Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Power of Empathy

I just had the pleasure of watching a thought provoking, articulate and pictorial TEDTalk related to the power of empathy and connection.  In the video embedded below, the internationally renowned economist, environmentalist and author Jeremy Rifkin lays out (and draws) a story of the evolution of human consciousness, suggesting that we need to rethink human nature.  Rifkin theorizes that human beings are soft wired not for aggression, violence, utilitarianism or self-interest, but for sociability, affection, attachment, companionship and belonging to community.

He speaks to the theory that empathy is the invisible hand, the common thread we all share that can unite us and allow us to “stretch our sensibility with another so that we can cohere in larger social units.” It’s not a message of utopia, but one of showing solidarity with compassion, because, “it’s tough to be alive.”  If we extend our identity beyond ourselves, our family, our religion, our nations, then we can start to understand the meaning of the human journey differently.

He continues, “Empathy is grounded in the acknowledgment of death and celebration of life and in the rooting for each other to flourish and be.” Sounds healing to me.  I read a comment that said this video is like mind yoga.  That’s a good articulation of how I feel about it as well.

About TED:  TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds:  Technology, Entertainment, Design.  Since then its scope has become ever broader. TED.COM provides access to "riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world". More than 800 TEDTalks are now available, with more added each week.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! I can relate with this post on so many different levels. Living in the US as a foreigner always wanting to belong, having to change who I am in order to belong because people like to relate to those that are not so different from themselves. Then having experienced loss now that is another foreign place, death often scares people because it reminds them of their own mortality. Thank you for this post, your friend Catherine.