This evening I told my six-year-old-twins the bad news: we have to put down our aging tortoiseshell cat Scully. Part of what made the task emotionally difficult was not just that they love the cat but that they live in a culture where they are shielded from death. If they’d been living in the nineteenth century they probably would have already seen a dead body, maybe laid out in someone’s home or at a neighbourhood funeral. But not today, where our contact with death, and conversations about it, are remarkably limited. Death is a subject as taboo as sex was during the Victorian era, even though issues such as euthanasia and palliative care are creating an element of public discussion. Read More »
This weekend in London the world’s first Empathy Museum opened its doors. It’s a moment I’ve been dreaming about for years. Seeing it actually come to life has been completely thrilling, even overwhelming.
There has been a constant stream of visitors to our launch exhibit, A Mile in My Shoes, a giant shoe box on the banks of the River Thames by Vauxhall Bridge. I’ve seen a 75-year-old woman scooting along the riverside on roller skates while listening to the story of a roller derby champion. I’ve seen curious men slip on the size 12 stilettos of a bearded drag queen. I noticed a woman almost in tears listening to the narrative of someone who lost members of her family in a tragic accident, while I was told by others that the very same story made them feel empowered and more fully alive. Children giggled as they ran along in the size 1 gym shoes of a local schoolgirl and discovered how she saw the world. Read More »
‘Sewerman’ Gari Pattison tells his story at the Empathy Museum
We’ve got just two days left to fund the launch of the Empathy Museum. If you’ve been pondering giving support, or haven’t yet got around to it, now is the time! We’ve nearly hit £10,000 – just a little more and we’ll be there.
Our launch exhibit, A Mile in My Shoes, is going to be fabulous. You’ll step into the shoes of people like ‘sewerman’ Gari Pattison, as well as others including a refugee, a sea captain, a drag queen and a dog walker. I’ve just been listening to one extraordinary contribution from a man sentenced to 14 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Just imagine having the chance to walk in his actual shoes as you listen to his story.
I realise that there are a lot of good causes out there that you could be contributing to, so why give to the Empathy Museum?
It’s absolutely unique. It’s the world’s first exhibition dedicated specifically to promoting empathic understanding, and based on the latest neuroscience and psychology research.
This is an urgent issue. Empathy is on the decline: we see the spectre of rising racism around immigration issues, an escalation of online abuse, and a plague of hyperindividualism fuelled by an overdose of consumer culture.
Be part of a global movement. We’re taking the Empathy Museum around the world, starting with the UK and Australia, and we’ve had invitations to bring it to cities including Paris, Beirut and Calgary. This is going to be big.
Your contribution will make a tangible difference. All donations will go directly to fund our exhibit – helping us collect more stories and shoes for our shoe shop and take the Empathy Museum into communities where it’s really needed.
Most crowd-funding campaigns receive the majority of their donations in the last 48 hours. So please prove the statistics right by making your donation here.
Thank you, and I hope you can make it to our opening exhibit in September.
Our inaugural exhibition, A Mile in My Shoes, will open on the Thames riverside in London on September 4 as part of the Totally Thames festival. A Mile in My Shoes is an empathy shoe shop where visitors are invited to walk in the actual shoes of another person whilst being immersed in an audio narrative of their life.
Our brilliant team have been hard at work finalising the designs. The empathy shoe shop already includes the skates of a Roller Derby Champion, the dress-shoes of a Chess Grand Master, the waders of Crayfish Bob and the sky-high heels of bearded drag queen Timberlina – and every pair is accompanied by extraordinary, moving and surprising stories. We’re counting down the days until we open our doors and we really need your help to complete the finishing touches, and give us the budget we need to take the exhibit on the road to a town near you.
Our crowd funding campaign has been gathering pace and our generous supporters have so far helped us raise 45% of what we need – now we’ve got just a week left to meet our budget so I’m writing to ask for your help. Many of you have generously pledged already. If you haven’t we’d be incredibly grateful for your support with a donation big or small.
Thank you and I hope to see you in the shoe shop in September!
The big day is coming: on September 4 the Empathy Museum launches its inaugural exhibition, A Mile in My Shoes, on the Thames riverside in London as part of the Totally Thames festival.
Please do come along to our opening exhibit if you can. It will be open 4th-27th September, Wednesday to Sunday, 12noon to 6pm at Riverside Gardens near Vauxhall Bridge.
A Mile in My Shoes – Crowd Funding Campaign
A Mile in My Shoes is an empathy shoe shop, where visitors are invited to walk in the actual shoes of another person, ranging from a paediatric brain surgeon and a market trader to a refugee and a chess grand master. While walking along for a mile in someone else’s shoes you are immersed in an audio narrative of their life.
