How Zeno's Paradox and Empathy are Related

Welcome to another Quiet the Noise Blog. Let's get into it!


Conflict is a major source of noise in our lives. Our inability to have empathy is a major source of judgement, which sparks conflict.

If we could precisely see through the eyes of someone else, how could we possibly judge them? Instead of challenging or disagreeing, we would perfectly understand why they feel a certain way. But that’s the impossibility, precisely seeing and perfectly understanding. It can’t happen.

Why is it impossible to precisely see and perfectly understand?

Zeno, an ancient Greek philosopher, postulated that two objects can never touch because you would need to divide the distance between objects by two an infinite number of times. Zeno’s Paradox.

Isn’t empathy the same? How can we have true empathy if we didn’t live someone else’s life? Maybe we lived a similar life but there is an infinite number of experiences in someone’s life. Our wiring is completely different. We see the world completely differently. So even if we experience the exact same situation, we still perceive it differently.

We can never live someone else’s life, thus we can never fully understand their perspective. Because for us to truly understand, we need to feel and feeling comes through shared experience, and (the impossibility of) feeling precisely how they feel is the only path to true empathy.

I can read about giving birth and imagine how hard it may be, but I will never experience it. And even if I did, it would be my experience of the event. Not theirs. Thus, I will never understand how it feels for them and will lack empathy.

This realization compels us to allow space for others to share how they feel and not judge it. We may not agree but when we drop the judgment, we also drop the righteousness of our perspective and listen.

And listening is disarming. It’s inviting. It dissolves conflict. It may not always be easy, but living this way can instantly change how you show up in the world. A world with much less noise.


Pause. Breathe, and quiet the NOISE.


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