Empath

Empath.

Isn’t it amazing how one word can spark whole day-long monologs inside you? Or how one word can inspire conversations and debates among you and your friends? Like at the end of the Saturday Night Live skit with Tom Hanks on Black Jeopardy when they say, “Lives That Matter,” and “Doug” has something to say about that.

Kudos to all the players by the way: Contestants Keeley (Sasheer Zamata), Shanice (Leslie Jones) and Doug (Tom Hanks) compete on Black Jeopardy, hosted by Darnell Hayes (Kenan Thompson). My favorite line was when Keeley played by Sasheer Zamata says, “Mmm…I don’t know, you can’t do everything.”

That’s how it happens. You just roll with it. You may or may not even know what you’re talking about, you just start talking, because of that one word. The reason the word empath gets me going is maybe because I read a Clive Barker novel with an empath character in it. I wasn’t enthralled by the character or their ability, though I do remember it. Honestly it sounds like such a ripoff if you ask me, if other ESP is available.

Let’s get the basics down here first. What is an “empath”? Well if it was considered an Extra Sensory Perception, empathy would be the ability to sense others feelings, and feel them yourself. Compare the idea of sympathy. In sympathy you simply agree with someone. You have the same ideas or principles, so you have what’s called sympathy, with no direct links or connections. If you have the same exact feelings as someone, you have empathy. To have literal empathy there has to be a connection. In my opinion, when the majority of people say they have empathy, they really mean they have sympathy. They’re not really linked to someone’s emotional state. They just remember a time they felt the same way and then try to inject themselves in to the other person’s situation. The common person doesn’t go around having empathy. If true empathy were a more common occurrence, there would be far less murder or theft, and a lot less lying. If true empathy were a more common occurrence, there would be fewer meat eaters, far more vegetarians. So there you go: if you like the taste of meat, you better thank God you don’t have empathy.

Another basic concept is telepathy, in which a person can gather the thoughts of others without asking for them. Remember that distinction, because some people get empathy and telepathy confused and mistakenly think that through empathy you would be privileged to know someone’s thoughts. Not so.

Telepathy is for thoughts, empathy is for emotions, sympathy is for agreement.

Sure, if you knew someone’s thoughts, you could guess their emotions, or if you knew their emotions you could work through inference to find their thoughts. People are complex though. You might see a child holding an ice cream cone, a scoop of ice cream on the ground in front of the child, tears in the child’s eyes. If you were tuned in to the child’s feelings, you might sense sadness, but without knowing the child’s thoughts, you might not know the thought prior to the ice cream falling was, “Where is my mommy?” Your inference might be sadness because of the lost ice cream, but you’d be wrong. It was for the lost mommy.

As far as ESP goes, being an empath is not the most appealing perception. Not to me. Like telepathy without a switch to turn it on or off, if empathy was uncontrolled it would quickly become a nuisance. Could you imagine walking around a crowded street with everyone’s emotions passing through you? Ugh! You wouldn’t like crowds much, I bet.

It could be funny though. If you were say, at a hockey game, your team was winning, but you felt the feelings of the other fans—the losing team’s fans—you’d be cheering and booing all at once. Or if you were at a funeral, but you tapped into the guy who didn’t really know the deceased. He’s sitting in the back of the mortuary with an earbud in one ear—and he’s listening to the hockey game through his cell phone.

It could make for great storytelling that’s for sure. I just don’t think it sounds practical in any real life situations. But then that’s a male perspective. Women are more romantic in their approach on life, while men are more pragmatic. If I could see it all through a woman’s eyes, being an empath might have its usefulness.

Published by Kurt Gailey

This is where I'm supposed to brag about how I've written seven novels, five screenplays, thousands of short stories, four self-help books, and one children's early-reader, but I'd rather stay humble. You can find out about things I've written or follow my barchive (web archive, aka 'blog) at xenosthesia.com or follow me on twitter @kurt_gailey. I love sports and music and books, so if you're an athlete or in a band or you're a writer, give me a follow and I'll most likely follow you back. I've even been known to promote other people's projects.

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