I remembering feeling pain the night that Joe Theismann professional football career came to an end. The violent snapping of his shin into two pieces, cause a real sensation in my body. I felt for the guy, literally.
Now, science is catching up with my experience. The discovery of mirror neuron, neurons that fire on seeing another's pain, action, pleasure and multiple touches and feelings of another. They are the compassion neuron. They are also the ones that fire when I see images of Jesus on the Cross, and I start to understand the the nature of suffering. We all have them, mirror neurons. Theologically, they are startling because they make they case for humans being hardwired to compassion and empathy. We can feel the pain of God on the Cross. It hurts us to see Jesus nailed, naked, and humiliated for our collective hatred, sin, and pride. The pain we feel makes us look away, repulsed and ashamed. The blood we see and our mirror neurons make us feel is the product of our sin. Jesus bleeds and if we have the courage to see, we can transcend our sin through his work on the cross, the work of compassion. Compassion God show us defines grace. The compassion we show Christ save us from ourselves. God transforms us into loving people through the work of the cross.
One of the major protestant movements within the art of the Church has been to remove the figure of Jesus on the Cross slowly from the walls. Who wants to see our sin in action. Who needs that pain. Yet, we need compassion. Now, Megachurches remove the cross itself, because people feel uncomfortable with the cross (compassion?). The question of the value of feeling uncomfortable and feeling compassion being a good thing does not seem to come up. Give the people what the want and not what they need. The scandal of the Cross is the scandal of suffering and this is in turn the scandal of compassion. If mirror neurons makes us feel another's pain, and no one wants to feel pain, then maybe the scandal of the cross is feeling the pain of another. Yet, only in this suffering can love be born. Being hardwired to compassion, also hardwired us to love.
I know these are but random thoughts at lunch. Below are some videos explaining the importance of mirror neurons. The first one is a cool graphic video about James Rifkin's lecture about mirror neurons helping in the creating empathic civilization. It is fun.
Here is another talk by Neurologist V.S. Ramachandran on Mirror Neurons. He goes over similar ground as the did Jeremy Rifkin but with no where near the cool graphics.