The immense power of empathy

As soon as I had shut the heavy metal door, I ran down the many flights of stairs as quickly as I could. I ran so quickly that feet seemed to ignore the jaggedness of the steps; I simply sprung from them as if they were an elastic plane.

After sprinting down an innumerable flight, I finally got to where the rest of the people were. There were so many of them; but they were not crying or in a panic, despite the imminence of a nuclear detonation above.

Someway down, a friend called out to me, and instead of asking how I am, or about the situation above, he remarked on the swiftness and lightness with which I was running down the stairs.

After more descending, I reached a large area that resembled a library hall. On the ground floor were people reading books and relaxing on sofas. But I did not think to question the oddity of those observations. On the second floor, which I was then on, I came across a room, filled with rows of empty chairs. It looked like one of those waiting areas in the airport, just before you boarded the air plane. And there was seated right at the front, my mother. The detonation was going to happen soon and I knew it was the last chance to see her. I went in there and sat beside her. Before us was a window, showing what was going on above – such illogical structures often operate freely in dreams. As I spoke to her, I noticed that she was keeping very quiet. Then I came upon me that she was in despair; so profound that the end of life seemed hardly to intimidate. It was only later when I became conscious of my thoughts that I deduced her circumstances: she had lost everything (perhaps, other family members and my dog had not gotten to the shelter in time).

Now what was intriguing was that even though those same circumstances should have applied to me, caused in me as overwhelming a despair as it had caused in her, I did not feel so. It was only when I met with her despair that I truly came to despair on my own. All of it had felt so real that even now, whenever I imagine it, I have to exercise a certain restraint to hold back my tears.

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