Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Empathy Overload

The human imagination and our capacity to feel empathy for are staggering faculties but sometimes they just go too far. Remember the first time you cried when something bad happens to a character in a book you’re reading? That’s imagination joined with empathy and mostly it’s something we want to encourage in developing human beings.

But tonight I find myself extremely upset over the death of a character in a TV series I’m watching. I have to keep the show and character secret to avoid spoiling it for others, but let me just say that it’s even more disturbing than Matthew’s car accident in Downton Abbey.

Now goodness knows there’s enough to be upset about with real people in real time. Trump boasting about his big nuclear button, for example. But the imagination doesn’t tend to discriminate between reality and fantasy. The whole point of art is to suspend disbelief and enter the story “as if” it were true. That’s where the real marrow in the bone lives. You have to be willing to enter the vulnerable realm of caring to get to the good stuff. Otherwise, it’s just cartoon violence and surface TV sitcom surfing.

Shall I call other fellow watchers together and hold a memorial service? Create a support group? Of course, I’m sort of kidding and I see how I could be accused of “get a life!” trivializing the real joys and sorrows of the world. But like I said, the heart doesn’t distinguish the levels, it just feels.

So a moment of silence for ______________ in  _________________. Thanks for all the years (compressed in five seasons).

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