SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 351: “Empathy, Liberty and Dodged Dog Bites”

It’s been quite an interesting week… my business is busier than ever, my commitment to 365 is not faltering, and despite the emotional hit I took from the lack of attendance at our Ping Pong Council of Saturday past, the opportunity to meet like minded people has not eluded me.

Another unexplainable few days have passed, where contrary to any profiled effort on my part, 365 has somehow grabbed my arm in carrying me towards people who all share a similar perspective as well as wishes for a closer world.

New friends who are actively participating in sharing my message within their own networks, and friends who present the finest acts of solidarity in halting their agendas in making time to talk with us.

Today deviates in no way from the same path in spending time with our new friend, Kay, boyfriend of yesterday’s stranger now friend, Vanessa.

I’ll admit I cheated a little in my approach to offering Kay our 365 questions. You see, having very briefly met him yesterday, actually more of a passing of a business card as Vanessa and I concluded our chat; I invited Kay to 365 in promising to email him our questions…

…There was no way around it… and even though I was extremely late in getting home for family reasons, there was something about Kay that would not let me pass by on an opportunity to speak further with him. The voice in my head would not silence in ignoring Kay (Oh, no…! Richard…! Not the voices in your head thing again… your not going psychotic on us… are you?).

No I’m as sane as every, but what can I say, when my brainwaves kick in, I just listen and do as they tell.

And in this instance, the muffled screaming in my cerebral cortex is one hundred percent on target in inspiring me to reach out to a young man of great substance.

Here is what Kay write to us, “’Strive to be the best person you can be, not only for yourself, but for those around you as well. Culture is how we choose to identify ourselves and where we come from, it gives us a perspective of life that is unique and distinct to our own. Often times in the process of maintaining our cultural beliefs, we tend disregard other cultural perspectives instead of embracing them for their own.

Aldous Huxley once wrote that, ‘[w]e live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always in all circumstances we are by ourselves.’ So, to answer the second part of the question I believe in regards to the future, we should continue to move forward in bringing people closer together in this world. By putting differences aside and encouraging cooperation and compassion the possibilities are endless. In the beginning of human existence, groups of people that banned together and cooperated with one another developed languages, those who created larger groups of people created better language systems. I believe this can be applied to our collaborative progress towards the future.’”

All this is in my mind as I knock at the door of Kay’s parents house, our agreed meeting place. And once my knees stop shaking from the friendly greeting of the family German Shepherd (perhaps I was a little to aggressive in patting my new K9 friend on the head… my bad), Kay and I grab a living room couch for a little more personal conversation.

It does not take me long to understand how Kay has found the inspiration for his well-constructed words. Kay has lived a life of what he preaches: a first generation American… hailing from Iran, a Bachelors degree in Global and International Relations and a well-stamped passport in traveling the globe during his studies. China, Europe, The Middle East and South America are the places where Kay sharpened his chops of humanity.

So we sit and casually chat, and less a break in meeting his brothers upon their arrival home (two guys equally at peace with their surroundings) Kay and I speak of the cultural climate of our now world. And as we do, it is impossible for me to make relevant notes to explain the depth of Kay’s outlook as he calls himself a realist. A point of view that he respectfully credits to the example his father has set for him, “My Father is a Lawyer, and he taught me to have an analytical mind.”

Kay is fascinating in his analysis of society, crafting a blend of real life experience with the sensitivity of an artists mind. There is only one way I can encapsulate what he says, my mind is just to slow to keep up, maybe due to a restless night of sleep after submitting to trade beds with my daughter, when she wake me saying, “Dad, my bed is uncomfortable, I cant sleep.”

I switch rooms with her and pay my dues; as a result, today I’m a bit fried. I guess I owe my kid a new bed. The mattress is just not cutting it anymore.

“What is the point of that Segway?” you ask.

Well… It was shamefully easy for me to dismiss the requests for a new mattress. I even reasoned in getting her a memory pad as a topper to the bed she has. But after my own rest deprived night… I get it now.

Kay calls it empathy, something that he briefly refers to in our conversation. Hearing it charges me to invite Kay to compose one more email in refining his points. Here is what he sends.

“Just to expand on what I was saying. To me, personal liberty is crucial for human progression in today’s world. If people are less concerned about themselves… then there can be room for empathy to help others that don’t have the luxury of self-expression. Those less fortunate need to know that there are success stories of people who have triumphed against the odds, simply because they had the capacity to do so. Personal liberty to me is optimal of human abilities and possibilities.

Hope that works, it’s been a real pleasure Richard.” Kay wraps his email.

I know… A hard mattress example is feeble compared to the global perspective in which Kay refers. But the habit of understanding has to start somewhere, and for me (at least last night) it was to listen to my kid’s request with a sincere heart.

Bottom she was right… her bed provides a terrible nights sleep…  maybe even a contributor to the moodiness she has been demonstrating for a few weeks. No, I’m not being a martyr in publically beating myself; she is turning out to be a pretty good kid, she just wants, and deserves, a better bed.

But via this campy admission I have intent; that is to water the seeds that Kay has planted… As personal as my reference is… one global call to action is revealed.

“If people are less concerned about themselves then there can be room for empathy,” Kay charges in gathering us to duty.

“Help others that don’t have the luxury of self-expression,” he expands.

And if we do, Kay promises a result greater than our own self-gratification or a regretful dismissal of felt emotions, “Those less fortunate need to know that there are success stories,” Kay applauds, “People who have triumphed against the odds, simply because they had the capacity to do so.

And for a little more intellectual fodder to contemplate, Kay leaves us this. “Personal liberty to me is optimal of human abilities and possibilities.”

Kay, I’m sure we will be speaking again, my friend.