“I think that the job of imagining how it feels to be other than oneself is a useful vocation. By trying to understand and narrate the lives of others, artists hope to bring about the small leaps of empathy that allow societies to bridge divides of heritage.”
— Chris Cleave, author of Everyone Brave Is Forgiven
(hat tip to PJ Coldren)
(And what says empathy better than a live cat kissing a stone one?)
“Story is all about how someone’s worldview changes. …
What this means is that you must begin with empathy for every single character you create, even characters who do things you’d never ever do. After all, what people do isn’t what gives us empathy for them. Why they do it is where empathy comes from.
In fact that’s what empathy is. To wit: empathy is the ability to feel what other people feel about a situation for the same reason they feel it. In other words, empathy is giving dignity and weight to their feelings, even if you disagree with the conclusion they’ve drawn.”
– Lisa Cron, Writer Unboxed, 12/8/16
“To engender empathy and create a world using only words is the closest thing we have to magic.”
— Lin-Manuel Miranda
I adore Meryl Streep, and I loved two things she said in her speech accepting a lifetime achievement award from the Golden Globes.
“An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us, and let you feel what that feels like. …
As my friend, the dear departed Princess Leia, said to me once, take your broken heart, make it into art.”
What she said about the role of empathy is equally true of writers. In fact, I believe we could make a good case that practicing empathy should be a primary goal of us as humans, and that the world would be a better place as a result. And when we practice art, we grow our empathic souls. (And so, empathy in the arts is my theme for March quotes.)
Here’s a link to the full text of Meryl’s speech, from the New York Times.
(Photo by Leslie; Avalanche Creek, Glacier National Park)
The novel “breaks down the barrier between the self and the other, which is the basis for democracy, the basis for humane society. … It’s epistemological. It tries to deal with one key question: How do we know what we know? Basically, it’s trying to validate the subjective experience of an individual. That’s why it’s the most democratic form in literature, because it raises up to the level of significance the subjective experience of an ordinary human being.”
– Russell Banks, quoted in The Missoulian 10/9/11, on the novel’s power to evoke empathy for others