from the top of Aneroid Peak, looking toward Pete’s Peak, Wallowa Mountains, Oregon
Global empathy ain’t easy. One thing that I haven’t told you is that one of the ways the Empathy Pyramid works is that you yourself have to have some level of integral generation of self in order to move on up, if you consider populations of humans in anything resembling a statistical fashion. What that means is that it’s hard to be rationally empathetic (or rather, display cognitive empathy) without development of the lower levels (emotional or affective empathy.)
And what that leads to is a ceiling in my own ability to theorize — because I’m not there yet when it comes to global enlightenment. I’m sure that there are some folks out there (I think the Dalai Lama comes to mind, or Desmond Tutu) that are, but it’s not me. Most days, I feel like I’m just another blind dude with the elephant.
And global empathy is also likely (I’m guessing here) a field effect. It’s more likely in possession of groups of connected individuals, as opposed to one person. There’s an interesting phenomenon called the Overview Effect that has been reported by former astronauts and cosmonauts. The basic idea is that seeing the Earth from a distant perspective profoundly changes your sense of connection. And I have theories that I will expound on why this is true — bottom line is empathetic development is a function of temporal and spatial scales in the brain, facilitated by your base energetics (gotta pay attention to the laws of thermodynamics) and there’s nothing that grows your spatial scales like being in space. But you don’t have to fly in a spaceship to connect to feelings en masse.
Because these kinds of experiences affect all of us, even if in a lesser fashion. I found out not too long ago that before the space program, all representations of the Earth — pictures of the globe — never had clouds. Now, since that famous picture of Earthrise, it’s hard to think of the Earth without an atmosphere.
But there are likely other examples of global empathy that might be deconstructed. Because when one’s brain is limited in developing an a priori model, perhaps the best method for understanding the phenomenon is to back it out of larger examples. Like the foreboding a country might share before a war. Or the exuberance of winning the World Cup. How does that work?
We might look at the Internet itself — our only true global technology — for insights.
But one thing I’m not interested in doing in this blog is attributing global empathy to some extra-dimensional spiritual dimension. There’s plenty to unpack here with regards to the phenomenon in the four dimensions available to us (don’t forget time!) Sometimes it’s OK to say ‘well, I just don’t know.’ And leave people to the interpretations that work for them.
Takeaways: Global empathy is real, and if we work on it, can explain things like national mood, as well as things like the Overview Effect. We can see its effects, even if we can’t understand the mechanisms. And with regards to mechanisms, let’s keep it real, even if it has to be phenomenological. No extra dimensions need to apply. We can be comfortable without answers.