Daniele Bolelli speaking with Rich Evirs about Empathy

Rich: …So, as a test question, I might think that’s a nice one to try with people as you encounter [them] in your life.  'I just did this or that, or look at my new artwork' or whatever it is. - Well, are you proud of it?  Will definitely get you deeper into a response, and instant too.  It was like it just clicks [with them] ‘by god I am proud of this’.  Anyways, that’s what I get from what you’re saying.

Daniele: No but that’s exactly the way, you know, asking.  It really is about paying attention.  It’s nothing any deeper than that.  It’s asking certain questions and really seeing how they respond.  Not anticipate it, not think about seventeen other things when you’re talking to that person.  It’s really, when you want to turn it on you really need to focus and pay attention and kind of open up to what comes your way.  What feelings it elicits inside of you.  What kind of thoughts and emotions and everything.  And that to me is how you develop that muscle.  It’s like anything, the more you do it then the  stronger it gets, in that fashion.  And you know you’re around human beings all day long anyway.  So snap out of your fucking head for a second and actually pay attention to them.  Now this is where empathy as a positive value comes in cause so far there’s nothing positive or negative in a moral sense, it’s purely about empathy as an ability to read reality for what it is.  Nothing more nothing less.  You feel them not because in the sense of empathy you feel it and then you’re going to be nice to them because - no, that’s the next step.  Once you read people for who they are or at least most of the time, then you have choices.  Because you actually feel what they feel, it gives you a greater sympathy for them.  It gives you a greater degree of compassion.  It makes you a kinder human being because, again, you’re acting from understanding where they are coming from.  You understand their journey and the such.  It makes you a little nicer to them.  It may not.

Rich: They might throw the shields up when the child molester guy is around the corner.   

Daniele:  Well yea, in that case it’s a good idea.  Cause I mean, again, compassion is a, just because - and that’s the thing that people misunderstand sometimes - just because you understand something, doesn’t mean you’re justifying it.  You know?  Just because you understand how somebody got to be that way, and that’s another obstacle to empathy, it’s that, especially when we’re talking about dark ugly stuff, people don’t want to understand it because they feel that "if I get it then I’m justifying it, i’m making alibis for him.  I’m saying it’s ok”.  No you’re not at all.  You’re only getting to how somebody got to be that person.  [It] doesn’t mean you’re approving it, [it] doesn’t mean you’re giving it thumbs up.  It may just mean that you put a bullett in their head.  That’s just, you just mean you get it, that’s all.  So big difference between understanding something and justifying something.  And that’s where the choice comes in.  You can use empathy to be an evil asshole who’s just using your knowledge of other people; what makes them click, what makes them vulnerable, what makes them open up, what makes their defenses come up.  You can use that knowledge to completely fuck them over, and just manipulate them.  Right? That’s a choice.  Now, it's not my choice, not because, I don’t even know why it’s not my choice.  You know, it’s like I can’t even explain why to me that’s gross.  It’s just natural to me.  It’s like that’s just gross, I don’t want to be that person.  Is there any deep, you know, because I don’t believe necessarily in this other worldly morality that falls from the sky that says you ‘have to be good’.  I don’t know why.  I’m not sure why I want to be empathetic in a nice way.  It’s just how I am.  It works for me.  Some people are not…It’s like the Force in Star Wars.  The Force is accessible whether you’re a nice person or whether you’re Darth Vader.  It does’ t morally discriminate.  Access is not based on morality.  And so in that sense, the fact that you can tap into the Force, that’s your Jedi training, but then how you decide to use it, that’s your choice, you know, and nobody can make it for you. 

Episode #26 of The Drunken Taoist podcast @ -1:18:15