Tag Archives: Empathy

The Dance Of Sorrow

The Dance of Sorrow

I find you
in that place we like to go,
where there’s no one else;
just us and nothing else.

I see your silhouette
there in the dark;
in the silence and the dark,
and you move
in the silence of the dark.

You say my name;
Your voice is music.
In the silence
and the dark
your beauty sings.

You are the light
in the silence and the dark,
and somehow I’m empty.

You ask me to stay
in the silence and the dark,
and I whisper;
I scream out your name.

I see you move;
you dance
in the dance of sorrow,
and you whisper.

“Will you look?”
You say
“Will you look and see
my heart that hurts;
that loves so much
and is so little loved?”

I see your beauty;
your dance:
the dance of sorrow.

Quick Answers To Strange Prayers

“What have I got myself into?” I sit here this afternoon with a message in my inbox from a teenage boy from exactly where, I don’t know, knowing that, in fact, this kid is an answer to a prayer. Nonetheless, I feel as though I’ve probably bit off more than I can chew. Two days ago, I was praying my Rosary, as I do every day, and the focus was on the Sorrowful mysteries. Whenever I focus on Christ’s Passion, the thing that bothers me most is that he had to endure it alone. He was as alone as anyone could possibly be, and that kills me. When I finished my Rosary, I said an extra prayer, which was, “Lord, I wish there was a way I could take some of that loneliness away from you.” Then it hit me. “Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.”

I can’t directly take away the loneliness of His Passion, but I can help someone else who is lonely. I had insomnia a couple of nights ago, so for something to do while I was trying to fall asleep, I joined a website that helps people find pen pals. I created my account, and on my profile, I said that I was hoping to make a new friend, and to be a help to someone who was lonely. I prayed that a lonely person would find me, but yesterday I decided I couldn’t just sit around and wait. Jesus went looking for those who needed His help, so I decided I needed to, as well.

I found the aforementioned kid’s profile, and he said he suffered from severe depression, and was looking for a friend. He’s fifteen, and he was looking for someone more around his age, but I sent him a message anyway, saying that I might be able to help him, or just be a friend. I told him that when I was younger I dealt with pretty bad loneliness, and I knew that it sucked. I didn’t expect him to reply, but surprisingly, he did. He was surprised that I’m twenty five, and he agreed to be email buddies. This was all in a conversation we had using the website’s mailbox, so I gave him my email address, and now I’m waiting. In the meantime, I’m also praying for him.

I worry that I won’t have the right words to talk to this kid, but I suppose I don’t have to. I most likely can’t physically be there to give him a hug when he needs it, but maybe all I need to do is listen. I often forget that it’s just as important, if not more important, to listen, than to say the “right” thing. Sometimes people don’t need to hear anything. Sometimes they just need to get their words; their thoughts; their pain out. If I can’t be the angel who comforted Jesus in the Garden, maybe I can be a friend who comforts this kid in his garden.

Justice And Mercy

I don’t know much about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who, today, is facing his convictions. He is charged on 30 counts in total, and will likely be found guilty of all 30. 17 of these are death-penalty charges. I remember that the Marathon Bombing took place on my 19th birthday. Tsarnaev was also 19. When the nation heard about what happened, we were outraged. Some were sorry. I was sorry. Tsarnaev’s defense was that his brother pushed him into it; convinced him to do it; forced him even. Most don’t believe that now. I don’t believe it. At 19, people have minds and wills of their own. He could have said “no.” He could have defended himself. Maybe he was influenced, but his decisions and actions were his own.

Still, I was; I am sorry. Tsarnaev is my age. At the time we were both college Freshmen. We both had plans. We both had futures. Tsarnaev ruined his own life. He destroyed others as well. He deserves to die. What I want for him is mercy. What I want for him is justice. I want him to live. I want him live in prison and live with what he did. Maybe he will never be sorry, but if he is given the death penalty, he will never have the chance to be. I want him to be sorry. I want him to know who he’s hurt. I want him to have to look at it and see it. I want him to have to know that Boston is stronger than anything he, or anyone else could ever do to us.

I ask all of my readers to pray, in whatever way is right to you, that Tsarnaev would live, and that he will come to understand what he’s done and have to face it.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Why Should We Care?

