Why my notions of Empathy are a big Sham

I have always been a person who sees things purely through the lens of his own self, everything is from within to without. Empathy was never important as leave alone understanding other people’s stories, it was tough for me to even form basic connections unless the other person was an extrovert and was high on action so as to have my respect. Needless, to say this approach towards life wasn’t good and for most parts kept me alienated from people, I kept myself content in the only self matters bubble of my own creation. That view has changed drastically over the past  2 years, esp. post coming to Dhaka and I have been able to open myself up and connect with people. I believed that I had improved tremendously in empathy and in a recent exercise around values important to me, I listed it right after Integrity.

However, 2 days back an incident forced me to come face to face with the sham nature of my notions of Empathy. I was off on my school visits and while I was going from one school to other, As I was getting onto the 2nd rickshaw, the driver looked at me and said:” Its good to see you again”. When I gave him a confused look, he told me that he had dropped me off to the 1st school in the morning(Around 2 hours earlier). I had no recollection whatsoever of the guy; That made me think: I had been on his Rickshaw for 30 minutes and I hadn’t even noticed what he looked like, what clothes was he wearing or anything at all. I had completely overlooked another human despite spending 30 minutes of my life within close proximity of him.

All my ideals of integrity, spirituality, changing the world seem so stupid in front of this incident; I want to initiate a revolution and here, I can’t even remember another human. How full am I of myself for not even noticing him; Is my empathy defined simply by the genuine bonds that I share with  people from a similar background as mine. The good relations that I have with the people that I work with or are in my social circle might also be because it pays to maintain the same. Poof disappears my empathy, the moment people aren’t important enough for me to benefit from their presence.

I have never wanted to change the world, I simply want to be a better human through identifying and facing my inner hypocrisies. This was a really strong lesson for me and it brought out the comfort of class that I operate in, be it on a sub-conscious level, I can’t even remember even one person that I have genuinely connected with who’s not from the same or higher strata of the society than myself.  I don’t know where this realization will take me but I will consider myself a better person the day I can start forming genuine connections with people regardless of where they come from.

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