People are often surprised to learn that Confucius, Mencius, Laozi and other classical Chinese philosophers weren’t rigid traditionalists who taught that our highest good comes from confining ourselves to social roles. Nor were they placid wise men preaching harmonious coexistence with the natural world. Rather, they were exciting and radical thinkers who exploded the conventions of their society. They sought to make the world a better place by expanding the scope of human possibility. The mid-first millennium BC was a similarly turbulent age to our own, giving rise to debates about how to live, how to be ethical and how to build a good society. Unlike the philosophers we are more familiar with in the west, these Chinese thinkers didn’t ask big questions. Theirs was an eminently pragmatic philosophy, based on deceptively small questions such as: “How are you living your daily life?” These thinkers emphasised that great change only happens when we begin with the mundane and doable. Their teachings reveal that many of our most fundamental assumptions about how we ought to live have actually led us astray. So what are the ideas we hold dear, and what alternatives do Chinese philosophers offer in their place?
Patients thrive from emotional connection with nurses, social workers, and therapists, but helpers who provide this connection can wilt under its force. The stress of caring can lead to astonishing levels of job turnover. According to one review, 30 to 60 percent of social workers in high-impact sectors, such as child abuse, leave their jobs each year. When caregivers flame out at such rates, it opens cracks in the continuity of care, through which patients frequently fall. Even helpers who do stay often harden themselves to their patients’ emotions. Medical students report lower levels of empathy as their training progresses. Health-care professionals underestimate patients’ suffering and even display blunted physiological signs of empathy for pain. Many helpers feel that they face a double bind. They can preserve themselves by growing emotional callouses and blunting their responses to those in need. Or they can throw themselves into building connections with their patients and risk being crushed by the weight of caring.
New research suggests a third way. Caregivers need to be empathetic, but empathy is not one thing. Both neuroscience and psychology have uncovered an important distinction between two aspects of empathy: Emotion contagion, which is vicariously sharing another person’s feeling, and empathic concern, which entails forming a goal to alleviate that person’s suffering. Whereas contagion involves blurring the boundary between self and other, concern requires retaining or even strengthening such boundaries. Learning to practice one but not the other could be the best example of how caregivers can simultaneously look out for patients and for themselves.
Hunting down that obscure Vietnamese place that serves up bánh bao exactly like you'd find in Hanoi, or an Indian joint with dal just like the one you had on that trip to New Delhi, is a not uncommon pursuit in these food-obsessed days. But our culinary hunt for "authentic ethnic" food can be a double-edged sword, says Krishnendu Ray.
In this sense, Idol foreshadowed today’s social media-driven society, where fans have the power to mobilize and impact the pop-culture landscape—take the country vet Chris Stapleton’s bump to fame after a single televised duet with Justin Timberlake, or the resurrection of TV shows like the cult favorite Gilmore Girls and the misguided Fuller House. The show also offers a striking case study for how then-nascent Internet culture narrowed the distance between fans and critics. This shift, combined with critics’ increasing willingness to take popular entertainment seriously, has led to an age of criticism that’s far more democratic than it was even a decade ago.