chapter  7
11 Pages

Empathy

One of the checks and balances in the emotional repertoire which helps guard against a descent into predatory melancholy is the concept of empathy; ethical dilemmas can be attributed to a ‘failure of empathy’ (Marinelli and Dell Orto, 1999, p.51). Empathy is the forming of an emotional engagement with that which is encountered, the placement of the self into the other. This might be found in the dialogue between one’s self and the natural world, as in Henry David Thoreau’s observation that a ‘lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature’ (Thoreau, 1995, p.99). The exchange, the empathetic bond of looking at one another, is echoed in JeanMarie Morel’s ‘Water is to the landscape as the soul is to the body’ (in Bergdoll, 2000, p.81) and poet Paul Claudel’s ‘Water is the gaze of the earth’ (in Murphy et al., 2000, p.81).