But object empathy can go suck it for all I care. I have a friend who, as a kid, watched as her mom threw a broken hairdryer into the trash can. The sight of the familiar hairdryer, which for months (years?) had dutifully and unwaveringly served my friend and her family, now discarded in the trash all broken and useless, so shook said friend that she burst into tears and was inconsolable for a long time.
That's object empathy for you. (And yes, that really is a "friend of mine" story, and not a "story of mine which I will cunningly disguise as a 'friend of mine' story so as to fool everyone oh ho ho I'm so clever." I didn't want to name names because A. I don't know if she'd want me to reveal her identity and B. I can't remember which friend it was. Oops.) Kids seem to have it more than adults, most likely because they have great imaginations and ascribe human qualities and feelings to everything in an attempt to comprehend them, but when you remember an incident like that from your past and it still haunts you, you know that's some powerful neurotic mojo working there.
Me, I don't even have real object empathy, I've got some crazy space-age brand of iconic representation empathy or something. I'm sure I'm not the only one, but for some strange reason it's just not something that can be easily brought up in the employee cafeteria during lunchtime.
I mean, Example One. I'm eating a box of El Cheapo Macaroni & Cheese tonight, and while yeah, it's no gourmet extravaganza and I could be doing a whole lot better, I'm sad because on the box is written, in happy letters, "Yummy Cheese Flavor!" and I pretty much don't feel as if I could categorize said macaroni and cheese as "yummy." And with that, the box has not done its job, the word 'yummy' has failed in its descriptive duties... and for some reason, I feel sad about that. Has the macaroni and cheese failed me, or have I failed the macaroni and cheese? (Chew on that little transpositional conundrum the next time you're high, kids.)
Example Two. Cute happy animals on packaging. When the brain's in the right state, those happy little creatures can make me sad. Take the cute cartoon Johnny Cat on the cat litter bag for instance, all happy open-mouthed and meow meow meow and "hello I'm a cute kitten with a precious little bell around my neck" and stuff. Even that can make me sad if I think... what if the cat litter turns out to be terrible and I don't like it and have to throw it away? Why would happy little Johnny Cat lend his likeness to an inferior product? If I throw the bag away, poor little Johnny Cat will be there still happily meowing even though his cat litter let me down and I had to put him in the trash oh god it's terrible.
Seriously, I got sad-chills just typing that paragraph up. That's messed up and how.
And don't think for one second I haven't noticed the fact that I'm writing about this on LiveJournal, of all places. LIVEJOURNAL LIVEJOURNAL LIVEJOURNAL
On the one side of the brain, I know that objects are objects and they don't have feelings because they're just non-sentient matter existing in the form I am familiar with right now. But on the other side, I know that we tend to develop attachments to favorite objects, we anthropomorphize whenever humanly possible so as to maintain some frame of reference, and we respond best to some kind of emotional pull, be it positive or negative. But even knowing this doesn't keep me from doing it, or even trying to stop. And I know I'm not the only one.
I mean, it's one thing for me to remember that the part of Robocop that freaked me out the most as a kid was the scene where Robo's hiding out in that abandoned warehouse and as part of his rehabilitation, he does a little target practice on some jars of baby food and we get a few closeups of happy smily baby faces on the jars going KABLAM and exploding and stuff.
But it's another thing for me to admit it in front of a group of people years later and have like two other people go "Oh my god, me too!"
Object/iconic empathy is far more widespread than some would think or care to admit. What's your level of neurotic attachment?