To help support the launch we have just started a crowd funding campaign at Indiegogoto raise the additional £15,000 we need to house the exhibit in a specially designed giant shoebox, and then tour it.
I would be hugely grateful if you took a few minutes to visit the campaign page here and make a pledge.
Please also share the campaign page link on twitter, facebook and other channels. Sample tweet: Join the Empathy Revolution and support the launch of the world’s first @empathymuseum http://igg.me/at/TheEmpathyMuseum/x/11618909
The Empathy Museum has already captured the public imagination. It’s been featured in the media around the world, and we’ve received invitations to take it everywhere from Paris to Beirut. Our first international exhibit will be in Australia in 2016.
The museum is based on ideas in my book Empathy. Its director is the acclaimed artist and curator Clare Patey.
Your support will help make the Empathy Museum a reality and launch it onto a global stage. Please join us.
Probably the greatest myth of romantic love is that somewhere, out there in the amorous ether, is our missing other half – our soulmate.
This entertaining new video based on my book How Should We Live? Great Ideas from the Past for Everyday Life – which is released in paperback in the US this week – explores how the idea of the soulmate emerged out of the history of love, and how we should think about it today. Are we raising our expectations too high in our search for romance, hoping that a single person can provide us with all the love we need – being not only our best friend, but also our lifelong companion and the best sex we ever had? And who invented the term ‘soulmate’ in 1822?
The new video is something of a companion piece to my article on the Six Varieties of Love known to the Ancient Greeks.
If you haven’t read it, How Should We Live? (titled The Wonderbox in the UK) explores the lessons we can learn from history about the art of living, and looks at topics ranging from love and work to creativity, travel and death. It’s inspired by a wonderful quote from Goethe: ‘He who cannot draw on three thousand years is living from hand to mouth’.
The empathy critics are on the rampage. Led by the Yale psychologist Paul Bloom, the anti-empathy brigade claim that empathy is a weak or even distorting force in moral life and public affairs. The most recent convert is Peter Singer, perhaps the world’s most influential moral philosopher and author of classic texts such as Animal Liberation. In a recent public conversation I had with him as part of the Empathy Festival at Blackwell’s Bookshop Oxford (see photo), he argued that ethics should be led by rational thinking rather than empathy (of course, I didn’t agree).
In response to Singer’s claims, I have written an article at Open Democracy, called Welcome to the Empathy Wars. It makes the case that critics like Bloom and Singer are fundamentally mistaken, particularly because they fail to recognise the crucial role that cognitive empathy plays in establishing human rights and social justice.
Do have a look at the article, which is based on my book Empathy, and make up your own mind. Whose side are you in the Empathy Wars?
It’s official: the Empathy Museum will be opening its doors in September 2015, as part of Totally Thames, the huge and vibrant annual festival taking place along London’s waterfront.
Personally, this is a big day for me. I’ve been dreaming about the Empathy Museum for years, and wrote about it in my book Empathy. I’m thrilled that it’s now becoming a reality.
As discussed in this feature article in today’s Independent newspaper, one of the main exhibits will be ‘A Mile in My Shoes’, which takes the form of a unique empathy shoe shop. One of the shop assistants will fit you out with a pair of shoes belonging to someone from a different background – maybe a Syrian refugee or an Old Etonian investment banker – and you will be able to literally walk a mile in their shoes while listening to a recording of them talking about their life, so you really get to see the world from their perspective.
We’ll also be running events such as Human Libraries, where instead of borrowing a book you borrow a person for conversation.
The Empathy Museum will later travel to other London venues then around the country in a bespoke eco bus, visiting schools and galleries, town centres and supermarket car parks, cliff tops and office blocks.
It will also launch online and be touring internationally. In February 2016, the Empathy Museum is going to Australia, appearing as a centrepiece of the Perth International Arts Festival.
The museum is being masterminded by its Director, the internationally renowned artist and curator Clare Patey.
To keep up with the Empathy Museum’s development and tour programme, sign up here. And please spread the word!
It’s probably the most extraordinary story of the power of empathy I’ve ever come across.
In 1971, the former Ku Klux Klan leader C.P. Ellis had an experience that blew away his prejudices and assumptions about African Americans. In this new 4-minute video produced by Renegade Inc, I reveal how and why it happened.
It’s especially relevant in the wake of the recent racially-motivated church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.
If anybody ever tells you that empathy is a touchy-feely ‘soft skill’ that has little chance of changing society, just tell them about C.P. Ellis.
This video is based on ideas in my book Empathy, which has just been released in paperback by Penguin Random House.
Ku Klux Klansman CP Ellis working alongside his great adversary, the civil rights activist Ann Atwater, in 1971.