Empathy and life

Empathy is the recognition of mortality in ourselves and in other living things, both human and non-human. To empathise is to recognise that, in Rifkin’s words, “every human life, the species as a whole, and all other life-forms are entwined with one another and with the geochemistry of the planet in a rich and complex choreography,”

and to acknowledge, face and accept that choreography. Empathy is critical to our individual and collective well-being. Not to mention the continuation of human life.

The difficulty many people have with empathy comes I think from two sources or factors. Firstly to accept the inevitability of death is to acknowledge that we are vulnerable, we are not invincible. Secondly, and this is of course not unrelated to the first, empathy introduces the possibility that we might experience change, that change might indeed be expected of us. 


Tony McGregor,