societal apathy

Hate is not the opposite of love…

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APATHY IS.

The existential philosopher Rollo May maintained a different perspective of opposites, as stated above. I like his take on the love/hate continuum.

We aren’t necessarily meant to love everyone – love having a different degree of emotion depending on the situation – but not caring about a person’s plight, not giving them the time of day or a second¬†or first¬†thought seems cruel.

Merriam Webster defines apathy as follows:

  • impassiveness or indifference

The Oxford dictionary provides this definition:

  • lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern

And finally, Dictionary.com offers this take:

  • lack of interest in or concern for things others find moving; freedom from emotion of any kind

Ugh, all those definitions leave me feeling emotionally bereft, and being on the receiving end of someone’s apathy would be devastating, wouldn’t it? The following example is extreme, but relevant nonetheless:

A man falls down on a crowded sidewalk and each person who encounters him walks over or around him without offering assistance.

Okay, like me you’re thinking, “No way would I do that, I would offer whatever help I could so I am not guilty of such behavior.” But what about the time I tried to avoid a particular neighbor because said neighbor always waylaid me in conversation for what I considered an interminable amount of time? Yep, I did that several weeks ago when an elderly neighbor turned the corner onto my street when I was at the curb to pick up my mail. With my head down I retrieved the mail and quickly walked back into my house.

Lordy I felt guilty, as I should have. I had nowhere else to go and nothing else to do, yet I didn’t allow this person an opportunity to engage in conversation with me – perhaps a much needed bit of socialization for her day. Five minutes out of my non-busy day to connect with someone…was that too much to ask? No, it was not. I have reformed since that time, seeking out opportunities to provide socially engaging respite for this woman and her canine companion. I didn’t like the Irene that previously ignored this neighbor; I don’t want to spend time with that Irene, ever again.

The cost of apathy is a far too high price to pay. I certainly cannot afford it.

Can you?