E is for Electric Sheep

Walk a block in Carrie Bradshaw's (Sarah Jessica Parker) shoes. Then maybe hail a cab - those shoes could be uncomfortable.
Walk a block in Carrie Bradshaw’s (Sarah Jessica Parker) shoes. Then maybe hail a cab – those shoes could be uncomfortable.

I was happy to be recently asked to go into the ABC Studios at Collinswood in Adelaide to appear on the radio program Afternoons with Sonya Feldhoff. The program airs daily on 891 ABC Adelaide. Sonya had asked me to come in to discuss empathy. I arrived, as instructed, 20 minutes before air time, which was to be after the 3pm news. A security guard promptly escorted me in the elevator up to a waiting area. I was then invited into the control room, and asked how I pronounced my surname. Obligingly, I told the producers, but stressed that whatever way Sonya said it would be fine with me (I’ve heard many fascinating variations). Once Sonya wrapped up a segment, she came out, introduced herself, and asked if I’d like to stand or sit (the desk can be adjusted to either position). Desperately trying to downplay the prima donna label I imagined my Uniqlo jacket conveyed, I told her I’d be happy with either. A little bit of off-air conversation during the news, and we were ready to go!

I really enjoyed being on the show. Sonya had done her homework and, from my point of view, we had an engaging chat. We covered a whole range of topics, including the meanings of empathy and sympathy; how we use our past experiences to understand others; emotional contagion (feeling as if you have taken on another person’s emotions); and the problems one might encounter from having a lack of empathy. I got to quote Atticus Finch; the good one, not the racist one. I even attempted to explain some of the physiological processes associated with empathy. I’m just glad that I didn’t point at my head as if to say, “Thoughts come from here”. Given it was a radio broadcast, that could have been a lot of dead air.

The time flew, and I was glad to be asked to stay a little longer after the 3.30 news. Here’s the link to our June 1 interview if you’d like to listen.

Of course, if you can’t spare a half hour, perhaps you’ll like this shorter discussion between Mark Ruffalo and Murray of Sesame Street about empathy. I love it.

My friend, Fredrik, swears I resemble Mark Ruffalo. I don’t necessarily see it, but he’s insistent. Actually, (the very friendly) comedian Eddie Bannon was finishing up a segment at 891 just as I sat down in the waiting area. He walked toward the elevator, stopped when he got close to me, and asked if I’d ever seen the video of a guy discussing the word “djent”. Supposedly, I looked and was dressed like a very talented man named Steve Terreberry. I had dressed very buttoned-up for my radio debut, so perhaps there’s something there. Like one of my favourite childhood authors, Marvin Miller, would advise, “You be the jury”.

That fabulous jewel thief will steal your necklace and your heart.
That fabulous jewel thief will steal your necklace and your heart.

2 thoughts on “E is for Electric Sheep

  1. I really enjoyed the show. I have really been trying to learn to not put in my experiences when someone else is going through something hard. It’s difficult — I think that we sometimes try to make a connection with others through our shared experiences. Now though instead of telling my own story, I try to just say, “I’m sorry this is happening” or “That sounds very difficult, can I help in any way?”. You were very eloquent in your explanations.

    1. Thank you for listeining, Jill. That’s something that I’ve been guilty of so many times! I really do think our past experiences are a bridge to connecting with another person’s similar experiences, but that it’s important to judge when/when not to voice them. I’m trying to really listen to people; and provide any insights I have mindful of where they may be in processing their experience. Sometimes it’s about using knowledge of the thoughts and feelings we experienced to ask the right questions. I remember being younger and trying to give advice to people about things I hadn’t experienced like relationship breakdowns. I don’t think we have go through everything to provide advice – some people in particular seem to be able to generalise their experiences to understand another – but sometimes the best thing we can do is tell people, “I’m trying to understand”, and ask them, “How are you feeling?” or “What is that like for you?”, or even “Can you tell me more about that”. Thanks again, Adam 🙂

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