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Question of the Day: Appreciation 13 December 2006

Posted by SA'ILA in Psychology, SA'ILA, Spirituality.

To truly be able to relate to an experience or an emotion in great depth– does one need to have gone through some form of it before? Take destitution for example. Can one truly understand what it means to live in poverty without ever having experienced some form of it?

More so, does one need to have experienced the opposite of an experience or an emotion to truly be able to recognize the profundity of it, to be able to truly relate to it? To use the poverty example again, it can be argued that one cannot truly appreciate the blessings of wealth without the experience of poverty. Does experiencing the absence of one allow you to better experience the fulfilment of its opposite?

And if one is not experienced in either – can one truly appreciate either?



1. Irving - 13 December 2006

A good question. A thing is known by its opposite, and appreciated by it. Perhaps it is the difference between sympathy and empathy.

2. Tasbeeh - 14 December 2006

It is the difference between sympathy and empathy. Sympathy is merely feeling sorry for someone- taking pity on the person. Empathy is feeling their pain, feeling genuinely sad for them.

I think that, yes, you must experience something to truly feel EMPATHETIC. To feel sympthy is a much simpler matter.

3. anonymous - 14 December 2006

That’s deep.

4. SA'ILA - 15 December 2006

Irving and Tasbeeh – thank you for your thoughts.

Irving – you raise an interesting point, that a “thing is known by its opposite, and appreciated by it.” A tangential question that comes to my mind – if one applies this particular point to the experience of feeling a connection with Allah (swt): can one only truly appreciate coming into the deen and coming closer to Allah (swt) if one has an understanding of what it means to not be conscious of Allah (swt) at all?

For those that have been raised always with some level of consciousness of God in their lives – are they at a different (worse?) level of appreciation than those who have not had that God-consciousness at a particular point in their life, and have spent time searching, and eventually finding it?

5. Irving - 16 December 2006

Rumi actually said it first, that a thing in known by its opposite, including attrributes. Allah is the exception, since He is not a thing and has no opposite/ He is both the lover and the Beloved, the Immovable Object and the Irrisistable Force. All paradoxes and opposite are reconciled in His Oneness.

But I was raised without awareness of religion at all, and came to the Sufi path and to Allah in my late forties. It was because of a metanoia, a change in perception that occured to me, by the mercy of Allah, so my appreciation for this immense gift is unbounded. I am not a good judge. But I think even one raised religiously may have such a moment when all they though they know and felt is turned upside down, and their conventional thinking flies out the window, as when Rumi met Shams, and his heart awoke.

Ya Haqq!

6. ABD - 19 December 2006

empathy is important and perhaps more meaningful than sympathy, but i fear that we give sympathy (indeed, pity) too little credit these days. we are told that diverse viewpoints are necessary in order to accommodate diverse groups–i.e., that men can’t speak for women, whites for blacks and so on. but pushed to the extreme, we run into a contradiction: on the one hand, we want to erase differences by bridging understanding and on the other we want to preserve differences by celebrating them.

i think at some point we have to acknowledge that we don’t have to be in the other person’s shoes to appreciate them. it is enough that you and i are in the same room and can reach across with half-understanding.

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