1. the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
2. the imaginative ascribing to an object, as a natural object or work of art, feelings or attitudes present in oneself: By means of empathy, a great painting (video game, book, movie) becomes a mirror of the self.
So, I spend a lot of time on YouTube. Probably too much. I watch mostly educational stuff, though, so that makes up for it a bit, right? Right?...
Geekiness aside, I happened upon a certain video during one of my YouTube bilges. It was about empathy and why we give it to fictional characters. It was from a gaming channel and so it relates to video game characters specifically, but I think it easily translates to other forms where stories are found in like books, movies, and - now that I think about it - just random strangers.
The video had a psychologist talk about why we care about people. He said there are three things that we find attractive in other people; attractive in general, not romantically attractive (although they definitely apply to that too).
The first is physical attraction. This is not just the 'sexiness' of other person, but how aesthetically pleasing they are. The second aspect is social attraction. This relates to how friendly the person/character is and how well they get along with others. The final aspect is what the psychologist referred to as 'task attractiveness'. This is how useful or skillful we think someone is.
I found these proposed aspects of attractiveness rather interesting. When I think about it, everyone in my life that I care about has one or more of these aspects. Many of them are just socially attractive, but most are a mix of two or all three.
It was said in the video that the ones that we find to have all three aspects are the people we care about the most. So story tellers tend to make the characters they want their audience to really connect with physically and socially attractive as well as skilled. Think about your favorite character from a book, TV show, video game, or movie. How many attributes do they have?
It's kinda interesting.
Although I think this a good generalization, I don't think there are only three aspects to attraction. I love people for so many reasons. I'm sure someone could manipulate whatever other attributes I came up with so that they fit nicely into one of the categories, but I feel three is just too small a number to quantify the awesomeness of people. There are so many more reasons to love someone than just three; two of those suggested reasons being rather shallow, at that.
I can't remember when, but I had a sort of epiphany one day when I was floating about in my teenage years. Each and every human here on Earth is going through the same thing; we decided to call this thing 'life'. Sometimes it's rough, some days really just suck, but we all chose to come here, learn, endure, and grow. And when you think about it, life really is the most amazing thing. It can be extremely hard to recognize and remember, but life is good. It can be incredibly hard sometimes, but it's supposed to be. All good things are difficult; that's what makes things worth something. I think my epiphany from yesteryear is best summed up by a quote I found not so long ago:
"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
I really love this quote. Sadly, I can't find a reliable source for who to accredit it to; some say Plato while others say Ian MacLauren. But, whoever said it knew what they were talking about.
That's it. The secret to loving life. Love everyone.
Just love the freakin' crap out of them.
And if you can't love them, at least try to see life from their perspective. Try empathy; try to visualize what their story is. Everyone that has a life has a story. If you can empathize with fictional characters on a page or a screen, then you better believe you can empathize with a real, fellow human being.