Q. What’s happening now?
Q. Are you trying to tell me you’ve been up all night?
Q. But aren’t you an early riser?
A. I pride myself on it. But even early risers are prone to insomnia at times.
Q. At what kinds of times?
A. Oh, you know — times when there’s too much on the mind.
Q. But don’t you have a highly active mind?
A. I do. So what?
Q. Then how can you say that there’s too much on your mind?
A. Are you being a smart-ass?
Q. Why do you ask?
A. Because it’s obviously not the massive bulk of brain activity that has led to the insomnia, it’s the content of the activity — the kinds of things that I’m thinking about.
Q. What kinds of things?
A. Oh – human relationships. I botched up one of them totally, just a few days ago. Somebody who seemed to like me, too. But for all this guy liked me, I still couldn’t make it work.
Q. Well, do you like him?
A. Come to think of it, no I don’t. But that makes me feel guilty, because he likes me. Or — at least he did, before Monday.
Q. What happened Monday?
A. I asked him not to write to me again.
Q. Isn’t that unlike you?
A. Yes. I did it at a moment of exasperation.
Q. What were you exasperated over?
A. His apparent lack of empathy.
Q. But didn’t he like you?
A. Not the same thing as being able to empathize. Hustlers on the streets “liked” me because when I was an easy mark and a pushover. People sometimes like you because you’re supplying something they need. They like you because they succeed at using you. That’s a far cry from empathy.
Q. How do you know he lacked empathy?
A. He’d seen me more than once when I was — well, hurting. His responses were not those of one who could feel or even understand my pain.
Q. What were his responses like?
A. The same as always. He didn’t change at all, when I started to have a hard time. He still just kind of smiled and gave me unsolicited advice, as usual — even though I was shaking, and practically crying. And that’s not right. We’re supposed to flow with people’s ups and downs. Scripture says we’re supposed to “mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice.” My pastor does that really well, as a matter of fact. And he’s genuine. You can just tell that he feels your joy as well as your pain. Even if he hasn’t lived through the kinds of situations you have, he still identifies with — with — the human condition, in all its various shades and colors. He’s rare. But he’s a good example.
Q. Then why not talk with your pastor?
A. Oh, I did! Three times, actually. And he empathized all three times, even though he saw me in three different states of mind, messed up in different ways at different times over the same thing.
Q. What thing?
A. That thing is myself. It’s not about that guy who lacked empathy. I could just as well say it was about anyone else on the planet. But it boils down to me. It’s me whom I’m messed up over.
Q. Have you ever tried loving yourself?
A. Oh, please.
Q. Why do you dismiss my question?
A. What in heaven’s name is “love?”
The Questioner is silent.
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