose, and brought me out of the bitterness of lonely exile into harmony with the wounded, broken, and great heart of the world.”
In “Adam Bede”, George Eliot writes in a similar vein of the transformative power of sorrow:
“Let us be thankful that our sorrow lives in us as an indestructible force, only changing its form as forces do, from pain into sympathy – the one poor word which includes all our best insight and our best love.”
And now it gets tricky, because once that power of empathy is awakened, people begin to care deeply about everybody and everything around them. They reject the manipulators of the human soul, and agitate for change. They rebel against the pollution of our minds by the media magnates whose only interest is immediate profit, becoming still richer, and keeping us isolated, disorganized, and apathetic. They agitate against the pollution of our seas and drinking water by greedy conglomerates, because it will kill the fish as well as the fishermen, and their children will not have fresh water. They fight for neighbors who have lost life savings to the Soroses of the world, for deserts without rain, skies without stars. That’s why the manipulators have brought out their big guns, spreading apathy, degradation, and disintegration. But empathy is dangerous, and empathy is potent. With it, we can heal the wounded heart of the world.
When is the last time you were moved to tears? By a passage in a book, perhaps, that shook your soul, awakened your empathy, and connected you to the universal pulse of mankind? A scene from a movie, one that actually had a human plot and characters with whom you could identify, who shared common fears, joys, hopes, and dreams, and had no special superhuman powers, such as telepathy, or , the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound? When did you last attend a play, and how many handkerchiefs did you use, for tears, and not a runny nose? Do you feel sort of empty inside? Exploited? Apathetic?