Sunday, January 31, 2010


The theme for what to think about today came out of the radio on a home-to-church-to-Grandma's-to-church-to home run. (Now you know why I don't look forward to Sunday mornings.)

The guy on NPR with a book to push was saying that humans and other higher primates are wired for empathy, to think along with one another, to be socially cohesive. I believe (though I'm not sure since I was calculating whether or not I'd make it through a green light at this point)--I believe he pronounced the end of the era of original sin and the beginning of an era where we would begin to understand that history should be written by the common folk who all get along with one another. Not by the powerful.

I'm oversimplifying. Big time. But never mind.

(I've really grown to dislike this short-sentence one-line paragraph transition gimmick, but that won't stop me from using it--I want to watch "Emma" on Masterpiece in 12 minutes. Masterpiece--the former Masterpiece Theater. Speaking of pretentiously short. Oh, never mind. Again.)

I don't doubt the research that says we're wired for empathy. This is how babies learn to interpret their social world. But there are so many challenges to that empathy, so many ways for it to get distorted.

Later this morning the sermon at church was called "Insider Outsider" (again, I am failing to check this for accuracy). Yes--those folks in Luke didn't like Jesus pointing out to them that God helped people from outside their community.

Empathy, which should link us to others, also locks us into thinking alike, thinking everyone in our social group thinks alike, because if they didn't think like us, they wouldn't be in our social group.

But boy, if we're all competing for the same cherries, or the same woolly mammoth meat, or the approval of someone powerful, charismatic, or mystical (i.e.,if we want that person to empathize with us), our wiring gets kinked. That distortion pulls us away from being the empathically-wired creature made by God as an image of the divine. And voila, injustice, selfishness, sin, societies at war with one another.

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