In the first part of this essay, I briefly introduced the idea of an empathy continuum, before diving straight into what might have seemed like a totally unrelated topic – our stress response system. In this post, I will try to explain how these two things are crucially connected and what this means for us all.
So what is Empathy? The word “empathy” is thrown about a lot these days, often in vague and imprecise ways to cover to a variety of things from sympathy to compassion, but true empathy refers specifically to a natural capacity found in humans and known to exist in other mammals, allowing us to literally feel for others. To empathise is to place oneself in another’s shoes, see things from the other’s perspective, and to some extent, to actually feel what that person is feeling. Before we look at how this works, perhaps the first question should be why.
On a recent road trip through the breathtakingly beautiful (and relentlessly cold, rainy and misty) Snowdonia national park, I was once again, like so many times before, struck by the awesome majesty of mountain ranges.
I’ve always been intrigued as to the origins of aesthetic beauty, whether manmade (music, dance, sculpture, fine art etc.) or the abundant natural beauty of this Universe we inhabit. Although any expanse of verdant countryside might be considered beautiful, why is it that when such land is extruded thousands of feet into the air to form mountains, we are filled with such powerful emotions of wonder and awe? After all, except for the fact that it’s inclined at 45 degrees or so, it’s really not so very different to the rest of the countryside.
There are different approaches to answering such questions depending on whether one is inclined to romantic, poetic, religious, or scientific explanations. Continue reading “What is it about mountains?”