Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Loren Eiseley on empathy

I don't think the following statement could be any clearer:

No, it is not because I am filled with obscure guilt that I step gently over, and not upon, an autumn cricket.  It is not because of guilt that I refuse to shoot the last osprey from her nest in the tide marsh.  I possess empathy;  I have grown with man in his mind's growing.  I share that sympathy and compassion which extends beyond the barriers of class and race and form until it partakes of the universal whole.  I am not ashamed to profess this emotion, nor will I call it a pathology.   Only through this experience many times repeated and enhanced does man become truly human.  Only then will his gun arm be forever lowered.  I pray that it may sometime be so.

Loren Eiseley (1907-1977)
from The Lost Notebooks of Loren Eiseley   

Most people, I believe, have reached that stage where they have empathy for others who are like them in culture and beliefs and color and economic status.   Going beyond that to embrace all humans is a long way off as anyone can see from reading the latest headlines.  Loren Eiseley has gone beyond that stage to have empathy for all life--two evolutionary stages beyond most of us. Who knows?  Maybe in a few centuries, the human race might be only one stage behind him.  Unfortunately, I don't believe I shall be around to see it.

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