Empathy is one of the chief forms of knowledge
“Opinion is really the lowest form of human knowledge. It requires no accountability, no understanding. The highest form of knowledge is empathy, for it requires us to suspend our egos and live in another’s world. It requires profound purpose larger than the self kind of understanding.”
When one talks of Mastery, one is inclined to associate it, quite reasonably, to some kind of self-improvement. It has been said that the greatest face of self-mastery is command over your emotions, and on the other hand, the prowess over an express craft. However, it is pivotal to acknowledge the vehicle that drives us to this understanding; knowledge. Of oneself, of one’s abilities, of one’s limitations. It is rather a cliche when people say knowledge is power, but it is precisely the truth; it excavates your most vigorous aptitudes and sophisticates the world as it appears before your eyes. It unravels the truth and creates order from chaos – the chaos of a lack of knowledge or understanding. The chaos which muddles the truth and perplexes your reasoning. The chaos which keeps you anxious of things which, if sufficiently understood, would save you the convulsions of unease and fear. The true power of knowledge, though, doesn’t lie in its acquisition, but in its application. That’s where it truly matures and comes to fruition, that’s when it starts to take the form of mastery, competence.
Many a time, we prevent this fortune by our petty little egos. You can’t stand the fact you’re ignorant about many things, and there’s a great deal of learning and experience to be taken before you’re perfectly ripe. Though this is an especially good thing, many of us think otherwise – we think it’s daunting to have such a lingering road ahead, and that failure to confront it means a worse suffering. Before sabotaging yourself for not knowing enough, you should have affinity with yourself, so that you’re not driven by intense self-criticism and hate – it will make you resentful towards yourself and others, awakening the ogres of envy, jealousy, rage. Many of us, it seems, are not fit to live in another’s world, and conceive the disparity in outlooks and one’s sense of being. In other words, we are not capable of momentarily shutting out our ego and understand what lies at the core of another’s interpretation, without being too impetuous in condemning them and finding some flaw in their view. Sensitivity in this respect is necessary.
Everyone has opinions, but they represent an inferior form of knowledge, as it doesn’t require responsibility or comprehension. All it requires is for one to be plain. It doesn’t, for instance, require one to seek truth and bear the willingness to accept it, regardless of what the truth may be, regardless of prejudice. To contrast this subservient mode of being, empathy establishes a togetherness that is vital, symbolic of a higher mode of being, transcending ego, demanding a purpose that is superior to self-understanding. Such a mode demands sensitivity and good perception, for without them, there is no rapport, no harmony, no insight.
When one learns to be empathetic in this way, you enter the other person’s spirit, you engulf yourself in their emotions, you conceive the feeling without becoming prey. To remain in a position of assistance, you must not feel their feelings so deeply that you lose yourself in the process, you must retain a sense of composure to preserve and nourish stability. The insight into another’s world, that’s consequential – it furnishes you with the knowledge you need to orient yourself aptly to allay their weaknesses.
As that saying goes “When you meet a swordsman, draw your sword. Do not recite poetry to one who is not a poet.” Similarly, then, do not make the mistake of speaking a different language to someone who is better off being understood in his own. Empathy, then, is the art of speaking another’s language without bullying them into speaking yours. Above all, this puts you in a position to puzzle out the finer subtleties of character, parse out their intent, determine their value, and so forth. This is a form of mastery of its own, and demands greater sensitivity than merely holding an opinion and foisting it in the hands of another. Knowledge, though a crucial vehicle that compels success, takes the shapes of its handler, and moves at speeds determined by the intelligence of its driver.