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Radical Empathy

I love Jonathan Haidt’s TED talk because it allowed me to feel in my body something I had previously understood only intellectually. There are reasons—good reasons—why people hold beliefs that are dramatically different from mine. It’s easy to think: “If you had lived my life, you would share my views.” But what if something even more radical than that is going on here? You ARE living my life. You ARE sharing my views. You are another me. And I am another you.

“We are many parts, we are all one body,” we sing, week after week, in church. But what if it’s actually true?

I am American, and proud to be American. But my people—my genes—come from all over the world. I love my country, but there’s another country I love even more. That great city of the future we all belong to, that asks no taxes and requires no passport. The city of peace and brotherly love.

Today at church—the Feast of the Epiphany— we said: “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.” What if, beneath our clothes, we are neither woman nor man, neither Greek nor Jew, but light itself? Would that be the wake-up call we finally need to see that every human being has the basic dignities: shelter, food, and safety? What if we’re all glasses of different sizes and shapes that hold the same water—consciousness? I am another you. And you are another me. Until all of us are free, none of us is free.

My favorite hymn is FINLANDIA by Jean Sibelius (lyrics by Lloyd Stone):

This is my song, O God of all the nations,

A song of peace for lands afar and mine.

This is my home, the country where my heart is;

Here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;

But other hearts in other lands are beating,

With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,

And sunlight beams on clover leaf and pine,

But other lands have sunlight too, and clover,

And skies are everywhere as blue and clear as mine:

O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,

A song of peace for their land and for mine.

May truth and freedom come to every nation!

May peace abound where strife has raged so long,

That each may seek to love and build together,

A world united, righting every wrong;

A world united in its love for freedom,

Proclaiming peace together in one song.