jeudi, août 23, 2007

Gift, choice or virtue?

I wonder why some of us are able to empathize with others, and why some of us are not. I've had a chance to think about this recently, as I've observed others go through stressful events, and even had some occur myself.

There are people who have the talent of stepping out of their own context and imagining what it would feel like to be the other. But there don't seem to be that many people who can move from sympathy to empathy...

A tear shed for an abandoned cat or dog is easy-hearing an abortion rights person defend their position if you can't tolerate the idea of abortion is painful.

So empathy can be painful. Yes. And it is not, ought not cannnot be dispassionate.

Is empathy the same as emotional intelligence? What would Goleman say?

I'm guessing he would say that empathy is one part of the emotional toolkit-but it is not the whole kit.

Is empathy a genetic gift, a choice, or a virtue? Anybody's guess.

mercredi, août 22, 2007

Great quote: Anonymous via Brian McLaren

For bad people to do bad things, you just need an opportunity. For good people to do bad things, you need religion.

lundi, août 20, 2007

My editorial from the IJ

It is an unsettled season in American political life, one in which it is predictable that voters will seek a president who is Chief Preacher as well as Chief Executive.
This quadrennial intersection of private faith, public policy and civil religion says as much about Americans and their complex relationship to their own beliefs as it does about the candidates.
For the whiff of the revival meeting that has already begun to infiltrate the presidential campaigns, we can give partial blame, or credit, to George W. Bush.
Then-candidate Bush set the pace in 2000, when he commented that Jesus was his favorite philosopher. While this folksy statement set the bar rather low as a statement of faith (what the heck was he talking about?), it did signal evangelicals and conservatives that the Republican candidate would take their interests seriously.
With his willingness to blur the separation of church and state, Bush became an advocate, if not always a successful one, for his conservative base.
In opening the door to debate about faith in the public square, he also opened a window on American beliefs, doubts and prejudices.
Even among a remarkably eclectic candidate pool, a few of the spiritual biographies are particularly intriguing, in part because they serve as a template for some of our own deep ambivalence about the relationship between public policy and personal faith.
Democratic Senator and party frontrunner Hillary Clinton has talked publicly about how her faith and Methodist background enabled her to move forward in the wake of husband Bill Clinton's infidelity, forgive some of her critics and make critical decisions.
Although she has long struggled to combat a reputation for coldness, Clinton's faith seems deep and sincere.
Yet in this highly polarized political climate, she continues to face attacks from critics who accuse her of pandering.
Her charismatic rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, a Christian by choice, attends a Chicago United Church of Christ congregation he joined as a young South Side community organizer. His close relationship with its sometimes-controversial pastor, Jeremiah Wright Jr., a champion of "black values," has also opened him up to criticism from conservatives, who dislike his connection to Wright's Afrocentric church, and from liberals, who accuse him of mixing politics and religion.
Obama, who has long called upon Democrats to speak more openly of personal faith, speaks with evangelical ease of his "personal relationship" with Christ.
Interestingly enough, some of the top Republican candidates are also contending with the genie President Bush helped unleash.
Take Rudy Giuliani.
Recently, the divorced politician, a champion of abortion rights, was quoted as telling the Associated Press, "The mayor's personal relationship with God is private and between him and his God."
Former Republican governor Mitt Romney has the most intriguing faith narrative — and the biggest hurdle in convincing voters he is "one of them" — because he represents a minority religion and because, to his credit, he has not disavowed, softened or sidestepped his faith.
Will voters embrace a member of a faith that believes a man named Joseph Smith dug up a golden-plated book of precepts of the one true faith in 1827 with the help of an angel named Moroni?
Early polls say that even many conservative Republicans, Romney's natural target audience, are less likely to vote for a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints.
Whether Romney can defuse questions about the Mormon faith and convince voters he will be impartial in administering U.S. laws will probably influence whether voters see him as a serious contender.
So what we're seeing, in this early stage of the presidential race, is:
A female Senator and former Sunday school teacher whose husband is one of the nation's most famous and engaging philanderers;
A youthful politician, son of a black Kenyan and a white Kansan, who has become a litmus test for our sensitivity to race, our eagerness to embrace the new and our fear of too much change;
A former New York mayor who once considered becoming a priest but who, along with millions of his fellow Catholics, supports legalized abortion in many circumstances;
And a wealthy governor from a liberal state who has again and again made it clear that the line between his personal convictions and his conservative political principles is fluid at best — and now must convince the public he can be impartial in upholding the Constitution.
In columns to come I want to return to the interplay between faith and politics and how our candidates shed light on our own ambivalence about who we are and what we profess.
For now, suffice it to say that I hope when we turn on the televisions or flip open the newspaper we will be a little less quick to jump to judgment and a little more willing to acknowledge that in our candidates we see diversity that excites and scares us, a hunger for sincerity and fear of hypocrisy and an ambivalence about the intersection of faith and politics in the public square that make this election not only a test of a candidate's character, but a challenge to our own.

Where to start?

My job coach says that if I will myself to be more organized, it will become a reality in my life. I would like to believe him--on rainy Thursdays in June, I actually do take that leap of faith. But tonight, as I look around my bedroom/office, I come to a more practical conclusion-I can't have a boyfriend who is a neat freak.

In the bureau near the window. clothing spills out of a drawer. A suitcase sits on the bed, most of the clothing unpacked, waiting to be zipped up and shoved into the dining room closet. Maybe tonight. More likely tomorrow-the day when the rest of the clean laundry will be folded and put away.

As usual, I'm working on several articles at once. Is that an excuse for untamed piles of bills, school letters, and news pulled off the Internet? Somewhere here, I'm sure, is my calendar. But why do I need it when I've got dates written on scraps of old receipts all over the desk?

A while back I purchased a stand for the telephone-it would be wonderful if I used it, allowing for more space for...more papers.

Actually, I'm really not as bad as some of the serious slobs I have known and loved...and I'm not even a third class hoarder. I threw papers out almost daily, mostly in an attempt to find the ones I have mislaid-but is that any excuse for the unfiled paid bills, the unaswered letters, the to-do list still not written for a crazy busy week?

Well, I hope he likes my wit, my warmth, and my sparking eyes-those are feats of nature. Any organizational talents I accrue along the way is purely art. Not that art isn't all very well in its place, you understand-the art of filing, of listing, and of prioritizing just doesn't seem to have found its way to my place.

Hopefully he'll appreciate the virtues of the unruly, rebellious imagination-even if it rarely imagines hospital corners.