What do Mr Spock, Che Guevara and Gandhi have in common? They all appear in my new RSA Animate, The Power of Outrospection, about how empathy can create radical social change. If you want to know more about my ideas on empathy, a good place to start is my book The Wonderbox: Curious Histories of […]
‘It was through books that I first realised there were other worlds beyond my own; first imagined what it might be like to be another person,’ wrote novelist Julian Barnes in a recent Guardian essay. It’s an enticing thought that reading fiction might help us escape the straitjacket of our egos and expand our moral […]
Also posted in belief, empathy, empathy through education, empathy through experience, ethics, family, history, literature, love, philosophy, religion
We should all be worried about the £20 note, which features the eighteenth-century economist Adam Smith staring fixedly at workers toiling in a pin factory. Smith argued that this factory would produce far more pins if workers specialised in just one or two tasks – such as straightening the wire or sticking on the head […]
Also posted in history, money, work
Michelangelo was bad news for creativity In this interview with bestselling novelist Fiona Robyn featured on her blog Writing Our Way Home, I discuss my approach to the process of creative writing and thinking, and suggest why creativity is not about originality, and how musician Brian Eno can help us think more adventurously. Fiona Robyn: What drives […]
So you think compassion means being nice to people? Sure, its Latin root literally means ‘to suffer with another’, which is pretty close to the psychological concept of ‘affective empathy’, where you share in or mirror someone else’s emotional state. When I feel your pain or suffering, I may well do something to help you […]
In the spring of 472 BC the people of Athens queued up to see the latest play written by Aeschylus, the founder of Greek tragedy. The Persians was an unusual production, and not only because it was based on an historical event rather than the usual legends of the gods. What must have really shocked […]
Just as the world’s major cities now have Holocaust Museums, it is time they all established Empathy Museums too. Their purpose would be nothing less than generating a new global culture of empathy by creating adventure spaces where you can explore how to view life from the perspective of other people.
A typical Empathy Museum would not house dusty exhibits inside glass cases. Instead, it would be an exciting and intriguing playground rivalling the finest galleries and tourist attractions that the city has to offer. On rainy Sunday afternoons you might wander through the Empathy Museum with a few friends or your mother-in-law. During the week it is likely to be filled with children on school excursions and inquisitive visitors from countries where the ideal of empathy remains embryonic. The Empathy Museum will ignite the imagination just like the first public museums in the seventeenth century, whose collections of curiosities revealed the wonders of nature and human civilization for the first time.
The British photojournalist Don McCullin has just turned seventy-five. During a career that has now spanned half a century, perhaps his most unforgettable photograph is of an emaciated albino boy in the Biafran War in Nigeria, taken in 1969. He is leaning over on skeletal legs with an abnormally large head, clutching an empty tin […]
I don’t wear a mauve toga very often. But it was my fashion item of choice at this year’s Latitude Festival, the annual extravaganza of music, theatre, comedy and literature held deep in the Suffolk countryside. On behalf of The School of Life, I hosted one of the more unusual events on the programme – a recreation of Plato’s Symposium, the first great conversation in the history of the art of living.
For over half a millennia Christian art has attempted to use empathy to help people understand the reality and significance of Christ’s suffering on the cross. We are offered paintings and sculptures showing nails piercing flesh, gaping wounds and seeping blood that aim to have us not only see what Christ endured, but also to […]