“You can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”
So goes the old story, parable, proverb, or whatever you want to call it. It’s a seminal truth tied to our need to develop empathy for others. The more we can understand a person’s experience, the more we can have empathy for that person. The development of empathy is the one of the highest attainments in the human experience.
If I’ve ever given you one of my MOO cards and you’ve looked at the back of it, you’ll notice a quote from philosopher Martin Buber, “Through the Thou, a person becomes I.” In the 1923 work, I and Thou (where the quote appears), Buber speaks extensively about dialogue, developing authentic relationships with other individuals, and how, through language, we come to appreciate the other’s experiences – even to understant what the dialogic partner has lived through.
In other words, when we regard other humans as the same as we are, we develop empathy. We begin to consider them the same – as the subjects of our actions instead of the objects.
Whoa. Getting deep here, right?
Which brings me to a thing we all did last week – Higheredshoes. The tumblr features pictures of shoes from folks who work in all parts of higher education. Y’all – developers and designers and writers and professors and managers – submitted photos of your shoes and they were posted on the site.
The tumblr design is bare, maybe too stark. But it doesn’t detract from the photos. We all wear shoes – well, except for Debra Goldentyer at UC-Berkeley and you know how those Berkeley people are. We’re the same like that. We’re also different like that. Berkeley is especially different like that.
They remind me of the higher ed community. We’re all dramatically different in our roles and talents and personalities, but we’re all the same. And most of the time, we manage to regard one another as true partners in producing something great through higher education.
We all wear shoes. We’re all the same.
As Buber goes on to say in I and Thou, “All actual life is encounter…. All real life is meeting.”
I am truly thankful I belong to a community that is same and different and full of respect. I’m thankful y’all will send me pictures of shoes – no questions asked.
I’m glad I met and continue to meet you.Read More