Philosophy TuesdayAugust 30, 2016
This is a philosophical statement. It is intended to spark thinking and examining.
Imagination, I assert, is of prime importance in the living of life.
It is from imagination that many of our joys spring forth.
More importantly, imagination is the source for empathy.
No one can ever, truly, know, what it feels like to go through what I am/you are going through.
And I/you can never, truly, know exactly what it feels like for another.
If we’re lucky, we may have experienced something similar. We can “relate”.
But our individual experience is forever uniquely separated from anyone else’s.
Similar circumstances do not necessarily equate to the same experience.
And if we haven’t experienced something similar, then we’re starting from carte blanche.
“To have great pain is to have certainty; to hear that another person has pain is to have doubt,” wrote Elaine Scarry.
Imagination allows us to bridge that gap.
It is not a matter whether we match it unerringly. Empathy is not about being an exact mirror.
It’s about doing our best to inhabit the other’s world. To understand. To get their frame of reference.
It is the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.
When someone shares their experience, or when we witness their behaviour, we can set aside our default of comparing to our own experience by going beyond our experience. We can set aside our judgement and our doubt for empathy.
And within that land of imagination and empathy lies a fruitful place for living, for loving, and for the human connectivity and understanding we all crave.