In my book, Provoking God, I cite Emmanuel Levinas from his book, Humanism of the Other (1972), in which he states, in now outdated masculine-universal pronouns,“To suffer by the other is to take care of him, be in his place, consume oneself by him” (2006, 64). What Levinas teaches is that we are to become the other. In an ontological sense we are to place ourselves into the presence of another’s walk in this life. That is the scope of a narrative of empathy that does not hide from the embers of passion, but embraces the journey of the emptying of the self to be replaced by another’s thoughts and experiences.
This is central to romantic empathy. It is strategic in its command over the delinquency of selfhood; that modern abasement that is concerned with the I. From each step towards the fountains of experience and existence, from partnered love to brotherly love to familial endearment, romantic empathy can help us discover our place in the cosmological chain of events that place the self both here and now from the larger eclipsing passage of time as well as the centered, anchored moment of breathing our precious words to the other in our lives, both familiar and far away.
Romantic empathy is dynamic as its only conquest is a selfhood of denial of translucent pleasures that (re)focus I above the seasons of no regrets and the Me from without the experiences of togetherness. Finding the common dialectic self in others brings us closer to a truly natural state of development as a species and as a civilization. As I argue in my other project, we can move beyond violence-societies, we can harbor a true civilization built on the type of equity and justice and that feminist geographers cite. Romantic empathy is above and all an encompassing cube of the endearment of strangers and the resulting love of loss of self from being injected into the other’s presence. Reembarking on the other’s dialectic self creates the timbers of time’s persuasion to renewed, revamped, and reinstated percussions of selfhood that not only allow but permeate another’s presence.
It is not without tepid loss of wayward passions. The passions inside us are divided between obscure magnanimity and prominent self-centered interests. The goal is not to be a better person. If you are investigating empathy inside yourself to be a better person you are off course. Empathy is inherent and you do not need to stall to find a place within yourself where you can live with yourself to first then dive into romantic or even ontological empathy. You are already prepared, being human, to shed off years of hypocrisy – if need be – and toil with the labors of freedom to assign yourself a new motivation. Romantic empathy is intuitive as is the freedom to no longer be restrained by the need for what conflict resolution specialists call an out that saves face. Disregard these prerequisite exercises and become what you are already intuitively designed to become: the other in waiting.
Romantic empathy is without lust for conquest or possession of the other. It is not even the release of self, because you will still be wholly present as you become the other. Levinas was not speaking light-heartedly when he advised us to step into the other’s presence of self. It is a literal request. It is at best spiritual and at a minimum sacrosanct. As we journey together here on our tour of romantic empathy the narratives of our lives will blend and touch and together we will lift each other up while lifting the lives of those around us. This passage is for those ready to place themselves in difference, in totality, in the motherhood of the plasma-flow of all our enlightened principles that navigate the selves beneath the stars in the rhythms of projecting constellations and how in that we move ourselves across time according to a path that is ever forgetful, but never without consequence.
Painting: empath by Robert Freund.