Domesticity: Stephon Harris and the Performance of Empathy

Roy Herndon Smith

I wept as I listened to this performance. Stefon Harris describes and demonstrates how jazz happens, how the performers in an ensemble are continually empathically (“empathy” is Harris’s word, in an interview on NPR’s Morning Edition on March 30, 2020, for what is happening) listening, attuning themselves, and responding to each other to create and ever-changing whole that embraces all that is happening, including discords. I wept because this music performs reality as compassion, feeling with, acknowledging, and holding all, including suffering, but also joy, in love.

This post is the first in a series on empathy as the movement that constructs reality as domesticity. In later posts, I’ll discuss how empathy is the primal form of consciousness and the womb of knowing, self, other, language, communal being, and thus of reality as the home we co-create with all others as relations.