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Lions Roar : Nov 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2007 24 power; double-talk fear; turn what arose as monkey appeasement gestures into tactics of statecraft; and we can reword and rewire hatred. Most of nature doesn’t give or expect mercy. We’re the animals that strive to be seemly, merciful, and good. Still, our animal nature shames us. Though not all of us. Antonina believed that people could, should, and often do feature the best of their animal nature while rising above the worst. She undoubtedly owed her ability to bridge minds to richly developed mirror neurons, the hotbed of empathy. No doubt she inherited some of that ability and the rest, maybe the lion’s share, became ingrained during childhood when a brain is most maleable. But a gift for empathy is native to our species; our mirror neurons make us the social sleuths we are. We call it empathy when an animal thinks, “I know you think the way I would in your shoes, but do you know I know what you know?” An orangutan can easily do that. A litmus test for the different intelligence of humans involves added degrees of empathy, such as, “Does he know I know what he knows about what I know about him, and if so, would he respond the way I would in that situation, or would he respond the way I’ve seen some people respond when they thought I wasn’t watching, or, alternatively, when they knew I was watching, in which case, feeling self- conscious (as I would feel in that situation), they tried to out-think me?” Humans excel at this because we have livelier mirror neurons than other animals, but many animals do feel flights of empathy. According to her husband, Antonina viewed animals as cousins or alter egos, and they responded to her with an almost magical trust. He was a scientist who prided himself on being a cynical and hard-nosed realist, yet he believed her to be a mind-whisperer. In Antonina’s post-war recollections, she often wrote of the household pets as other sorts of people, some with eccentric dispositions, but all welcome. The pets fell under the heading of guests with a small g and, in accordance with her moral code, she offered those guests sublime hospitality and comfort. They were intimate strangers, not aliens, and when Do you want leading edge skills to negotiate the challenges you face? Do you want to connect the world of doing with the ground of being? Autumn Institute November 27-December 2, 2007 Estancia La Jolla Resort and Spa, California Summer Learning Forum 2008 July 7-11 and July 14-18, 2008 Harvard Law School, Cambridge, Mass. Register now at www.pon.harvard.edu/hnii or call 617-495-7711 Questions or comments please email email@example.com Spirit in Action “Simply unforgettable.” 2006 HNII Participant Harvard Negotiation Insight Initiative NOV 18-39.indd 24 NOV 18-39.indd 24 8/29/07 2:05:40 PM 8/29/07 2:05:40 PM