“Empathy is something unfair until we’re the ones who need it.” I read something along these lines a couple of days ago. I happen to read that when I was halfway through series 2 of Dissect Podcast. The superb deconstruction of Kanye West’s album, “A Dark Twisted Fantasy” by Cole Cuchna renewed my appreciation of empathy. Who would’ve thunk it? I get a lesson on empathy from a great example of music appreciation of a musician / hip hop artist.
Cuchna is deliberate, even surgical in his analysis. He attempts to help us appreciate the art before us and the artist behind it. He’s a guide, who helps us appreciate the extent that Ye is vulnerable. And while doing so subtle and overt lessons and empathy emerge. Cuchna’s refreshing work is an art in itself.
Great teachers are people who have understood something in a profound way. And, despite their insights, they choose not to posture as superiors. They don’t try to show off how much they know. Instead, they prefer being guides. They woo us into and a journey of discovery with them. And this is what Cole Cuchna has done with Dissect Podcast.
Why Instead Of What
He not only helps us appreciate the genius that is Kanye but is decoding empathy. As I cringed listening to some of Ye’s lyrics, Cuchna sucker-punched me:
“Empathy is about why something is said and not how it’s said.”
That gave me enough to chew on for almost two weeks. Sometimes we get so hung up on what, even how, someone has said something at the expense of why they said it. This is true when people say something that is generally not acceptable. A characteristic of most mainstream hip-hop music of which Kanye is a notable icon. People tend to get hung up on the cussing or vulgarity they don’t hear anything beyond.
I prefer my hip hop clean and my search for the clean can be a cataract of sort, robbing me of sight. Obscuring my vision from what I should see. Complaints about why something wasn’t said “right” can be so loud.
Empathy in some sense, is ignoring the vulgar and listening for the brokenness. It is more than cutting someone some slack. It is listening with such intent there’s no room for judgment. It’s a journey into our own darkness, where we search for our own monsters and shine a light on them. Empathy is when we expose our monsters to the other and say, “You and me both“.
Empathy is an act of vulnerability and courage. It takes courage to acknowledge, to yourself and others, that what you see in them is also in you. It is how we say to others, “I see you fellow human. Together, let’s be.”
Beyond music and other noise, it’s time to hear people.