Tuesday, June 8, 2010

the empathic civilization

In this playful animation, Jeremy Rifkin pleads for empathy as the key principle for a new civilization. He starts from the discovery of mirror neurons to explain that we are soft-wired for empathy, and explains:

- Development of selfhood is directly linked to empathic development
- Empathy is key for coping with suffering and death, during the "existential trip" that life is
- The empathy civilization is no utopia, as in a utopia there is no mortality so there is no empathy. "There is no empathy in heaven"
- Civilization is empathization. Through empathy we can "cohere into larger social units".
- Currently we have developed empathy for a large social group called the nation state. But this nation state is a fiction created by markets. Now we need to extend our empathy to all humans, all other creatures, as well as the biosphere.
- Technology extends the nervous system to think viscerally as one family. Twitter is a good example of this, as there was a huge empathic response during the time of the Haiti earthquake.

Well, I couldn't agree more. I know that a life of consciously limiting your empathy and identifying with one particular social group, as opposed to others, is somewhat nice and comfortable. But once you step out of it, you realize that it's just not worth it playing such games all your life and missing out on the larger things you can discover. Empathizing with others can lead you to this ultimate transcendence of identifications, and help you merge into something larger, something extremely beautiful, something supreme. I know this is hard, but what works for me is to just stay aware of your less empathic tendencies, and when they arise, think in terms of empathy to slowly rewire yourself and your reactions until it becomes natural for you.

I like how Rifkin mentions technology as a large factor in developing universal empathy. My thoughts has been pointing towards this too, as our civilization relies more on technology than on psycho-spiritual methods of self-transformation. When we can develop technologies that consciously and unconsciously guide people towards empathy, we can realize first this global civilization and later perhaps what you could call a cosmic civilization.

In a cosmic civilization, people don't just empathize with organic or living things, but empathy is extended to everything that we interact with, including 'inanimate' things like technological objects. In this civilization, people realize that the difference between life and death is a fiction too, and that all human behavior can be described as a machine. That in fact, thinking of yourself in terms of a mechanism liberates you from all your worries, and makes the 'you' you think you are immerse into what you really are: consciousness. Thus liberated from form-identifications, triggered by the development of universal empathy, we realize ourselves not just as humans, but as what you could call cosmic consciousness.

1 comment:

Barkha Dhar said...

Hey Ralph,
Loved reading your post on Empathy. Its one rare trait these days. I also loved watching this terrific animation video.
Barkha Dhar