empathy

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“At its best, our age is an age of searchers and discoverers, and at its worst, an age that has domesticated despair and learned to live with it happily.”
      -Flannery O’Connor

Liz lists several things she wishes she didn’t know and then writes, “Yeah, I think life would definitely be easier if Id never had to learn any of those things.” But because Liz knows those things, there will be people around her for whom life is easier. This world often brings unwanted pain, but if you’re lucky you’ll find yourself able to do something positive with that pain, like help others avoid it or find their way out of it.

Danah writes of being on the receiving end of a sexist joke. Two of the responses to her entry think she is over-reacting. Certainly being told that you are good looking is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. The context matters, however. I know I would rather not hear about it if, for example, students were taking my classes because they thought I was attractive and not because they thought I was smart. And it seems to me that an overlooked part of Danah’s story is the experience of hearing yourself discussed in the third person while you are there to hear the discussion, as if you need not be addressed directly. If this isn’t objectification, then the word has no meaning.

Finally, if I weren’t such a half-assed Buddhist, I might actually believe in this concept, which I think gets at the heart of what I’m trying to say here.

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