I try to go through life without preconceived notions of right and wrong. I choose empathy to be a candle in the darkly lit world of subjectivity. I work with children and adults with mental disabilities, and it is because of this “job” and my philosophy that I have been able to look at the world through the eyes of some of the most unique individuals on this little rock we call earth.
Before I got into my position, I met a man several years back that was completely convinced he was a woman. He often talked of a need to “shed his skin and start again.” Caught in a world that had forced him into being what he knows he is not, he found that he had enough of living as a man.
It is the serpent who sheds its skin, writhing out of the old, embracing the new, only to repeat the process over and over in an endless cycle. This was not an accurate analogy for this man; he was not a serpent in need of shedding his skin. He was in need of something more; something transcendent. He was yearning for a single breathtaking metamorphosis. He was the caterpillar in need of becoming its true form. She was to become a Butterfly.
The world can be an unforgiving place if you are a caterpillar; there are many animals that wish to prey on you; a countless number falling victim to an unforgiving environment without ever becoming their true self. Think of the courage it must take to transform your sex, and before you jump towards judgment and decree those transgender individuals as being mentally ill, let me remind you that understanding and treating mental illness is my profession, and I assure you that this is not a mental illness.
We as a species have been altering ourselves into artistic reinterpretations since the dawn of society. We dye our hair, shave our legs and faces, trim our nails, put metal in our mouth to realign teeth, tattoo our skin, pierce ornaments into our flesh, and perhaps strangest of all, distinguish our status in life by how many green pieces of paper we have accumulated.
Not the same thing you say? What then is normality? What is society if not more than the collective dream we as a people manifest into existence. In order to have the virtue of empathy, we must first be capable of tearing down the walls that separate us from one another. See each other as we see ourselves and it will be a lot harder to pass judgments, or make fun of someone because of the way they choose to look, or the person they choose to be.
The virtue of empathy can overstep the bounds of the people that you hate and see as your enemies. It was Sun-Tzu who said “To know your enemy, you must become your enemy,” and Abraham Lincoln who asked, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” They were both right in understanding the power of empathy. The virtue of empathy can win wars, or prevent them altogether.
Don’t go through life without the virtue of empathy. See the people in this world around you not as enemies, not as freaks, not as deranged, nor dangerous; use the virtue of empathy to see them as people, no more than a different reflection of yourself. If you can learn this virtue you will open up a new happiness and acceptance towards the world.