My new book, THE WONDERBOX: CURIOUS HISTORIES OF HOW TO LIVE (Profile Books), will be in bookshops from December 22 – just in time for a last-minute Christmas stocking filler. It’s about what the last three thousand years of human history can tell us about better living, and explores twelve universal topics, from work and love to [...]
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Why do we shudder when we watch a tarantula crawling across James Bond’s chest in a 007 movie? And what can looking into a monkey’s brain tell us about our capacity to share in the emotional experiences of other people? Answers to these questions appear in The Empathic Brain: How the Discovery of Mirror Neurons [...]
After being out of print for nearly a century, Helen Keller’s sensational collection of essays, The World I Live In, has recently reappeared in a variety of editions. Although her life is often remembered as an uplifting tale of personal triumph over extreme physical adversity, it is just as much an inspiration for how to expand our imaginations. By taking us on a journey into her dark and soundless world, her writings can help us rethink the nature of perception itself.
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.
At a recent talk at the Royal Society of the Arts in London, the American economist and social critic Jeremy Rifkin gave a brilliant overview of his new book, The Empathic Civilization. Part of his argument that we should think ourselves as Homo empathicus – empathic by nature – rests on some of the recent research in neuroscience that appears to demonstrate we have empathic brains. But what is the science really telling us?
Although you may not have spent much time contemplating the character of hedgehogs and our relationship with them, I know a man who has. Ecologist Hugh Warwick is the author of a brilliantly funny and engaging book called A Prickly Affair: The Charm of the Hedgehog, which has just come out in paperback, receiving rave reviews in The Guardian and elsewhere. I spoke with him about his mania for hedgehogs and what his researches around the world (he tracked down a hedgehog in China named Hugh and attended the International Hedgehog Olympic Games in the Rocky Mountains) reveal about our understanding of human empathy with animals.