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Categorized | Personal, Stories

Empathy is Passé

Frightening news, in itself. And I didn’t even have to see a glimpse of GMA-7 News’ sensationalist coverage of it to freak me out. A couple more minutes on that channel would drive me nuts. That “Pacific tsunami” was incredible. I don’t watch much movies, you can tell.

What was the first thing in my head as I watched the CNN Friday night?

It was a simulation of myself running for dear life from such aggressive shores. How else could I empathize? That is probably not why I imagined it. I suspect it is just an automatic upshot for someone used to reading fiction–an exercise on simulation. A friend of mine is suggesting I should be embarrassed to admit trying to empathize with crisis victims. That is another emotion I am very much accustomed to. Just as well, I admit to be friends with him despite his solemn respect for Deepak Chopra.

CNN had just interviewed scientists to provide people a sobering explanation and an accurate picture of what had just happened. What was the first thing in my dad’s head?

Salvation. Or the end of days. Or “the apocalyptic prophecies that conniving assholes make people believe.” First of all: AAAAAARGH! so you can tell I am feeling frustrated and pugnacious. But on a good note, this may not last long as I am drinking my favorite tea and eating a chilled salad. Somehow this activity of chewing and swallowing helps to make my brain go and take a vacation. I think that may be good, for now. But while my neurons are still firing belligerence, my fingers will continue tapping in the sentences.

I watched the news in the same room with folks. Dad said to mom “You know what this is, right? This has been mentioned [in the Bible]”. I simulated wasabi shooting up my nose. He looked so calm for the wrong reasons. I am not even sure anyone should be feeling calm at that very moment. While I took the advice of a bathroom towel not to panic, I remained freaked out inside. For a moment I lost the ability to empathize.

Next image in my head: a simulation of myself burning his stack of “holy books”.

I know it does not solve anything, but it was just a nice thought to have less of it around. And if I had some balls (and that stick that comes with it) I would have probably jerked off over the embers. But I could not have.

I no longer have a malignant bone in me since I learnt how to draw.

I lie. I was 4. Surely I was still kicking tall people’s shins? Most if not all kids are little psychopaths. No. I no longer have a malignant bone in me since I stopped listening to religion and its dogmas. I am still empathetic, and for this occasion, that lands me nowhere near the joyous scale. A feeling of deep sympathy and admiration for how dignified Japanese citizens are handling the situation so far takes precedence over this chafing feeling I have managed to accommodate–still, I wish I had not heard what dad said. I wish my mind did not have room for it. What he said was infuriating. Anger is not a very lucrative emotion to me; for one thing it makes following instructions an ordeal. Though some studies suggest I should welcome it.

Now I shall warn you: this piece is going to lose entertainment value really fast henceforward. You might as well stop now. My brain has gone off. I know this because I am currently nibbling on bits of food stuck in between my teeth, reminding me my body is now preoccupied on processing shit (literally).

Here is a boring but short personal background: my parents used to be practicing Catholics, until 2 years ago, they joined the Born-Again Christian band. (I refrained from typing “church” just then. I only recently found out that they had none of those; just a concert hall or something of the sort, which is a real shame. Church buildings are the only things I could still appreciate about religious organizations.) As you may suspect, I was born into Roman Catholicism. To this day I am still a practicing Catholic (to my parents’ knowledge). So that is mainly why I am still writing this.

These thoughts had to go somewhere; just not into my parents’ ears.

I probably would have just laughed to hear someone spouting about “crying mightily to the Lord for the end of days is nigh” in a room full of freethinkers. It is a statement with great cartoon potential. The effect is different when I am outnumbered by people who explicitly devalue this life because they would much prefer the insubstantial life. That mindset reeks of foul scum to me. We have books, movies and video games for escapists pursuing entertainment or a distraction. While this focus on an afterlife is a kind of escapism producing psychopathy. Creepy. Creepier when you hear it from your own parents.

DISCLAIMER: The opinions in this post do not necessarily represent the position of the Filipino Freethinkers.