Saturday, December 25, 2010

Empath

I've been thinking about this for a while. Is this unique to me or universal or shared by only a few?
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When I listen to a piece of music, look at a piece of art, enjoy a sunset or lovely vista -- if I am alone, I will have some particular emotion that I know is mine. But if there is another person with me, I will hear or see with their ears and eyes; the emotions are mixed up with theirs.

Example -- a friend played a particular song on a CD that he really liked and asked my opinion; yes, I liked it very much. Later I listened to the CD alone and found that song to be merely OK and another song was much more to my taste.

Another example -- I live on a fairly busy street and, when the wind is right, also within hearing distance of two highways. Alone in my backyard or hot tub, I am rarely conscious of street or traffic sounds. With another person soaking next to me, I hear the traffic much more clearly, even though we may be chatting.

Third example -- My planned college major was English Literature but after an introductory Art History class where I got the highest A in the class, I changed. Looking back, I think I know how I got almost consistent A's in Art History: most lectures and all exams contained slides projected on a screen. The teacher was also looking at the slides and I could pick up their feelings about the piece. The only B in one of my major courses was from a class where the teacher was new and not particularly interested in the subject, just teaching it because no one else was available. So, I could not pick up any particular cohesive emotion.

The reason, I believe, that this ability didn't work for me in the English Lit classes was because most small group discussions were led by graduate assistants who did not project strong emotions about the subject; they were just putting in time to earn their subsidies so they could write their theses.
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Had I taken the introduction to music appreciation course that semester, instead of the introduction to art history, would I have become a music major? Probably not. My empathic ability seems to be more strongly visual than aural.
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My question to you: is this ability unique to me or universal or shared by only a few? It is NOT telepathy; I cannot hear or know my companion's thoughts, only sense their emotive reactions to a particular sight or sound.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Skirmish, or Redirected Aggression


This morning's viewing from my hot tub was ... instructive. Instructive of "what" exactly I will leave up to you.

A seagull rose from the field behind my house, with a crow two feet from his tail. Higher and higher, in tight spirals with an occasional swoop to one side or the other, they seemed attached by a string. The crow was cawing and making a lot of noise; the gull was flapping his wings like mad, flying for his life. After perhaps three minutes, the crow seemed to shrug and flew straight away to the south.

Gull continued in tight spirals up another hundred feet or so. He seemed tired though, always flap flap flap flapping with none of the graceful soaring swoops that one expects from a gull. Then he faltered, stalled, fell a foot or two and soared down to gather speed. And it was flap flap flap flap back into the spiral and up higher than before. The falter, stall, swoop, flap flap flap flap was repeated three or four more times.

Meanwhile, more gulls were coming into the field. When there were about ten of them, either on the ground or playing in the ten feet of air above it, gull started slowly circling down to join them. As he was about thirty feet off the ground, another (probably) crow flew in from the north; all nonchalant, with something dangling from his beak, probably headed for a safe tree to enjoy his snack. Gull flew at him like a raging Fury and the crow took off due east, straight as an arrow, into the trees where gull finally left off the chase.

Having assuaged his honor and recovered his dignity, gull gracefully joined his cohorts and landed on the field.

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So ... why did I assign male gender to these protagonists? Hmmm?