The moon does not fight. It attacks no one. It does not worry. It does not try to crush others. It keeps to its course, but by its very nature, it gently influences. What other body could pull an entire ocean from shore to shore? The moon is faithful to its nature and its power is never diminished.
Empathy isn’t just something that happens to us—a meteor shower of synapses firing across the brain—it’s also a choice we make: to pay attention, to extend ourselves. It’s made of exertion, that dowdier cousin of impulse. Sometimes we care for another because we know we should, or because it’s asked for, but this doesn’t make our caring hollow. The act of choosing simply means we’ve committed ourselves to a set of behaviors greater than the sum of our individual inclinations: I will listen to his sadness, even when I’m deep in my own. To say “going through the motions”—this isn’t reduction so much as acknowledgment of the effort—the labor, the motions, the dance—of getting inside another person’s state of heart or mind. This confession of effort chafes against the notion that empathy should always arise unbidden, that genuine means the same thing as unwilled, that intentionality is the enemy of love. But I believe in intention and I believe in work. I believe in waking up in the middle of the night and packing our bags and leaving our worst selves for our better ones.
A Socratic relationship, in which you ask a lot of really difficult questions of the other person until they get annoyed and want to poison you. (I have a lot of those.)
A Hegelian relationship, in which the two parties disagree about everything but eventually achieve a synthesis. (Come to think of it, I have a lot of those, too.)
An Aristotalean relationship, characterized by an extreme interest in what category of relationship this is.
A Cartesian relationship, characterized by doubts about whether there’s really a relationship going on. A more extreme version of this is the Berkeleyan relationship, characterized by an adamant insistence that there is no relationship going on at all. Both of these can in time evolve into a Wittgensteinian relationship, in which the participants acknowledge that whether there’s a “real relationship” is an ill-defined question that depends more on the structure of their language than on the reality of the relationship.
An Aquinian relationship, that acknowledges that an exploration of the nature of the relationship is likely to strengthen rather than weaken it.
A Hobbesian relationship – solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
A Kantian relationship, in which you can morally do anything that it’s OK for everyone else in the relationship to do.
A Rousseaian relationship, characterized by the natural behavior of man in the wild, away from civilization.
A Nietzchian relationship, where both parties focus primarily on the will to power.
A Randian relationship, in which both parties act exclusively in their own self-interest.
A Heraclitean relationship, which you may as well not categorize since it’s not only different from all other relationships, it isn’t the same from one moment to the next. (You might think you’ve been in one just like that, but you’re wrong.)
A Stoic relationship, which is also unique, but anyway it’s no better nor worse than any other.
An Epicurean relationship, which theoretically isn’t very different from a Stoic one, but sounds like a lot more fun.
A Humean relationship, in which what you see is what you get.
A Hillelistic relationship, which is platonic (in the vulgar sense) because nobody will do anything to anybody that they don’t want done back to themselves.
A Christian relationship, which soon degenerates into a platonic relationship because both parties are doing what they do want done back to themselves, instead of what the other party wants done to them.
A Marxist relationship, where each party gives according to – I’ll stop right there, it’s too obvious. Clearly *that* one is doesn’t become platonic. Let’s hear it for Materialism.
You don’t have to wait for something ‘meaningful’ to come into your life so that you can finally enjoy what you do. There is more meaning in joy than you will ever need. The ‘waiting to start living’ syndrome is one of the most common delusions of the unconscious state.