empathy (noun)

  1. the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another
  2. the imaginative ascribing to an object, as a natural object or work of art, feelings or attitudes present in oneself

sympathy (noun)

  1. harmony of or agreement in feeling, as between persons or on the part of one person with respect to another
  2. the harmony of feeling naturally existing between persons of like tastes or opinion or of congenial dispositions

I keep seeing more and more references to the term, empath. I recognize it as part of human nature’s unrelenting predilection for abusing and trivializing language. Deriving, as it must, from empathy, it makes me wonder why sympathy wasn’t the word that was turned into a non-word. Maybe being in harmonious agreement with others isn’t as good, doesn’t contribute as significantly to senses of nobility, magnanimity, and self-importance as purporting to identify or share the perceptions of experience with others.

Humble Pie

It also makes me wonder if we can take our virtue-signaling, self-impressed, self-congratulatory, and self-obsessed infatuation with being sensitive to the point of insensitivity. I’m not sure. But I do know this: If some self-appointed, self-proclaimed empath tells me he shares my perceptions and experiences of my feelings — depending on his delivery — I may offer a perfunctorily polite thank you. If, on the other hand, I think the self-declared, self-aggrandizing empath is, in fact, a pretentious, callously insensitive oaf, I may offer a decidedly un-polite invitation for him to buzz the hell off.

Given the pop-cultural vogue of the self-help movement, I suppose it was inevitable that — after fantasizing we’ve gotten ourselves squared away (we haven’t) — we should extend our self-granted-but-illusory equanimity to others who weren’t as fortunate as we were to read the right books, to subscribe to the right flim-flammery, or to reach our own highly subjective and delusional nirvanas. But inevitability isn’t the same as viability or veracity. And that makes me wonder if empaths ever check their shoes to see if they’ve picked up anything from cow paths.

Maybe if we all practiced a little more humility, it would be easier to keep our feet clean.

Image by Painter06, courtesy of pixabay.com.