It was exactly 30 years ago that George Orwell set the opening of his novel 1984: ‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.’ Most people know Orwell for this novel, and his satirical tale Animal Farm. Less well known is that he was one of the great empathic adventurers of the […]
It’s launch day for my new book How Should We Live? Great Ideas from the Past for Everyday Life, which has just been released in the US. Previously published in the UK under the title The Wonderbox (sorry, a bit confusing, I know), it’s about what history can teach us about the art of living. […]
Also posted in belief, conversation, creativity, deathstyle, emotions, empathy, ethics, family, history, literature, love, money, nature, philosophy, politics, religion, senses, simple living, time, work
Here’s an article I just wrote for the Wall Street Journal on the dilemmas of balancing work and family life. Is Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, author of Leaning In, right to think that women can ‘have it all’ if only they really believe in themselves? My approach is not to answer the question ‘Is it possible […]
So you’ve drawn up your list of New Year’s resolutions. Some are probably achievable, like giving up eating chocolate for breakfast. Others may be more daunting because they represent a long-held desire to take your life in a new direction, anything from changing career to renewing family relationships. If you’ve resolved to make a big change, I suggest […]
Also posted in belief, history, love, work
Browse the self-help shelves of your local book store and you’ll spot that most titles draw on psychology, philosophy and religion for their wisdom. But there is one realm where few of them have sought inspiration: history. When asking the big questions about life, love, work and death, we sometimes forget that people have been […]
Also posted in belief, conversation, creativity, empathy, empathy through conversation, money, politics, senses, simple living, time, work
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 […]
Also posted in climate change, empathy through collaboration, empathy through conversation, empathy through education, empathy through experience, ethics, general, history, nature, philosophy, religion
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.
Here’s an an opinion piece I wrote for The Scotsman newspaper last week.
Walk into a travel agency today and you will be offered the usual array of bargain trips to beach resorts, luxury cruise vacations and weekend getaways to romantic cities. But the founder of the most successful travel company of the nineteenth century had a very different idea of what a holiday should be all about. He was a lay Baptist preacher named Thomas Cook, who organised his first package tour in 1841, taking five hundred working people on a twenty-two mile train trip from Leicester to Loughborough to attend a temperance meeting, where pious ministers called on them to abstain from the demon drink.
Imagine you had to invent a new kind of atlas which showed the extent of our planet’s economic and cultural globalization, and the interconnections between the world’s environmental crises. That’s the aim of the ATLAS of Interdependence, a project being masterminded by the new economics foundation, the Open University and Sheffield University. The ATLAS will be an evolving online resource containing entries from geologists, geographers, scientists, journalists, artists, campaigners and historians, each providing their personal vision of global interdependence. Here is a sneak preview of my own entry, called the Global Map of the Empathic Imagination. Do let me know if you think it needs any additional landmarks.
Who was the greatest traveller of the Victorian era? Amongst the usual top contenders you will find the name of Sir Richard Francis Burton. Best known for translating The Thousand and One Nights from Arabic and for visiting Mecca in 1853 disguised as a Muslim pilgrim, Burton wandered for years throughout the Middle East, Far East and Africa. He had an extraordinary talent for languages – he could speak twenty-nine of them – and was a master of assimilating himself into local cultures. Just after his death in 1890 he was described as ‘a Mohammedan among Mohammedans, a Mormon among Mormons, a Sufi among the Shazlis, and a Catholic among the Catholics.’