The difficulties of being: just being a ‘person’

Of course, it depends on what you think ‘being a person’ means. Does a person just exist? Or do persons interact, commisserate, feel, emote, help one another, empathise, live?

If being a person means being something more than a machine that cannot think and feel [as far as my knowledge goes], how are we going to be a proper person?

Of course, proper, once again, can get us into a dialectic. Let us just assume the normally understood meaning for proper and get on with the question at hand. So, how do we ensure we are right, correct, good persons? How do we ensure our responses are appropriate?

Let us take empathy – a very important quality for a ‘person’ as we are defining it here. We can empathise only if we can understand or feel as the other is feeling, right?

Okay, so we understand or feel as the other. At least, we think we do. So, we feel sympathetic, sorry, happy, delighted, or whatever. But then, are we sure what the other is feeling? Or is it our own imagined notion of the other’s feeling? How can we be sure?

So, if we are sympathetic when what the other wants or needs is a good dose of advice or a good shake-up are we not being un-empathetic, and hence, not a proper ‘person’? We offer to help: give a man a fish. But what he wants is not one fish or even a fish a day, every day; he wants to learn how to fish, catch his own catch, cook his own meal. He may even prefer to starve rather than take any old fish that is doled out, or any new one for that matter.

And so it happens, all the time. We carry on, interacting, emoting, living with one another, more often than not on our imagined perceptions of the other’s needs, wants, desires. Result: not only are we falling short of being proper persons, but we are denying the other the right to be one as well.


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