Let me tell you about my good friend Turbo. Turbo has been a reliable companion on many an adventure — small, quick and always enthusiastic — except when he gets hungry. Turbo sings to me to keep me alert when I’m tired; he forgives me when I accidentally hurt him; he listens carefully to my rambling thoughts, never interrupting. In return, I pay close attention to his needs. When he gets tired, I find him a place to rest; when he gets hungry, I feed him with only the best fuel. On the occasions when I pull over at the gas station and press “premium,” sacrificing an extra 54 cents per gallon, I don’t think of Turbo as a 2014 Acura TL. I give him a couple of solid pats, thinking of his feelings, hoping he appreciates the good gas and recognizes that this is a gesture of love.
My best friend’s car, Greg, might share some of Turbo’s physical features — a shiny exterior and lights on his front and back, for example — but to us, he is a different creature entirely. A bit more unwieldy than Turbo, and sometimes prone to grumbling, Greg nevertheless is cheery and steadfastly determined. And Greg is more dignified than Turbo — he requested that it be established to the public that his proper name is Gregory.
To my friends and me, every object is a sentient being with a unique identity. A pimple on my forehead is a “she” — to pick at her is to irritate her and to incite her to retaliate by becoming bigger, redder, and itchier. How can we blame her for being angry when I have attacked her against her will? The potted plant in my room had her feelings hurt when I forgot to water her for two weeks — her wilting was a sign of her sadness. “I don’t know what she did to deserve a plant mom like me,” I wondered sorrowfully as I attempted to revive her.
Our attitude towards inanimate objects is seen as entertaining at best, delusional at worst. But to me, it is one of the best outlooks you could possibly have in life. Too often, we go through our days failing to fully recognize even the humanity in other people. We disregard the feelings of those we do not know, remaining unaware and uncaring towards the circumstances that contributed to their unique identities. By searching for and recognizing consciousness and emotion everywhere, including in the things that don’t move or speak, we become more connected to the world outside ourselves. We no longer limit our empathy to the people and things that only affect us directly. We open our minds to the feelings of everything and everyone around us. Humanizing everything reminds us always that humanity is everywhere, within every person, no matter how removed their lives may be from our own.
If you don’t mind some mild stares and chuckling, I would encourage you to try it. Acknowledge that the lightbulb that inconveniently went out was simply just tired and overworked. Apologize to the tree when you pick a flower from it, recognizing that you are taking a part of its body for your own pleasure. Give your favorite sweatshirt a cuddle and a kiss — after all, it’s kept you warm and cozy in so many instances, never asking anything in return other than a good wash from time to time. You might feel insane, but you might also come to realize that you feel a little less like it is you against the world; you might come to realize you’ve begun to treat the world just a little bit kinder.
Grace Zhang | email@example.com