Something we talk about a lot at school is 1) what is beautiful and 2), why do we/should we care? I’ve recently decided, as mentioned in a few previous posts, that there is good in everything. Something good can be found in every event, situation, person, place and object in this world. Of course, goodness and beauty aren’t exactly the same thing, but I do think that beauty is inherently good. I would also like to clarify that horrible disasters, for example, are not good in themselves. They do, however, tend to bring out the good in people. Sometimes, it’s impossible to see good in things, but it is there. God has a plan, and his plan is insanely complicated and confusing and indiscernible, but it is inherently good.

There is a line in “You Do All Things Well” by Tenth Avenue North that says, “You work in beauty, even out of ugly things.” God uses people and things in completely unexpected ways to change the world and do miracles. It is partly the unexpectedness of these miracles that is beautiful. Whenever we see something that is beautiful, we can identify it as being so. However, there are things that one might not immediately label as beautiful, but some people still call them that.

I do not think however, that Beauty is so subjective. I do believe in absolutes. I have trouble identifying them, but they do exist, and it is best to adhere to them if possible. When I Googled “beauty in the Bible,” I found a whole slew of verses talking about how we should worship the Lord for his greatness and beauty, but that earthly beauty is dubious at best. There are so many commercials on TV featuring women with fake foreign accents flopping around, acting “sexy,” with bright lipstick and shiny hair. The word “sexy” triggers alarms in my head. For me, “sexy” is synonymous with “superficial,” and “superfluous.” These women, to me, are not beautiful.

Something that really freaks me out is when women who are 50 try to look 30. It’s just not “natural” to me. I get that some women do it because of insecurity issues or what have you, but it’s still kind of freaky. I suppose it’s a little judgmental of me to think this way, but I’ve always thought that one should look their age, as well as act their age. I’m not trying to bash women who are into looking pretty, and if it honestly makes them feel good about themselves, awesome. Good for them.

The point is to talk about what is beautiful. I believe that we are given examples of beauty on Earth so that we can understand God’s beauty, to a small degree. We mostly find beauty in visual art (paintings, sculpture, etc), music, and stories. Many times we call emotional sentiments beautiful. Beauty, therefore, seems to be understood primarily as an emotional response to stimuli of a certain kind. Some people, scientists in particular, call things like mathematics “beautiful,” perhaps because it gives them an understanding of something they would not have known before. In a sense, art does the same thing in a different way. We often understand love, for example, in terms of metaphors. Without these metaphors, we would only understand it as an abstract, and somewhat removed emotion.

If beauty is an emotional response, then is it an important one, or is it superfluous? Is it generally harmful or helpful to individuals or society as a whole? Why should we care about art or bother to nurture our sense of beauty? I tend to think that beauty is an important emotion to nurture. If we think about jealousy for example, we find that it can often be a motivator for positive action. I am jealous of the way my friend sings, so I strive to be a better singer. Although rather indefinable, beauty is also a positive motivator. If we can’t find it, we create it. It also seems to be a catalyst for other, stronger emotions and actions such as love, joy, or empathy.

My brother has been assigned “Hamlet” for the second time in high school, and he is thoroughly displeased. I love “Hamlet” because of the beautiful language and deeper issues within the play. Sam hates the idea of looking for deeper meanings, artistic devices, or analyzing the emotional states of characters and relating them to real life; English class type stuff. He argues that it is pointless and unproductive and says that the United States should sacrifice a generation of Children and only teach math and science in schools because our country would be so much farther along in terms of solving problems.

It’s true. We would be much farther along in those fields if a generation was sacrificed. However, would this generation understand love? would they even be able to relate to one another? Would they be able to work together to solve problems? It’s possible to a degree if part of the curriculum involved classes on cooperation, but the whole idea just sounds very stark and lonely. What would our culture be like? What would people do in their free time? If everyone was working in scientific innovation, there would be no one writing books or making movies or composing music. These are the things that people talk about and enjoy together. This scenario sounds extreme, but entertainment media is a huge part of our culture, and in terms of curing diseases or figuring out how the Big Bang happened, it is pointless.

We learn about literature and art in schools so that those of us who enjoy it can create more, quality art. At least that’s my take on it. What about religion? Would religion be banned from this society of math and science? Perhaps not if the purpose of excluding art is to solve problems more efficiently, since religious groups are often concerned with helping others and solving problems. Then again, religion and science sometimes tend to be in contention, so it might be a precarious friendship. Lastly, art and beauty often bridge gaps between cultures and create empathy between people who may not otherwise be prepared to accept each other.

