I happened across this word the other day and it hit my funny receptors.
Sympathectomy – surgery to remove that completely superfluous and useless emotion...sympathy.
Sympahty? Ugh. It trips you over and gets you empathising with other people. Next thing you know, you’re taking time off your important and busy schedule and... listening to people, possibly even helping them. Economic rationalists will argue strongly about the resultant loss of productivity. And subsequently refer you to the nearest surgeon.
I thought I’d stumbled into a Dilbert-esque formula for creating winners in the rat-race. Surgery for CEOs to remove even the slightest possibility they base decisions on anything other than monetary concerns.
Darn it! Wrong again. It’s actually a procedure to remove a part of the Sympathetic Nervous System (the system that looks after things far too trivial for our conscious attention to deal with. Yanno, useless stuff such as heart rate, blood pressure, responses to dangerous stimuli and the immensely important actions of blushing and sweating.)
A sympathectomy is actually a little more mundane, performed on those who blush and sweat too easily – or believe they do. It involves removing some nerves to cut down on cheeks that redden too quickly and underarms that could house a few fish.
Excessive blushing or sweating? Actually, that sounds kind of like a sensitive person to me. Prone to nervousness, anxiety. Maybe a nervous tic or two. Easily embarrassed. Takes on other’s emotions. Maybe gives in a little too readily. Tries to see it from another’s point of view. Everybody's point of view. Who'd want to be like that? Yep, an excess of sympathy/ empathy there. What a ditherer! Definately a candidate for the procedure to turn them into cold-hearted sharks.
No thanks. I think creative people need an abundance of empathy or sympathy. Writers need to see a conflict from many angles to make a multi-layered story. Good stories need heroes/ines the reader can immediately identify with. A great villain too. A great villain isn;t a shadowy figure who does nasty things randomly, and makes the protags life a misery. No, their goals need to clash with the protagonsists’ goals. The better a writer can flesh out everybody’s motives, the more lively the story. And writers need to dither, to experiment, to show sympathy and understanding and empathy for all.
Our softer sides might slow us down in the rat race, but as they say, the trouble with the rat race is that the rat wins.