Thanks to my friend Tom for putting me on to this RSA Animation:
Bestselling author, political adviser and social and ethical prophet Jeremy Rifkin investigates the evolution of empathy and the profound ways that it has shaped our development and our society.
Empathy is something I explore in some depth in Other, and it is, of course, absolutely central. Without empathy there can be no ‘other’. Interestingly though, Rifkin also points out that:
“There is no empathy in heaven, because there is no mortality. There is no empathy in utopia, because there is no suffering.”
These are two interesting points because they force us to reconsider our ideas of heaven and utopia in the face of suffering and mortality. Turning Rifkins’ words round we can instead say ‘while there is still mortality, there can be no utopia.’
I talk quite a bit in the book about the problem of pursuing utopia. (Series of posts on it here) Utopian spaces require violence to either create or sustain them, and connecting this to Rifkin, once established, utopias are places without empathy, unconcerned for ‘the other’ that lies left outside.
This brings us to what I want to call a ‘dirty’ view of Christian heaven, which I’ll explore in the next post.