Sad or hopeful?

(Translation: FPS=”first person shooter,” i.e., the kind of video game where you pretend to be killing people. Mod=modification.)

This is pretty much my approach to ethics in a nutshell. When we allow ourselves to be aware of the consequences of our actions, we act differently–that is, better. Two ways to become a better person are therefore: Come closer. Use your imagination. Come closer to the lives that intersect with your own so that you can see how you affect them; if you can’t actually see or hear those other lives, use your imagination. (There’s a psychological and ethical term for the capacity to imagine other lives: empathy.)

This week I met with Almaz Negash, the director of Step Up Silicon Valley, a project whose aim is to halve poverty in our area. I thought people in our congregation might be interested in working with them, and asked her what we would do to become involved. For the first step, she recommended a poverty simulation, a two-hour exercise in which participants are given pretend money and scenarios that place them in the roles of poor members of the community. It looks like Ms. Negash, xkcd cartoonist Randall Munroe and I see things the same way.

Some of the ways I “mod” my own life to become more aware of others’ lives are: read (good fiction is just as effective as non-fiction); listen to the news; ask people about their lives and try to listen to their responses with complete attention; do tonglen meditation. What do you find works for you?

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