If we can clear space in our lives by caring less about things that aren't important (see Power of Apathy), it's possible to fill that space with life-giving relationships and meaningful actions. This is precisely what I mean by the "The Power of Empathy".

To start, it's required that you watch the following video. It's an RSA production that features professor and philosopher Roman Krznaric discussing empathy and how we can expand our empathetic potential.  It's brilliant, and I'll use themes from the video to frame the discussion on empathy. 

*** The rest of the blog assumes you have watched the video. Which of course, you should because it's fabulous. 

Creating Mass Empathy Museums

Aren't empathy museums a genius idea? Wow! Roman, you had me at "A place which is not about dusty exhibits ... but an experiential and conversational public space!" Such potential!

Roman mentioned learning how sweatshops work, checking people out for conversations, etc. But I've thought of heaps of other ideas, and the possibilities are lacking in ends! In one room you could play the part of a teacher with 25 teenage students trying to impart a science lesson, in another you could be a waiter/waitress and spend 15 minutes trying to keep up with orders and balance plates and fill water glasses and remember orders  and have people complain! In another room, you could be tasked with picking strawberries in a room heated to 35 degrees (100 F) and have to fill a crate and then get paid 10 pence/cents for it. This is one of those ideas where I just want to say, well, what are we all waiting for? Let's release our horses and go for it.

Even in the 80's this was a tough job. 

If you have more Empathy museum ideas, please post them as comments on this blog. I'd love to hear them, and let me know if you'd like to collaborate on opening one of these museums in the future. Pssh. The Lourve is great, but what does it teach about The Love? Learning to love and care about a diverse range of individuals through a museum? Wow. Wow. Woah-wow. 

So now that I'm done gushing about that idea...

We can build our empathetic capacity. 

How? Well through museums. Wow! (See Above). Roman also mentions sensitive listening. Basically don't text while someone is talking, don't interrupt, focus on what other people are saying and show them that you truly care. And when necessary, share something about yourself, make yourself vulnerable and open up so that people know you are genuine. Do that, and you'll be amazed at what people tell you. 

I love spending time with you...

Of course, sometimes it's proper to grease the conversation a bit with a few weighty queries. You can connect to people by asking powerful, specific questions that are significant without being invasive. What is your family like? How close are you to your family? How is your relationship with your Dad different than with your Mom? Have you ever read "A Life of Learning and Activism?". What's your favorite post? You know, these are just suggestions. 

Flowering of Mass Empathy

If events like the Abolition of Slavery, Civil Rights, Women's Suffrage tell us anything, it's that such flowering can happen. I think the next great movement is developing our empathy across time, and in doing so taking meaningful action to prevent climate change. That's the great challenge of the modern world, and history tells us that's it's extremely and tantalizingly possible. 

Such an event might even be as beautiful as Oregon, but likely not. 
I'll end with wise words from one of my favorite books, Tuesdays with Morrie

"The problem is that we don’t believe we are as much alike as we are. If we saw each other as more alike, we might be eager to join in one big human family in this world, and to care about that family the way that we care about our own. Invest in the human family. Invest in people. Build a little community of those you love and those who love you.”

And empathy is how we make that happen. 


Kurt Berning