Thought for the Day - 17/03/2014 - Bishop James Jones
The fate of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 370 remains unknown. For the families of the 239 passengers and crew fear and tears will have been their food day and night. Suspended in slow motion between hope and grief they’ll have scanned every news report for some sign of their lost ones.
But in the scale of human suffering these 239 precious lives represent only a small percentage of those who in this moment in other corners of the earth are being traumatised by tragedy. Yet all eyes are fixed on the fate of this flight. The plight of the rest of hurting humanity overshadowed by our preoccupation with this one shocking and tragic story.
Is it the horror of what might have happened that fascinates us? Anyone who’s taken a flight can imagine the scene inside the aircraft. The terror of engine failure or hijacking. We listen to the news with the same ghoulish interest that keeps us watching to the end of a horror film.
Or, is it the mystery that keeps us riveted? Is this some Asian version of the Bermuda Triangle? A plane suddenly disappearing from the radar, without trace or explanation. In this age of sophisticated surveillance technology where nothing can be hidden how can we just lose a plane from the skies?
Our appetite for mystery and horror draws us not only to novels and films but to history and to news.
Yet propelling us in the same direction is not just voyeurism but empathy. Different from sympathy which is about feeling sorry for someone.
Empathy is about using your imagination and putting yourself in the shoes of someone else.
Although the word was coined barely a hundred years ago “empathy” expresses what the Gospels call compassion. It involves both the imagination and the emotions. It’s about feeling yourself into someone else’s predicament, then acting upon it. Jesus showed it when healing lepers and feeding the hungry. It was rooted in God’s own attitude to the world.
Some might think that God being God can’t be traumatised. But through the chemistry of his own imagination and emotions I believe he’s able to put himself into the shoes of those traumatised by fate and terrorised by evil.
The God of empathy, not sympathy.
And maker of the human spirit that now tracks the fate of Flight 370, and to the empathy that will not end if and when its destiny is finally known.