Sense8 : Ode to empathy at the information age

by Eduardo Estellita on agosto 19, 2015

This weekend I needed some personal time and a mindless distraction. The Netflix new sensation, Sense8, just seemed to do the trick. As I binged through the 12 episodes, it became clear to me why this show had such a strong acclaim.

In many ways, the Hollywoodian/Wachowskian script couldn’t be more mundane. A group of young, attractive individuals with special powers is persecuted by an evil, murderous organization. In the midst of it all, they must throw a few punches and exchange a few bullets. No surprises there!

However, it’s the pace of the narrative, the depth of characters and pertinence of the themes that steal the scene.

First of all, this is not the usual all-white group or another empty attempt at political correctness. It’s a group that is truly diverse in gender, sexual orientation, culture and social background. 8 individuals from 8 cities across the planet, that discover themselves able to connect profoundly on psychological and emotional level. Their life stories vary greatly, their dilemmas are deeply personal, and yet, their emotional worlds are incredibly familiar. They’re like each of us, roaming the Earth in search of identity and connection, wrestling with our values and beliefs.

As each character faces dilemmas and makes choices, other characters (and the audience) experience the same smells and tastes, the gut wrenching and mind fatigue, despair and joy, sorrow and forgiveness, paralyzing fear and sudden courage, shame and pride, love and hate, inertia and growth. Their special powers are nothing but a mild exaggeration of our most human capacity: empathy.

And the key word here is “mild”!

The main message of the show is that this same skill (empathy), that gives meaning to human life, is the one we’re lacking the most at our information age. In any major city, we have the opportunity to taste food, hear sounds and meet people from virtually anywhere in the world, and yet, we’re closed to the different by our fundamentalisms and bigotry. Through our cell phones and Skypes, we can invite people at another continent into our homes, and yet, we choose to ignore those sitting next to us, heads buried in our screens. We can produce, consume and dispose cheap products at another nation, and yet, we pretend these purchases don’t have huge consequences. All around us, the fear of disconnection is driving us further and further apart, from ourselves, from the other and from our planet. The human race is surrounded by water and dying of thirst!

The Sensates show us a different path.

We can make the choice of intimacy and vulnerability: to invest time in building a relationship, to trust, to share our pains and doubts, to allow ourselves to be seen, to ask for help, to generously put our talents to service, to accept ourselves and others for who they are, to love fiercely.

We can choose to lead and be led, to look for the abundance in life, to accept our paradoxes, to take responsibility for our failures, to face our demons and our light, to leave the past behind and to walk boldly towards our future.

If, in the show, the Sensates are different from us by gene, in real life it is merely by choice.

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