“In ancient China a person without feeling was considered as no person at all.” – Authur Dobrin, D.S.W.
(The following excerpt from Empathy by Authur Dobrin, D.S.W., recently appeared on psychologytoday.com. To view it in its entirety click on the link below.)
Chinese writing is a combination of ideograms and letters, lending itself to conceptual and poetic imagination. So it is interesting to find that the character for heart appears in many words in the Chinese moral lexicon. The ancient written form for mercy, for example, is composed of the characters for delicate plants, a soft and hidden cocoon, and heart.
Student of Chinese philosophy and artist Ed Young writes, “The tender feelings of the heart understand compassion. This is mercy.” Evil is written as road, impediment, and heart. “The heart has the potential for goodness, creativity, growth and the development of one’s natural abilities. When the heart is blocked and goodness cannot express itself, evil results.”
The basis of ethics is empathy, and from that it is possible to develop the human heart more fully. It is what might be thought of as sympathy put into action. Empathy is the basis upon which a moral life is built. It is the groundwork, the essential feeling. In and of itself, it is value-neutral. It is the cultivation of empathy in the direction of compassion that matters. A good life—a heart-felt life— is the cultivation of ethics, which is the capacity for mature thoughtfulness.