Consciousness, Empathy, and Love

I composed the photograph at the top of this post in the late Spring of last year, but the image came powerfully to mind as I began my day, braving the sting of winter’s breath on my way to my annual physical, as the sun poked its nose over the tips of the trees, with deliberate thoughts of Spring permeating my consciousness. The rose bush is directly outside my bedroom window, and every year I anticipate the arrival of the roses with a grateful heart, and a keen sense of the natural beauty that is a vital component of my experience of the world. Contemplating the events of the past few weeks, hoping for a clearer perspective, my deliberate effort to connect to my deeper nature made me think of this enchanting image. It also brought my heart and mind to bear on an unexpected meeting with someone who needed to connect to their own nature.

Upon arrival at the medical center, I couldn’t help but notice how the air seemed thick with disharmony. I instinctively smiled and nodded as I made my way to the nurse’s station, but was unable to discern any reciprocal response at first. After filling out the forms, I was able to turn my focus to the people in the waiting room with a bit more attention to detail. Most of those assembled seemed to be either preoccupied with their smartphones, or not feeling well, but there was a young child sitting in her mother’s lap who seemed quite unphased by the wait, and she smiled sweetly, so I smiled back and enjoyed the feeling of empathy it produced. After what seemed like a fairly long wait, my name was called, and as I glanced over to the nurse holding my file, I immediately got the sense that something important was about to happen. I followed her to the examination room, and simply allowed myself to be open to whatever was to come.

Without saying a word, as I cooperated with the evaluation, my heart seemed to open, slowly at first, but then as the conversation began, I could feel my inner self swelling in response with a kind of compassionate or cognitive empathy. Before long, I found myself immersed in an exchange of thoughts and ideas that took me quite by surprise. I mostly listened at first, but soon found myself sharing some personal thoughts and history in a reciprocal manner to what was being shared. As the final test was being administered, the nurse was sitting directly in front of me as we waited for the computer program to run its course, and she asked me what I thought about what she had told me. I opened up just like the roses in the photo, and felt the same gratitude and keen sense of connection that normally rises within me when I see that image. She smiled as we parted, and on the drive home, I felt certain that the connection to this person was equally shared and appreciated.

For a very long time, I have asserted that we share an intimate connection to all life, and this awareness has manifested numerous times in my life, but is most often experienced in the fleeting transcendent moments of every life, whether we recognize it as such or not. Puzzling still, in some measure for me, is the purpose of being subjected to the variety of emotional and psychological states of others, so characteristic of such encounters, prompting me over the years to investigate human consciousness, and to conclude that there is a great deal more to understanding this aspect of our nature than simply investigating the brain.

As the Hallmark Holiday on February 14th approaches, far from being irrelevant or silly, it simply misplaces the emphasis on romantic love, when what we should be celebrating is a more universal love for every living being, and encouraging empathy for other people and for all life, whatever form it takes. Acknowledging the broad spectrum of love, and its many manifestations and opportunities to share it more broadly, is at the very heart of human consciousness, and the best medicine for the sense of longing for Spring on a bitter cold winter morning.

20 thoughts on “Consciousness, Empathy, and Love

  1. It is a wonderful feeling to know that others appreciate what I write about, and I often get the same feeling when I read your posts as well. Thanks for being so nice….John H.

    1. You are very gracious to describe my post as artful, and I appreciate your kindness in acknowledging my efforts.

      It is my feeling that the beauty you perceive within the message isn’t exclusively the result of efforts by the author, but requires, as an essential element, the perception of beauty by the reader. Both are necessary in order to appreciate the message.

      Warm regards…..John H.

  2. I so much agree that Valentine’s Day isn’t just about that mushy feeling between lovers. It embodies all kinds of love we have towards other people, and even our pets, our surroundings or some causes we care about.
    I find absolute certainty in the the axiom “God is Love” as I have been aware that pure, unconditional love is the most heavenly thing on earth.
    The photos above are simply exquisite.
    I hope your annual physical exam went perfectly well.
    Happy Valentine to you, John.

  3. Marjorie,

    You are a dear lady, and your generosity in sharing your thoughts brings me much good feeling. Unconditional is a word that most accurately describes true love, in every variety of love, and between all loving creatures, regardless of their species.

    There are numerous ways love can exist between people who are not lovers, that can be shared and appreciated, and the world needs a great deal more of it, in my view. There is a song that was popular years ago that had these lyrics:

    “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love–it’s the only thing that there’s just too little of…”

    I couldn’t agree more. Knowing that such sweetness is possible, can make a big difference in the lives of those whose paths cross ours, and you have made this kind of difference by your presence among us here.

    With much appreciation for you thoughtful visit…….John H.

    1. P.S. Thanks for your good wishes on my exam. I’ll get the full results next week sometime, and also am hoping for a good outcome.

      Happy Valentine to you also…..John H.