Obviously, I’m very biased, but I just can’t imagine a world without art and beauty since my life revolves around it. One last question I would like to pose is, does it really matter what happened before the Big Bang? As interesting as they may be, I feel that some scientific “innovations” are just as unhelpful as our favorite movies. It’s all relative, and we all like to have our fun.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Tragedy, Beauty and Empathy

Just for the record, I’m not writing this because anything sad happened. I’m just obsessed with Shakespeare’s tragedies.

What is beauty? I’m not really even sure I know. If you asked me why I thought a certain piece of music or a poem or a painting was beautiful, I probably couldn’t tell you. I certainly recognize beauty, as most people do, but I don’t think I could define it accurately. I went to a friend’s blog to see if he’d posted anything new….. He hadn’t, so I reread a bit of one of his old posts. He mentioned Shakespeare’s tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. The two famous lovers kill themselves because they cannot be together. M said that if it were real life it would be horrifying and tragic, but somehow Shakespeare manages to make it beautiful. I think M is right in saying that it is beautiful, but I don’t understand why!

In my Shakespeare class we’ve just finished reading this play and we were just discussing this question. My conclusion was that there is beauty in the love itself and not so much the details of it. It is a very simple, pure love. They are so young and so innocent. At first their love seems almost silly. Juliet is not even 14. I didn’t have my first (and only so far) crush until I was 15. I would argue that their love is so beautiful because it simply cannot happen and we as the audience want it to very badly. Even in the few moments they have together, they are constantly afraid of getting caught. In a sense it is a paradox. It is sacred and yet forbidden and because of this, it ends in death.

I thought about avoiding this, but I’m wondering; is there something intrinsically beautiful about tragedy? I want to say “no,” but I just feel that a straight “no” is somehow wrong. If the answer is “yes,” then how are beauty, tragedy and emotion related? I personally find emotion to be exceedingly beautiful. There is something very powerful about extreme joy or sadness or anger in another. I think seeing so much energy focused into one particular mental state is like reading a very clear confirmative statement; this is what it is to be human. So on the surface, the relationship is pretty clear. Tragedy leads to emotion and emotion is beautiful, therefore, tragedy is beautiful. I think this is why we hear about it so much in the news. Tragedy, for whatever reason seems to be more compelling to most people than “good” news. I think it is because when we hear about horrible things happening far away, it gives us some kind of gut feeling that is similar to anger or sadness, but we don’t have to deal with it right at home.

What about when we have to deal with tragedy in our own lives? Is it still beautiful? I’m going to use the example of Hamlet since he is the most “real” of Shakespeare’s characters for me. Hamlet had tragedy and betrayal all around him and it really affected his outlook on life. He says to his “friends” Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that he still recognizes the beauty of nature, etc, but it means nothing to him now. Granted, Hamlet’s situation is pretty unusual—his father comes back from the grave and tells him to kill his uncle—but in another sense his situation is probably quite relatable for some people. His father died and his mother married another man within a month or two of his death. That could and does happen. For Hamlet, his own tragedy is not beautiful; in fact, it causes him to lose everyone: his lover, his mother and his friends (with the exception of Horatio). For the reader or the audience however, Hamlet’s tragedy is exceedingly beautiful, in part because of Shakespeare’s language, but also in part because of how plausible it is.

Interestingly, I don’t think the Bible says much about tragedy or how to deal with it (granted I don’t read the Bible nearly enough). The only place I can think of where it vaguely addresses it is Ecclesiastes “There is a time for everything…. a time for mourning and a time for rejoicing.” (I’m quoting from memory, so I probably don’t have it exactly). There’s a little comfort there, but you have to read into it a little. Sure, things may be bad now, but they’ll get better. I think the implication is that the Bible doesn’t address tragedy that much because we as believers are supposed to look to God for support. That’s great in theory, but not always great in practice. We can pray for those we’ve lost and ask God to take care of them and believe that He will, but most of the time, our primary concern is “Where can I find the closest hug?”

So why is there a disconnect? Why do people like to read about or see or listen to tragedy if there is no beauty in it when it happens to them? Perhaps seeing it somewhere else is some kind of relief. “Oh good, that’s not happening to me.” I think that’s part of it, but I also think it is because of human empathy. I think we like to be able to feel for or comfort people. It lets us feel that we are doing something worthwhile and helpful.

I could go into more detail on that, but this post is already sadder than I had planned on it being so I think I’ll stop here. I’ll write a happy post soon, I promise! I’ll be done with my finals and on vacation next week!