Reason is defined as “the making of necessary connections to discover the laws that govern reality.” Imagination is what allows us to empathize with other people, to put ourselves in their place, to “walk a mile in their shoes.”
Everyone is in some degree rational and everyone to some degree has an imagination. But not all who possess these things empathize with people. Some, such as psychopaths and the worst variant of them, such as serial killers, have no empathy at all.
In fact, serial killers use their imaginations to hone their murderous fantasies before putting them into effect. So, obviously, there is something else beyond reason and imagination. That is feeling.
Feelings – emotions – are evaluations of good and bad. Reason, imagination and feelings are connected to each other. In fact, without feelings, there is no good or bad. A computer, which has no feelings (even though it’s about as “rational” as can be) has no concept of good or bad.
Psychopaths do have some feelings, but they are never of love. What feelings they have tends to be little more than the desire for power, domination and control – over others. What they lack is a conscience – a word that means “knowledge” and “awareness.”
This “knowledge” and “awareness” means of other people as human. When they are seen as human, there is no desire for power, domination and control over them.
The word empathy comes from the word for “affection,” and “sympathy” means to “suffer with.” Both mean, again, to put your self in another’s place. Reason, imagination and feelings are necessary conditions for empathy, but they are not sufficient. There must be that awareness of the other person as human and not a “thing.” “Awake” is another good word.
I find it interesting that the word “buddha” means “awake” and comes from the word for “notice, understand.” The Buddha never said anything that any true religious leader didn’t say – people are not totally awake but instead are half asleep.
If people were awake, there would not be murder, war, slavery, theft and the other sins that plague humanity.
To see other people as human, it must be understood that our “self” is created only in relationships with others. All of us are a “social self.” No one can be a father or mother without a child, or a husband or wife without a spouse.
We are not just connected to others; we are connected to everything. Everything is a “relationship.” To understand, I think, is the first step to being awake.