September 5, 2006

Etiquette, Empathy, and Immortality

Posted in church, culture, family, politics, psychology, religion at 11:58 am by Jerry

In my previous post I mentioned that making etiquette a moral decree is a big mistake. I disagree with people’s personal preferences becoming the standard for all. But one of the things I do appreciate about adhering to another’s etiquette is that it is one of our methods for expressing empathy for another’s personal journey.

Respecting a person’s personal standards can be done without any use of the imagination. And this is a sort of legalistic approach to etiquette. But when someone does use their imagination while adhering to another’s etiquette, they are empathizing with that person’s soul. And this, I feel, is one of the desparately needed salves for our day.

To know another person understands our plight, or simply our individual journey, consoles our fears of termination. Reason being, there is another who will carry on an understanding of ourselves in this world when we are no more. (Though I’ve often heard or read individualism criticised by monotheistic conservatives, a complete loss of our individuality would be considered by them unthinkable.)

Empathy calms what may be considered the greater motivation for fearing loneliness, which is extinction, not lacking relationships. And I think empathy has the potential to calm the fundamentalist’s desire to use violent action as their defense against personal extinction.

Immortality, in the sense that we have an individual “soul” as an end in itself, is an ideology relied upon by fundamentalists and evangelicals as a consolation when the fear of extinction in this world is overwhelming. But there are other forms of personal immortality I have heard confessed in their camps…

Some have directly admitted to me in the past they chose to have children so they could attain a sort of immortality. Of course, I was surprised by this confession of using children as a means to anything. And I admit, I was comforted by their following statements expressing genuine parental love for their sons and daughters. But it is interesting to consider the inheritance of etiquette, a passing on of the personal standards of our forefathers and foremothers, whether it be through nurture or nature.

This immortal etiquette has the potential for ancestral empathy through the nurture of traditions and the nature of inherited traits. However, I must confess, I prefer a kind of empathy that is inclusivist friendly, so much so, no one would ever feel ostracized.


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