Winterless North Empathy

It is really interesting to see New Zealand through the eyes of visitors. Somehow it helps to see it through new eyes. We are so used to the scenery and outdoor nature of the country that it takes people with overseas eyes to help us to see the beauty in our own country. Even astonishment at the sight of a rainbow!

Un “séjour gastronomique” around places north of Auckland. My waistline will eventually recover! As for my liver…


From peaceful riverside Warkworth and an awesome time through the Matakana food and wine district up to the extraordinary Hundertwasser toilets at Kawakawa – so artistic. and the toilets are really worth seeing inside as well!. This Austrian designer lived in Kawakawa without electricity until his death in 2000?  I think he thought living like that might make him more empathetic to his environment.

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Empathy involves the inner experience of sharing in and comprehending the momentary psychological state of another person. Reading the book Zero Degrees of Empathy: a New Theory of Human Cruelty in which Simon Baron-Cohen defines seven degrees of empathy, which range from degree zero (“People said to be “evil” or cruel are simply at one extreme of the empathy spectrum”.) to degree 6 (feeling another person’s pain or emotions to the point where it  creates empathic distress).

“Zero degrees of empathy means you have no awareness of how you come across to others, how to interact with others, or how to anticipate their feelings or reactions. It leaves you feeling mystified by why relationships don’t work out, and it creates a deep-seated self-centredness. Other people’s thoughts and feelings are just off your radar. It leaves you doomed to do your own thing, in your own little bubble, not just oblivious of other people’s feelings and thoughts but oblivious to the idea that there might even be other points of view. The consequence is that you believe 100% in the rightness of your own ideas and beliefs, and judge anyone who does not hold your beliefs as wrong, or stupid.”

A complete lack of empathy is his definition of evil. However Baron-Cohen says that while a person with zero empathy might not be a murderer or display otherwise anti-social behaviours, a person at the opposite end of the scale is most unlikely to end up as a murderer etc…..

Anyway back to the wonders of Northland – sorry about the digression!


The Bay of Islands is a gem in the treasure chest that is New Zealand. Paihia is a tourist resort, with little here apart from the tourist industry and beautiful sights. A glorious day allowed a glorious view of the Bay of Islands on a cruise out past many of the aforementioned Islands and through the Hole in the Rock (Piercy Island) and back through Russell. A quick trip over to Kerikeri and the Kemp House and Stone Store completed the day before yet another repast of food and wine.

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Some intriguing sights travelling alongside dolphins – such interesting animals, who seem to care greatly about their family even adopting other creatures that they come across. Maybe humanity can learn something from them. Look at these photos and decide whether you think these animals might be empathetic

dolphinsRIMG0294 RIMG0300golden-retrieverWhether you can decide on their degree of empathy or lack of it, this was a great way to enjoy New Zealand’s lovely Autumn 2011 in the winterless north…..

About David Adlam

I am a conductor, composer, clarinettist and examiner for Trinity Guildhall working in Auckland, New Zealand and overseas
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