Over the Lines

Apparently, bragging about predatory sexual assault is over “the line”. I have been wondering where the line was for some time.

We all knew this election was going to get ugly. We all knew this was going to plumb the depths of personal attack and warped reality, straying far from the many things we need to work out as a people. We all knew that it was going to be sick, weird, and ultimately just unreal.

So here we are, adrift in that spot on the map labeled “Here be Dragons”. Taking a metaphor from Columbus Day, we’re in that terrible moment when there is no sign of land and just about anything can happen. Our biggest fear should be that we’ve seen this story before and we can only hope that it doesn’t wind up with new horrors far away from the civilized authorities – horrors like genocide, slavery, and plunder.

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Empathy

Empathy. It’s a powerful concept that’s become one of the hot buzz words at the end of this year. Much has been written and said about it lately, and for good reasons. Our politics, which is little more than the collective values of people forced to share a social space with each other, is often rightly criticized for lacking in basic empathy. The message of Pope Francis comes down to a call for more empathy for those who are in pain, not power. But what is empathy?

There are many ways to define it, but the simplest is “The ability to share another person’s emotions.” Empathy defies not just logic, but space – it’s about stepping outside of yourself for at least a moment. It’s a connection to the pain that others feel beyond any logical argument. And true empathy comes when you can do this for people you otherwise don’t even like.

The lack of empathy goes many ways, however. This Christmas is a good time to truly practice empathy.

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