Humans are made for a local environment ― the village as our world, not the world as a village. Nature never knew we would need to empathize with the other side of the world one day.
Yet there is increasingly this need.
Not only to tackle global problems.
Of course, these problems exist and need broad-circle solutions. Almost everybody is aware of that.
We need broad-circle empathy also for more local issues, or even better: to prevent them — regional wars, for instance, or problems with just living together in diversity.
Fortunately, nature made us flexible. Nevertheless…
Small-circle empathy can lead to a lack of broad-circle empathy.
We run into problems if they oppose each other.
With only small-circle empathy, the situation quickly becomes an ‘us versus them.’ Small-circle empathy from both sides can turn into bilateral hatred. Reversely, with only broad-circle empathy, the immediate environment may be unattended.
Nevertheless, it’s basically the same phenomenon, with the same neuromodulators and brain centers.
Then why are so many people enclosed in small-circle empathy?
I guess mainly because – pretty logically – there is more direct reinforcement from a young age onwards. Again and again, brains/minds are trained in small-circle empathy by highly valued people in one’s vicinity.
Moreover, children may see many far-away situations/people to empathize with on screen and with little direct reinforcement. The following image or clip may already be about something unrelated. Empathy becomes a fleeting thing between two other fleeting things.
The above means we should especially pay attention to this in education ― starting with the educators themselves. Special training can be envisioned in this regard. While ‘courses in empathy’ generally do not seem to work, AURELIS coaching is empathy-supportive, heightening empathy from the inside out.
On top of this, attention may go to exposing children and educators to deeper documentaries rather than shallow daily news, let alone tiny clips designed to prop up an overloaded dopamine system.
Reading excellent literature by authors from different times and cultures is, in my view, crucial at a young age ― say, around adolescence, at the time of intellectual entry into the adult world. It forms the reader who can let himself be deeply immersed in the reading and experiencing. Undoubtedly, it has helped me a lot in growing up!
Naturally, the AURELIS striving is one of both kinds of empathy ― deepened into Compassion. The social end goal is global Compassion, making the world into one place to live in.
This doesn’t mean local customs should be neglected, despised, or even abandoned. Quite the contrary may happen, and that’s a good thing. Local cultures are fascinating if they don’t coerce people into being self-incongruent.
It’s a sign of broad empathy and open-mindedness to adapt oneself to local cultures and accord with them as much as possible ― likewise, to accept people from outside and respect their cultures.
There is no in-depth contradiction in this.
There may be contradictions at the outside, especially if one sees other cultures as big scary invaders. I think that’s a sign of not having well integrated one’s own culture into one’s own personality.
Otherwise, there’s nothing to be afraid of, and all reason to be tolerant and respectful, asking respect in return.
Let small circles and broad circles strengthen each other.
Everything will blossom into more and more empathy beyond.