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Robbie Vorhaus

Robbie Vorhaus

Posted: February 11, 2010 07:30 AM

'The Empathic Civilization': Can Limbaugh and Obama Both Be Right?

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My father used to say that I was either the nosiest person he ever met, or the most curious. I'm sure it's a little of both.

Over the years, as I've traveled the globe helping people and companies tell their stories, I've learned so much by asking the question, "What is important to you?"

I've asked this question during conversations in Soweto, South Africa; Mumbai; Belfast; La Digue, in the Seychelles; Yelapa, Mexico; Bangkok; along with countless places across the U.S., and inevitably, regardless of the person's religion, geography, sexual orientation, or political view, the answer is always the same: everyone wants to live longer and better. Yet what's fascinating is that almost every person has a different opinion on how to live longer and better. The goal is the same, the approach, strategies and tactics vary immensely.

I, of course, don't always agree with everyone's point of view. My wife, Candace, often confounds me with her female perspective. Connor and Molly, my teenage children, often make no sense, and from what they tell me, I never do. My sister, Carla, in Israel will tell me her opinion, which is diametrically opposed to an Arab friend's point of view. Although I am a registered Independent, my leanings are to the left, which seem to amuse my friends to the right. In fact, just thinking about it, I've never met a soul who shares my exact same point of view. Which is good knowing that out of seven billion people, each one of us is truly unique.

I thought about this when I saw Jeremy Rifkin's new epic work, "The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis."

Rifkin's controlling idea is that fostering global empathy will save humanity.

Empathy allows us to recognize our common divinity, yet still honoring each person's point of view. To our core, we are one, humans, sharing this small planet in a solar system stuck out in the middle of a galaxy of 100 billion other solar systems. Our connection, our survival, is united through a framework of humanity, and yet we still look for reasons to separate ourselves from the whole.

The Native American Chippewa Indians say, "No tree has branches so foolish as to fight amongst themselves."

And yet we choose to fight to be right. To separate ourselves from anyone who doesn't agree with our point of view, our story, which, at the end of the day, will turn out to be everybody. It's so foolish. We crave connections, we spend countless hours on social media, and yet in our blame, our judgments, criticisms and condemnations, we end up alone.

The universe is a great wonder to me. I am so grateful to be here, walking this earth among such a diverse group of people with so many fascinating stories and points of views, that I choose not to be right, but simply curious. One of my favorite sayings is, "You might be right."

I used to work with Rush Limbaugh in Kansas City. From what I can tell he's still the same guy, with the same opinions, only now with a greater platform. And although I don't agree with all of Rush's suggestions and opinions, I know in his heart that he wants the best for this country. His passion is based on what he believes, and he might be right.

The same goes true for our president. Although I voted for President Obama, I'm frustrated with his inability to move Congress away from their finger-pointing and what seems like a lack of urgency to solve major, long-term problems. Yet instead of blaming President Obama, or his administration for what I may see as failings, I listen to his intentions, empathize with his position, and consider that there may be more than I understand from where I sit. Yes, he might be right, too.

I hope you hear me. I'm not saying Rush Limbaugh and President Obama are right. I am saying they might be right (and they might be wrong), which opens my heart to the possibilities of learning something new, connecting to something different than my belief system, and expanding, rather than contracting into a small, rigid, defensive corner.

President John Kennedy said, "So let us begin anew -- remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof."

We can learn so much from each other, without having to be right. And even if we believe that our approach to religion, education, medicine, government, relationships, and business is the best solution, it will never be the only one. When we open our hearts to every soul, we recognize our unity and grow in compassion and understanding. I might not agree with you, but I want to hear you. I want to hear your song, learn of your journey, and honor your path.

That empathy will heal our civilization, regardless if I'm right or wrong.

 

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