We start our lives as the whole of the universe. Reality is completely comprised of our perceptions and any “outside” object that is blocked from our senses puffs out of existence. Eventually, we learn object permanence, and we recognized that things outside us actually do exist on their own, but we are still the centre of the universe. Then our universe grows a little bit and we can relate to those closest to us and we start to look out for our tiny group. And here, unfortunately, is were too many of us stop.
Empathy is hard. Damn hard. We may well have an innate ability for it, but it is only through a great deal of instruction, practice, and nurturing that empathy can develop and extend beyond our immediate circles. The ability to understand your fellow humans, to see how we’re connected, to look beyond one’s own limited perspective – these are skills that require much honing. They need to be taught.
Here is a short documentary on an empathy class in Japan. It is amazing. These 4th graders display moments of clarity, responsibility, and understanding that outshine many adults in the world. This is an immensely important project, one that needs to be adopted by schools around the world. Grab some tissues, this one is full of all kinds of strong emotions.