Last night I went and I watched Tim Minchin‘s “Old Songs New Songs Fuck You Songs” show in Canberra. It was a Christmas present from my parents and our whole family of four went out. We laughed, we sung along (well I did – Mum chose not to sing along to the Pope Song) and he had a few things to say. He spoke what was on his mind and what he had to say made a lot of sense.
One thing he said that resonated with me deeply was about Cardinal George Pell – if you don’t know what that is, or why it might come up in a musical comedy show, google “Cardinal George Pell” and then listen to Tim’s fantastic song, which he wrote to raise money. It’s called “Come Home (Cardinal Pell)“.
I’m not actually going to talk about Pell – because this isn’t actually about him. I want to talk about empathy. Tim has very strong feelings about Pell, but most importantly he shared with us yesterday that he feels sorry for him. When he first said it, I’ll admit I thought he was leading into a sarcastic song, not unlike “Thank You God“. Then he didn’t start to sing and I thought maybe he was going to lean in the direction ‘pitying’, rather than ‘feeling sorry’ in the actual empathetic sense. The nuance is important to me.
Then he explained himself. He explained that he believes that one has failed in empathy if they cannot extend it to all. He explained he felt sorry for the fact that Pell had been raised in a such a way that he felt sex was a sin, that abstinence was healthy (when its not a truly freely made choice), that he grew up in a Ballarat which had rampant sexual abuse by clergy, that the odds are stacked in favour of him having been abused himself as a child. When he listed those things for which he felt sorry for, it clicked in me.
As I said, this isn’t about Pell for me. I see where Tim is coming from and I understand how he feels. After thinking about the whole situation through this particular lens I decided that I too felt sorry for the human being(ish) that is Pell. But putting him aside.
I have strong emotional feelings about people. A lot of people. Many of those people are people that I have had friends tell me ‘not to apologise for’ or ‘don’t be sorry for them’. WHY NOT? This isn’t the gospel according to Tim. All his words did last night was validate me. Not just superficially, but at a fundamental level.
I’ve written a bit before about the people in my life that have hurt me. It’s pretty personal obviously and my anonymity isn’t really all that, you know, anonymous. That might be a tangent, but it winds its way back. My feeling sorry for the people who have been in my past, feeling any emotion other than hate, isn’t a character flaw. I would love to list all the things I feel sorry for but bring up the word ANONYMITY again shuts that down. But I can be very general.
People are fundamentally born good. With maybe a few exceptions, children are blank slates. They are made into the creatures they become.
And if that is the case – surely it is not bad, not a character flaw, to be sorry for those who had so many things go wrong in their formative years that they end up the kind of person that has hurt us today. Surely? I have believed this forever, but the way other people (even my friends) have reacted to me having such emotions towards those who have hurt me has left me historically feeling foolish and brainwashed. The attitudes of these much loved people have made me feel weak and as if I am still under the powers of those who have hurt me, confined me, or punished me.
But I’m not. I am free. I am free and I am sorry for them.
I. Am. Free.