April Fool’s, fools

ROSES AND THORNS - Pia Roces Morato - The Philippine Star

I came across a meme on X the other day that said: “April Fools is canceled this year as no made-up prank can match all the crazy things happening in the world today.” I chuckled in both approval and disbelief while reading the particular meme a few times over, thinking that it somewhat actually made sense… considering.

On the other hand, while indeed there are so many disturbing things happening around us, there are at the very same time many beautiful human interest stories that defy the prevailing narrative of disturbances, showing us how goodwill always wins in the end.

Such was the case of a takoyaki ad, or shall we say prank, that went south for April Fool’s Day when a man innocently tattooed a logo on his forehead in the hopes of winning a large sum of money that would help him and his family get by. While this prank angered a few netizens online and while some others thought that this was a brilliant move in the area of persuasion and publicity, the end game revealed how an unfortunate event brought two groups of people together in order to rise above the occasion and ignite human awakening.

It has been said that awakening is the development of a state of mind, which can see the truth and can accept the fact without the involvement of judgement or clarification, making us further understand and empathize in a situation. In short, it is our state of consciousness that enables us to become more aware of what is going on around us in order to be present for others and respond to them appropriately.

Empathy, as we know, is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, to see another person’s perspective, with the intention to feel and share in an experience. Cognitive empathy, to be very specific, is what we are talking about here when we humans have developed the ability to identify and understand the emotions of others in an effort to build stronger relationships.

It was in the end what was accomplished in the case of the takoyaki incident where many took it upon themselves to help out a man who desperately responded to an ad that turned out to be a joke for April Fool’s Day. Upon my own personal research, most people responded in defense of the man while explaining to the general public that April Fool’s Day is not a common celebration in our culture and that most Filipinos do not understand this, which was why the man took this “game” very seriously in his desire to help his son with special needs. Loving parents will do anything for their children; “dumb” as some people may have perceived him to be, yet I am quite pleased to see how many people chose to break the stigma of being stupid in a certain situation and instead respond consciously and educate others in order to avoid similar behaviors in the future.

Taking interest in human interaction goes beyond just feeling other people’s pain when we are able to benefit from the positive side effects of empathy. As a significant lesson from this prank, this was the result. People were able to extract from it the genuine sense of responsibility we all have for others in order to make the necessary connections that make us all accountable human beings to one another.

Plato once asked, “Can virtue be taught?” Empathy is one of the most crucial virtues that define our humanity and it is essential in creating a more compassionate society. Perhaps one can therefore say that we may have been played the fool at one point or another but, at the end of the day, the most valuable part of this unfortunate event will always direct us to the lesson we learned and, more importantly, the essential virtue of empathy that navigates people to a fuller understanding of what is ultimately most needed in modern society today.

Hence, with regard to the craziness of today’s world as mentioned in a meme, in a nutshell what all this clearly tries to tell us is, in reality, the world is undergoing “empathy deficiency” and ultimately, humankind is in desperate need of its revival.

Looking back at the takoyaki incident, we are experiencing pockets of empathy where the response of people everywhere and from many walks of life elevates the true meaning of social responsibility. Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another and feeling with the heart of another and stories that reflect it point towards a deeper connection to our humanity. St. Paul once said, “For ye suffers fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.” This says so much about what we think of others when we lack empathy. Simply put, when all is said and done, empathy is an important ability for all people to have. It only takes practice.

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