    1. Lynn Lee,

      How nice of you to visit with me here! We’ve both come a long way from our ThirdAge days, and I’ve been poking around on your blog on You have a real appeal as a poet. I haven’t been even half as courageous as you in my poetry writing, and this writing is a lot more challenging for me than Journal Keepers, but very rewarding also.

      I appreciate your kindness in sharing your thoughts. I’m jealous that you finally allowed yourself to retire, but if I know you, you’ll probably be busier than ever with all your other interests. I’m hoping for the same opportunity at some point.

      We should gab sometime online. Warm regards…..John H.

  4. I love to see how inspired people get when talking about love. John you are a hearty plant; if you were sold in a nursery they would market you as a best-pick for the reluctant gardener. Everyone has green thumbs in your world.

  5. You have a delightful tendency to say nice things in a robustly roundabout way that I love so much.

    Your own reluctance to think of yourself as having one of the greenest thumbs a person can have gives all of your thoughts about the garden of life a real “down-to-earth” feeling, but you stand out in the nursery too, being a most appealing plant yourself.

    In the garden of life, consciousness, empathy, and love are the Miracle-Grow that enriches every living thing, and I love tending to and being part of this garden, so I guess I may not be completely objective always in viewing the greenness of people’s thumbs.

    In the Hebrew scripture called, “The Talmud,” there is a line which says:

    “We do not see the world as it is……..We see the world as WE are.”

    Isn’t it funny, how when we look for greenness in the world, we find it everywhere?…….John H.

  6. I completely agree with what you’re saying, and your post is beautiful. All of our hearts beat as one. There’s definitely more to the human experience than what our brains perceive.

    1. David,

      Thank you so much for your kind words. I am pleased to know that something I wrote gave you cause to share your thoughts with me.

      The human experience is part of a larger experience within life itself. In my view, our subjective awareness infers the existence of a broader reality beyond the temporal world which is made available to us through our central nervous system and the sensory processing conducted by our miraculous brains. We tend not to see the broader reality sometimes because of how prominent our conscious sensory experience can be. It would be easy to miss out on the experience of this wider world unless we attend to our world within.

      Your own story on your blog is quite compelling, and it seems we both have lost people near and dear to us. These are the times when our awareness of a broader reality really stands out. But we still must pay attention.

      Thanks for commenting….John H.

  7. In much of Latin America, Valentine’s Day is called “El Día del Amor y Amistad”, or the Day of Love and Friendship, although it is not always celebrated on February 14th. I really like their notion of what what the day should represent and it means that everyone can be included.

    1. I agree that the day should represent the whole spectrum of love, and all of the manifestations of love, which all of us encounter throughout our lives. The love between romantic partners gets a lot of publicity because we hold that one aspect of love as central to our culture, but even romance without a close friendship isn’t a complete form.

      I’m hoping that by expanding our ideas of what human consciousness can be about, we may discover the many layers and levels of love as central to our understanding also….

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this….John H.

  8. So true what you say about how we are all interconnected. All things are connected. Nothing stands alone. What we touch, touches something else. My life philosophy for most of my life has been Nichiren Buddhism. The premise is the law of cause and effect. Everything we think, say or do has an effect. There is a connection between the microcosm ( who we are) and the macrocosm ( our environment). A change in who we are effects our environment..

    1. Sonni,

      It’s so true that when WE change, everything changes! Our perceptions and understanding of the world can turn on a dime, depending on the cause and effect. It is my belief that there is an underlying and fundamental energy to our existence that is present everywhere in the universe, and depending on whether or not we choose to seek it out or to even just see it in all the different manifestations of life on our planet, makes a huge difference in how long it might take us to figure it all out.

      I appreciate very much that you have taken the time to consider my writing here and that you took the time to think it through and comment. Your thoughts and ideas are most welcome here!

      Warm regards…..John H.

  9. You also mentioned understanding the true aspect of your nature. Studying human nature as it pertains not only to what someone sees of me but also the aspect of understanding my nature and how ‘who’ I am determines my actions. I can not simply accept parts I don’t like by saying, “That’s just the way I am”. It’s something I’ve been studying for a long time. How do we change these parts of ouselveswe want to change? How do we turn poison into medicine? Wishful thinking doesn’t width. This is our human revolution, when we are able to do that. What an interesting part of life, when we strive to learn who we are.

    1. I agree that striving to learn who we truly are, and to discern (as best as we are able) our own nature as a sentient human being makes life interesting, and once we embark on such a path, saying, “that’s just the way I am,” really doesn’t resonate in a satisfying way to anyone who feels strongly about the subject.

      I think the way we change ourselves is by letting go of the past, by no longer worrying about the future, and by focusing on this very moment now. We turn the poison into medicine by rejecting the negative view we sometimes carry about our life and history and decide in the present moment to no longer accept that interpretation of ourselves and our destiny. Educating ourselves and expanding our consciousness demand that we remain open to new possibilities, and that we search for the answers constantly, with an open mind and an open heart.

      Great questions and comments!

      John H.

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