Over the last few days, as I have sat comfortably in my cubicle at work and in my home thereafter each night when I turn on the news, I have become increasingly aware of my old friend “Empathy.” I forget about him quite often. But events like the devastating Hurricane Sandy bring him back, fully manifested. This empathy comes partly from the knowledge (guilt?) that I live, as I said, rather comfortably. The feeling came on full-throttle as my wife and I put up plastic weather guard on our windows simply to keep the cold out for the winter. I thought “Wow, all I have to worry about is the cold…and maybe pneumonia, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”
The point is my every day concerns are little, and the East Coast is living in a horrendous state right now. I can do nothing about this. Over the last few days prayers have poured out over Facebook, as have a bi-product: comments deriding “mere prayers” as useless to those affected by Sandy.
I disagree. I think we are all drops in the Ocean of Brahman and therefore our prayers can affect the karma of others (though we are, when it comes down to it, on our own when we come into this world, in our sojourn through, and when we leave it). Prayers are thoughts and thoughts and words do coagulate and manifest into activity. I also know that this storm is just a manifestation of Lord Shiva doing the necessary tearing down to build back up that incessently goes on and on in this world. But I still have this aching feeling that empathy, combined with inability to help or make the relief effort go any faster, is manifesting as a feeling of Misery in me and others. Drowning in the tears of the world, again, I guess. You can’t help doing that sometimes.
I know I can send food, clothing, etc. but I myself have limited resources. So my lack of control over this situation becomes proportional to the level of misery I feel when I see the events unfolding. I fully understand why the public becomes apathetic in situations that become over-televised. Some people are just flat-out apathetic, surely. But I also see that empathy combined with a sense of helplessness is where that apathy truly comes from. And that, I see, is when our old enemy, Misery, steps in. If only we could find a way to un-invite this casual acquaintance Apathy, then the other two would never meet.