The Radical Nature of Empathy


Cooking with love and joy at the Maleny Eco Village

Ever since I was a child I have held a deep compassion. I felt very sad if kids at school were bullied. I could never imagine trying to hurt someone, it just wasn't in my nature. At times this has been debilitating and overwhelming. When I was a child, I told my mum that I was afraid that if I started crying, I wouldn't be able to stop. I now know I am not alone in feeling deep empathy. People all around the world feel empathy for other people (even people they have never met) as well as animals and plants.


Our cultural norms tell us to push this down so we can get on with consuming and being part of the systems that prop up exploitation at all levels. Feeling is a radical act in a world of numb disconnection. Empathy is the delicate activism that we need to respond to the call of our times.

Crying has never been cool. It has been a great source of shame in the Australian culture I have grown up in and I have certainly felt that myself. Well, it's time to let those emotions pass through us. It's a big time of transition happening on the planet. We humans need to be present with it. To be awake, ready and listening to what is needed and those things to let go of also. There are many injustices unfolding and a backlog of past injustice too. Much of that injustice is perpetrated in our name built on mistruths, misinformation, PR campaigns and distractions. If we are brave enough to look even deeper, many of those injustices are only possible because of our complicity. It's enough to make me sob for days. And sob, we must. It's not a time to look away from reality, as much as we might want to.


This is not about being caught up in drama. We know the drama is just drama. It doesn't serve anyone to watch the news and scare themselves half to death. We need to find a way to rise above drama - not to fuel it, not to feed it, but to see it for what it is. But this is not about opting out altogether. Reality exists regardless of our delusions, regardless of our opinions, regardless of our fears. Do we have the courage and capacity to see it as it is and not to turn away?


Empathy is a human super power. We need more of it not less. Now is the time for us to practice empathy. Empathy for self and empathy for others. Big empathy. World empathy. We need to support each other in this task. We can strengthen our hearts and we must, for the sake of all living things and ourselves.

What does this have to do with the eco village? I have had the wonderful privilege of living with and meeting many big-hearted humans over the time I've lived here. These people have taken brave steps in their own personal lives to be the change they wish to see in the world. They have been impressively resourceful, creative, patient, flexible, skilled, willing to learn, open and courageous and have inspired me to see what humans are capable of. We have shared our hopes for the future, our frustrations and our deep fears for the world in the face of extinction of countless species.


Humans can't solve all the world's problems nor should we try to. If we work on taking up less space, using fewer resources and cutting emissions the incredible healing potential of nature can have the space to regenerate the planet. Thank goodness it isn't just up to humans to save the world! There's fungi, worms and bacteria just to name a few of the heavy-lifters of nature regeneration.


So what can humans do? We can be together and practice working things out together. We can end the violence toward self and others and share, love and hope together. We can laugh and sing and cook together. And we can hold deep respect, willingness and acceptance together. The big project of culture change is upon us all. The animals and plants know what to do but humans seem more than a little lost. Let's help each other find our way back home to connection with all things.