Monday, August 6, 2012

I Choose Empathy

In the wake of the Aurora shootings, I found myself sitting in the theatre waiting for The Dark Knight Rises to begin.  I couldn't help thinking of what had happened, of the victims and also of the man behind it.  How could he do it?  Why?

When the lights went down, the trailer for Man of Steel started and I heard the words of Pa Kent:

"You're not just anyone.  One day, you're going to have to make a choice.  You have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be.  Whoever that man is.  Good character or bad.  He's going to change the world."

In many ways, superhero tales are the myths of our lifetime - The stories we turn to for hope and guidance.  But unlike the ancient myths and legends, superhero stories morph and transform over time, serving different functions for our psyche - in essence giving us the hero we need for that moment in time.  Listening to Pa Kent, I couldn't help but feel that we are being given exactly that.  His words are not meant only for Clark - they are meant for all of us.  In times like these, we have to decide what kind of person we want to be.  How we want to live our lives.  It's a challenge in many ways - a challenge to be better. 

Whenever tragedy strikes, a wave of emotions erupts.  Sadness for those affected; Anger toward those responsible; Despair fearing that we as the human race are destined to destroy our planet and ourselves; and Hope that such senseless death and mayhem can be a teachable moment - that we can learn from the past and avoid making the same mistakes in the future.

The Aurora shooting wasn't the first such tragedy to strike.  It seems like part of a vicious cycle that appears throughout our lives...Columbine, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma City, the Norway Killings...just to name a few.  And last night, news broke of another one - a shooting at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin. 

I am stunned with how horribly we as humans can treat one another.  Now, you can say I am naive or oblivious or living in some kind of fantasy world - that these things happen.  That's true, but it doesn't mean we should "get used to them" or "expect them."  I sincerely pray that these types of events never happen again; but the reality is that they probably will.  I hope I am always stunned by such events because the alternative is even more depressing - that my empathy would be replaced with apathy.

And this is simply one way in which we mistreat and abuse one another.  There are many others - taking place each and every day.  Some big, some small.  We could all use more empathy in our lives - be able to see the world from another's point-of-view.  To take such factors into account as we live our daily lives.  It's essentially the Golden Rule:

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

And this goes not only with actions, but with words.  I firmly believe that the way we treat one another is an extension of how we talk to one another.  Look at the poisonous discourse featured all-too frequently on our cable news, talk shows, and (sigh) reality television where train wrecks are valued over successful journeys.  Read the comments section of any blog, news story, or social networking feed and the vitriol can be overwhelming.   Often done in anonymity, the pure hatred posted on sites has reached epic proportions - to the point where people have been literally driven to suicide from the barrage of attacks hurled by a faceless "cyber-mob."

Let's stop rewarding this bile of society.  Let's focus on the light of the world instead of the dark.  The hope and not the despair.  This is not a call to lie down, to take abuse without responding, to be timid or weak.  Quite the contrary, be strong.  Say what you feel.  Stand up for what you believe.  But do so in a way by which you treat others with respect and compassion and even love.  Be a friend to your fellow man.  Empathize with those around you.  Basically, be a human being.


  1. Well said, J.T. I wish we could all just take a page from Bill & Ted... and just "Be Excellent to each other!"

  2. Beautifully written, Mr. Krul. :) I'm also kind of reading Ollie on this entry, too. (You know, the first few issues of GA. ;) )

    It's true -- we should not get used to things like that, or tolerate it. When we really start to do so, that is when humanity will have a greater tendency annihilate itself.

    I'm also a comic book writer and artist (independent). One philosophy I have behind the heroes I make, is that, while they are imperfect, they still personify certain ideals that we hold of value. They embody those ideals and also protect it themselves. Sometimes these works also serve as messages of hope for the reader, or a reminder of certain good things that they also seek to uphold, but may have forgotten.

    As a writer, one of my missions is to be able to express and remind readers of the good through the characters I make. They aren't perfect, but they have some nice tidbits to say about life. Having gone through a lot of crap myself (I mean, who hasn't?) I think one of the better ways of dealing with it is through writing about the healing of scars, rather than the scars themselves. My characters have gone through tough times, too -- but they will also learn that they shouldn't stop being good in the process.

    The glorifying of negative examples in society is actually something that is also quite negative. It seems that people do "enjoy a train wreck" because they like to see people who they perceive as better messing up. Somehow it makes us feel better to find holes in others -- but the thing is, it keeps us from finding holes in ourselves, which could lead us to step up and better ourselves.

    I am not sure if I am making comics out to be greater than it should be, but it is there. The reality is, these works become a reflection of the times -- how people think, what the global situation is, etc. It reflects the ideals and amount of tolerance people have over certain issues. It becomes a testament of the times, and more importantly, also a critique of it, in the process.

    In any case, a good story also touches upon the issues of our reality, even just for a bit. This makes the writing hit hard and makes the story very real. At least, that's the theory behind how I work.

    Thank you for being one of my inspirations in being a responsible writer :)

    I also choose empathy.

    Sorry if my response seems like a jumble of different topics. I just woke up. >_<