Lynne Malcolm: That’s ‘Compassion’ from Symphony No.5 by Philip Glass. Lynne Malcolm with you and today on All in the Mind we explore what happens in our minds when we open our hearts and empathise with the suffering of others.
Meet James Doty, he once had tens of millions of dollars but he gave it all away.
James Doty: Giving that money away turned out to be the best thing that ever happened in my life and the reason is that it released me from this feeling that I had to always do this stuff and money was going to make it all better. And it also allowed me to explore something that had always been of interest to me which is to understand why when people see somebody suffering they don’t intervene to help them.
Lynne Malcolm: Dr James Doty is now professor of neurosurgery and founder and director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University and he has a fascinating life story. But his early was a real struggle.
James Doty: I grew up in poverty, my father was an alcoholic, my mother was an invalid with numerous health problems, my family was on public assistance essentially my entire life at home. You know my parents had not gone to college, I certainly had no exposure to college. Obviously in a situation like that it is fairly chaotic and dysfunctional and when you grow up in that situation—I use the term you feel like a leaf blown by an ill wind. For many people in that situation your prospects are extraordinarily limited. And while we talk about America as a country of meritocracy, the fact of the matter is that when you’re in dire poverty, when you have no exposure to other opportunities, the likelihood of you getting out of the situation is actually quite low; and probably even lower if you’re from a minority.
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