Sympathy, Empathy, Compassion and other forms of Singularity
Once, there was a woman in her sixties who was good at heart but had often been abused. Her circumstances were that she was financially dependent on her psychologically abusive husband. For several reasons, the only way out of her situation was to obtain a divorce; else her life would never be an enjoyable experience.
Several friends of the woman had sympathy for her circumstances and could feel her unhappiness. One day when they had gathered at a local restaurant for lunch, they decided to do what they could to help the distraught woman. Secretly, so neither the woman nor her husband would learn of the plan, the group began raising the money for a divorce. They sought pro bono legal services, arranged a safe place for the woman to stay, and set in motion a divorce process which, at a certain point, would require the participation of the woman.
The woman met with her friends to learn of their plan. At first, the woman resisted because of her pride and the fact that her untenable situation was public knowledge. It was hard to accept a gift from a position that could not repay them for their kindness and support. Finally, after hours of conversation over several meetings, she consented to let the divorce plans move forward.
The friends took charge of everything including staying close to the woman to sustain her will and cooperation regardless of the influence of the husband. A subpoena was served on the husband. The woman left just before the subpoena was served. She moved into the safe house. The plan ended successfully; the woman received a divorce and a small stipend from her husband. The stipend was mailed to the attorney so that the husband did not know where she lived. The woman began a new life supported by her friends and with a new and strong feeling that she was loved – at no cost.
This story contains all the elements of oneness. It includes sympathy (awareness), empathy (emotional understanding), compassion (the act of giving), and oneness – the joy and unity (oneness) of each person who had a role in the event.
This story quickly displays sympathy, empathy and compassion. But what made it work? We need to look under the hood.
Each of the friends individually had a personal life to manage. They chose to look beyond their own situation to consider how another situation could be reconciled. When the friends began the plan, they modified personal situations by collecting money, looking for a lawyer, and all the other detail that was needed to make the plan work. The friends changed their personal priorities to resolve the larger priority of the woman’s situation. To cite a rule for this behavior, an individual (you) is always the given situation. If a situation occurs where there is conflict or imbalance confronting the individual, the individual uses empathy and compassion to reconcile the difference.
A small business owner has twenty employees. Business has slowed and the owner must decide how to adjust costs to keep the business in the black. Obviously, employee costs are the greatest expense and must be reduced. A typical owner will decide – without outside advice – that there will be a layoff of three people. The owner notifies the affected employees and the job is done.
Oneness requires that the owner seek an outside, larger reality, ethic, situation – pick the word you understand best – to help with the decision. The larger reality is the self respect, service, and financial security of the employees. Using the principal of oneness, the smaller reality of the owner seeks to reconcile the issue with the help of the employees, who are the larger reality. Regardless of the outcome, the employees retain self respect, a sense of oneness with the business and the owner has improved the presence of oneness in his company.
The principle is that no one should ever make a decision based solely on internal judgment. Even for the simplest decisions, there must be reconciliation with a larger reality. Some readers may struggle with the word reality. “Situation” or “ethic” work just as well. Whatever word is used, the solution is reconciliation between a smaller situation and a larger situation. It must be noted again that an individual always is the smaller situation.
The key principle is that no one makes a decision without using empathy to consider what larger value may be affected by that decision. The result is one of reconcilement not with personal objectives but one that includes the objectives of a larger situation, a larger awareness. Acting on this larger awareness with compassion is the path to oneness.
The question: Your car fails to start. You need to find a way to work. Who will you talk to? What arrangement will you make? Now think of another solution, and a third, and a fourth. Every solution must involve other people. Your failed car is the smaller reality. In all your solutions, what turns out to be the larger reality?