This is the video of a talk I gave at the Royal Society of the Arts, which describes six ways to expand our empathic potential, drawing on everything from the empathy experiments of George Orwell to developments in industrial design, from the struggle against slavery in the eighteenth century to the Middle East crisis today. Discover why the 21st century needs to become the Age of Outrospection.
The full version of this talk is available as a podcast.
I was recently interviewed by The Browser – a fabulous site which compiles quality writing from around the web– about my five top books on the art of living. In the following extract I discuss George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London, a book which has been a major inspiration for all my work on empathy.
George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London is your second choice. What does it teach us?
I think that Orwell was one of the great travel adventurers of the 20th century. The reason I think that is because in Down and Out in Paris and London he showed that empathy could become an extreme sport and the guideline for the art of living. It’s the second half of the book that I particularly like, in which he describes how he went tramping in east London. He would dress up as a tramp and go into the streets of London, fraternising with beggars and people living on the streets. He was trying to empathise with people who lived on the social margins. Continue reading →
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.
Although this may not be your idea of the perfect holiday break, Cook believed that travel should not just offer leisurely respite from a routine job, but give you a chance to question your values and how you live. ‘To travel is to dispel the mists of fable and clear the mind of prejudice taught from babyhood, and facilitate perfectness of seeing eye to eye,’ he said.
If we want to embrace Cook’s original vision, we need to invent a new kind of travel which provides an adventurous and inspiring approach to the art of living…
Welcome to my new blog about empathy – the art of stepping into the shoes of other people and seeing the world from their perspective.
I believe that empathy can help us escape from the narrow confines of our own existence and guide us towards more adventurous and fulfilling lives. Empathy is also a radical tool for social transformation that has the potential to bring about change not through new laws, policies or institutions, but through a revolution of human relationships. Barack Obama has said the most fundamental problem in modern society is ‘the empathy deficit’. Harnessing the transformative power of empathy is the great challenge of the twenty-first century.
This weekly blog will contain my own thoughts on empathy, the stories of empathetic adventurers, interviews with key empathy activists and thinkers, and act as a global portal for empathy news from around the world. I also hope it becomes a place where people can share their personal experiences of looking at life through they eyes of others.
I would like to launch this blog with a story that I hope you find as inspiring as I do. Continue reading →