Why Accepting Our Mortality Can Make Us More Empathic?

Empathy is emotional and cognitive response to our surroundings. Having empathy means being aware. It shows that person is able to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual.

Empathy defines acceptance of other and, overall, how one perceives the world.

However, the perception can be “manipulated”. American writer, economic and social theorist and activist Jeremy Rifkin argues that empathy is infinitely connected to our experience of mortality. The believer in empathic civilization suggests, the acceptance of our temporality could lead humankind to being more empathic.

Jeremy Rifkin, in a book The Empathic Civilization The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis, observes that the human capacity for empathy has been slowly evolving. However, the uncertainty humankind faces is troubling for the development. Writer asks, what does the growth of empathy tell us about human nature? And is it possible that “human beings are not inherently evil or intrinsically self-interested and materialistic, but are of a very different nature – an empathic one – and that all of the other drives that we have considered to be primary – aggression.”

Having empathy requires courageous independence, which leads to realization of inevitable – mortality.  Jeremy Rifkin declares:

The awakening sense of selfhood, brought on by the differentiation process, is crucial to the development and extension of empathy. The more individualized and developed self is, the greater is our sense of our own unique, mortal existence, as well as our existential aloneness and the many challenges we face in the struggle to be and to flourish. It is these very feelings in ourselves that allow us to empathize with similar existential feelings in others.


The recognition of another’s finite existence is what connects empathic consciousness to entropic awareness. When we identify with another’s plight, it’s their will to live that we empathize with and seek to support. The laws of thermodynamics, and especially the entropy law, tells us that every living moment is unique, unrepeatable, and irreversible – we grow older, not younger – and for that reason we owe our very existence to the borrowed available energy of the Earth that makes up our physical being and that keeps us far away from an equilibrium state of dead and decomposition. When we empathize with another being, there is an unconscious understanding that their very existence, like our own, is a fragile affair, which is made possible by the continuous flow of energy through their being.

Marsha Onderstijn, animator and storyboard artist from Netherlands, brought another wonderful example of connection between empathy and mortality. An entirely hand drawn video represents death and its love with life.

Accepting our mortality can make us more compassionate and kind toward the others. It provides us with reason – life is fragile, we are all fragile, and we must protect and support ourselves and each other at all costs. Empathy is life. “Empathetic extension is the awareness of the vulnerability we all share, and when expressed it becomes a celebration of our common yearning to live,” writes Jeremy Rifkin.

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Mind-changing book by Jeremy Rifkin The Empathic Civilization The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis is an empathic must read that provides definition of empathy, its evolution and the best arguments to understand why having empathy is important.