Empathy

In a down payment for Steve’s real birthday celebration (which will come long after his actual birthday) we had a lovely dinner and watched Bohemian Rhapsody, the biopic on Freddie Mercury and Queen.

The movie was wonderful, almost an opera in the way it used music as a counterpoint, a way of emphasizing certain aspects of his life, and as a way of revealing thoughts. And, of course, the music was wonderful. Since Queen is one of Steve’s favorite bands (and one of mine as well), it was an important part of our early relationship. So this was a touchstone back to our own passions and hungers as well.

When they got to the LiveAid concert, which was the climax of the movie, I was reminded of that moment when we united across the world to save people we didn’t know. (Was it really so very long ago?) The movie also reminded me of how we acted too late to save so many of our fellow citizens from AIDS.

It connected tightly for me because I’d just read a piece by Umair Haque that resonated with this as well. (I am not going to link to it here because it is too political for this blog. If you are truly interested, it can be found on Medium.) Haque talks about the importance of empathy when facing existential despair.

This spoke to me and I thought of it while watching Bohemian Rhapsody. The movie is a biopic on a basic level. On a deeper level it is about creativity, art and collaboration and the importance of found families. At an even deeper level it’s about the right response to existential despair.

Umair Haque says:

And to genuinely value [others] means saying something like: “Just being alive is terrifying for me. I feel alone, ignorant, I know I’ll die, and I’ll never have good answers. I’m here — and then I won’t be. The human condition is a tragedy, a nightmare. And yet in this tragedy, there’s redemption, there’s grace, because once I acknowledge that it’s true for all of us, I have a reason to be empathic, kind, loving, good.

I wouldn’t presume to tell others what their spirituality or religion should be, but that quote up there is a good expression of mine. Like any other zealot, I hope you will join me in the great, good cause of empathy and kindness.

For writers and other creatives, I’ve come to believe that empathy is the critical element for creation. It is important not to turn away from our own pain and the pain of others, but to allow it to enter so that we can allow our response to transform ourselves, our work, and our world.

Be well, friends!

Leave a Reply