A Brief Essay on Empathy

Cal Freeman

Remember when Piglet bled
from the throat in the moonlight
and collapsed
in the stubble and chaff?

Is the harvest here,
and is the moon on schedule?


I’ll attempt to tell the interminable story from the beginning.


7AM, diamondbacks sunning themselves
on chimney rocks, spiny lizards

scattered in the yellow poppies,
orange flare of African daisies,

sunlight behind saguaros,
cruciform shadows in sand,

the filmed tongue mute.


Take the pomace fly
and accompanying issues of divergence

and divorce, the problems of sub-speciation
given niche populations

and ephemeral geographical boundaries.


In the 1987 film Project X
the chimpanzees’ vocalizations were edited out

in favor of actors’.  The director, Jonathan Kaplan,
thought this would make them more sympathetic.

As time passes the film will begin to strike us
as quainter or more prescient,

or it will be      almost entirely forgotten.


What takes place in even a poorly-wrought story is the manipulation of time to favor
our sense of self-importance.  


Jimmy Garrett (Matthew Broderick) on the
limitations of chimpanzee-piloted flights
through simulated radioactive fields:
When you put a chimp in the cockpit
they’ll continue flying through the fallout;
put a human pilot in the same situation
and they’ll realize they’re dying
and the mission will no longer seem important.