The Most Important Human Emotion
It can be argued that empathy is one of the most meaningful of all human emotions; the capacity to recognize feelings that are being experienced by another sentient being. It is through the effort towards being empathetic that we hopefully create a standard of behavior for the self. One that is more powerful than institutional influences like laws and religion that aim to dictate our actions through threats, either real or imagined. But our own internal relationship to empathy is what will actually keep you honest when everyone else’s back is turned.
It is easy to cheat the system. It is easy to lie to people. It is easy to get away with whatever you want to if you don’t allow yourself to think about how you will truly affect others. But once you have empathy for another person, it is almost impossible to betray them. You create a connection to their humanity that is so real that you feel their essence in your own. Empathy is what keeps morality meaningful.
One would think such a complex sentiment would have to be explained to children and taught in a deliberate way. But empathy is part of our DNA. As kids start to understand their own emotions they extend that awareness to those around them. And not just towards people and animals, but to the stories they read as well.
Right now The Munch is really interested in identifying the emotions of characters in her books and talking about how they feel. And if someone is crying then we have to discuss it even longer.
“The mouse is crying Mamma!”
“Yes Munch he is crying.”
“They mouse is crying Mamma! He’s crying! The mouse is crying!”
“Why is the mouse crying Munch?”
“He wants Mamma!”
So every time The Munch sees crying, she assumes it is because they want their Mamma. She is exhibiting empathy because most of the time she cries it is because she wants her Mamma. But then I realized that Munch wasn’t talking just about a generic Mamma, she was talking about me! No matter who or what is crying in her mind it is always because they want Mamma, and for The Munch I am Mamma.
“Mamma, the bathtub is crying!”
“Why is the bathtub crying Munch?”
“He wants Mamma!”
“Who is the bathtub’s mamma Munch?”
“Toni! He wants Toni!”
I guess I really am the answer to all problems. Even the bathtub’s!
Wait…. Just kidding… according to Munch the mouse also cries because “he has soap in his mouth.” That really does suck more than missing Mamma.
“Here Mamma… here is a blueberry without soap”