28 October 2015

The full moon brought the strong easterly wind that will take down the colourful leaves and then we will enter that long period of grey and cold and damp and dark. Five months.

Silent slow mornings, carefully portioning my energy, so much I want to do, need to do, while the bed with its warm quilted cover beckons.

Manuscripts waiting for my attention on my desk, reports on kidney transplant failure rates in children, novel molecular genetic testing for very early diagnosis of dreadful diseases, starvation in Sudan, rebuilding lives in past-earthquake Mustang (NW Nepal). Have a guess which of these comes with a paycheque. Some days, the world is too big and my energy is too low.

I was reading recently how empathy research has shown that we are much more connected to others than we consciously are aware of. Not in a sense that we are all brothers and sisters, all that we-are-family crap, but on another level outside our control. And of course being the clever animals that we are, we have found ways to circumvent this. Like crawling back under my warm quilted bed cover.

Empathy isn’t just remembering to say that must really be hard—it’s figuring out how to bring difficulty into the light so it can be seen at all. Empathy isn’t just listening, it’s asking the questions whose answers need to be listened to. Empathy requires inquiry as much as imagination. Empathy requires knowing you know nothing. Empathy means acknowledging a horizon of context that extends perpetually beyond what you can see.

Leslie Jamison


  1. Oh how I wish you could spend winter somewhere a bit more temperate.

  2. "Bringing difficulty into the light so it can be seen at all."

    "Another level outside our control."

    "Asking questions whose answers need to be listened to."

    While listening to the voices of the doctors and physician assistants whose dictations I transcribe and edit, I can hear empathy in only a few. How much empathy do I have for those doctors and physician assistants? As a child, I wanted to do the job they do but found I didn't have the capacity.

    Our public library has a copy of that book by Leslie Jamison. I put it on hold.

    Thank goodness for warm quilted bedcovers and sleep and books and hot soup during our fall and winter months. Limits are a difficulty that benefits from light. I'm still thinking about all the light we cannot see.
    And the light we can see.

  3. Makes me wonder why we humans try to circumvent empathy. I have been thinking about it for years and have no answers.

    We had our first real rains last night. It's a wonderful thing here in California. Our parched part of the earth is pretty desperate for it. The bleak light of winter is coming. Not my favorite time of the year, but if it brings rain that would be wonderful.

    Been thinking of you, Sabine.

  4. This weekend, we get our hour back. Oh how I long to wake up in dawn's light again, even if it's only for a few weeks more. Solstice and Fasching bolster my spirits in this dark, cold time. Yet, the older I get, the more I appreciate spring because of the winter months (ask me in March, and I'll probably be squawking). Ach, liebe Sabine, let's try to make the best of this chilly season. At least I'll be able to brew again! I'll raise a glass in your honour!

  5. Grey, cold, damp and dark - but there's beauty there too.

  6. What a beautiful quote.

    And the fire red leaves are falling all around us here in the Pacific NW as well as the rain and wind.

    XX Beth