The origin of many of the feelings of social animals, like ourselves, can almost certainly be traced to the care of the young, like this mare with her foal. This is where, in terms of evolutionary history, we learnt to understand the feelings of another being. Such empathy is the root of much of what we truly value in the world.
The true ‘measure’ of a society may be its empathic reach, or, in other words, the extent to which we can imagine the feelings of another.
The perennial problems that echo down the ages, about inclusion of the marginalised and our approach to the one who is perceived as ‘other’, may actually hinge around our empathic ability. Can we see this person, as someone like ourselves with a similar set of feelings? If so, we will develop a system of morality that informs public policy and ensures that they are treated well.
The same question is even more pertinent to the natural world. We simply must come to feel for the well-being of nature. We must grieve when nature is despoiled. We must love its variety and complexity. We must long for our human world to adapt its ways so as to live more in harmony with the earth. If we cannot do these things, then we are truly lost and human beings will suffer catastrophically in the coming century.
So let us learn to feel our relationship with the world.