A Little Empathy

“The brevity of life, which is so constantly lamented, may in fact be the best quality it possesses.”

– Arthur Schopenhauer, The World As Will and Idea

I observe children, and I realize that the difficulties of life are there from the beginning, and that every age is hard. There is almost no problem we might have that we haven’t had some form of from day one.

As adults, our tendency is to dismiss the problems of the young. Memory often fools us, usually in the same way a misleading news story might: that is, by what it leaves out. We no longer remember what teething felt like, or what it feels like to have no say in where you go or what you do, or what it felt like not to be able to reach what we want or adequately express our desires, so we fail to empathize. Instead, we pine for the fictitious “easy days of childhood”, and talk about how much easier still kids have it these days.

They don’t have it easy, and neither did you. Nor do you now, no doubt.

Life starts over with every new birth, and every experience must be gone through anew: the good, the bad, and the indifferent, as they say. And bad is still bad, even if we have forgotten how it felt. In fact, bad is sometimes made worse by experiencing it around people with little-to-no empathy.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: life is difficult for everybody, and if it doesn’t seem that way for somebody, you just don’t know that person well enough. In certain moods (like the one Schopenhauer, quoted at the top this essay, was always in) life can seem pretty depressing in its difficulty. There are frustrations and limitations, heartaches and losses, duplicities and disappointments in everyone’s life. But, like a child trying to learn a skill for the first time, we have to keep trying; there is no other way to get where we’re going.

And hopefully, we will have picked up a little empathy for others along the way.

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