The buddy hug
The science and sociology of empathy is an interesting subject. Think about people’s response to their fellows caught up in personal or natural disasters. It seems natural that we as humans have instinctive empathy towards others.
Or “are humans inherently selfish?” That is the question put to primatologist Frans de Waal in an interview in American Scientist – and which led me to delve – totally fascinated – into the many studies into human and animal empathy. Some studies seem to suggest that human empathy is on the wane but I wouldn’t agree. There are exceptions, of course (think “bankers” – see the Murray/Hans-Werner report, for starters). But I think that at the end of the day we humans mostly are good folk; we care enough, even if just enough, to be of social use to each other and therefor to the greater good of the society (social group) in which we move.
True empathy, nicely explained in Wikipedia, derives from the Greek word empetheia: “physical affection, passion, partiality.” As usual, Sam Vaknin has a good take on the subject. Also see Marco Iacoboni’s highly rated book Mirroring People – The Science of Empathy and How We Connect with Others.
Anyway, it made me think of my buddies and how we empathize with each other. And, ultimately, how we hug, the ultimate show of empathy among friends. Being from European descent, I do the kiss thing on the cheek with family members but for friends there’s nothing like a good buddy hug.