Socrates emphasized knowing one’s self, introspection, but modern society needs more outrospection. The ultimate art form for outrospection is empathy. Why is empathy important? Because empathy can be part of the art of living well, it allows us to be more creative thinkers, it can improve our relationships, and possibly contribute to a revolution of human relatedness.
For example, George Orwell, one of the great empathic adventurers of the 21st century, tramped the streets of East London, resulting in the book, Down and Out in Paris and London. Empathic people are sensitive listeners, they try to understand the other’s needs, and fears, they share part of their own lives in two-way dialogues, they make themselves vulnerable.
So, we need more political conversations, like It won’t stop until we Talk, the Parent’s Circle of Palestinians and Israelis. The Hello Peace initiative, pairs telephone callers—a Palestinian with an Israeli caller, and since 2002, over a million calls have occurred. The world’s problems demand unprecedented collaboration between politicians of different parties; through outrospection, we can learn how others think about the world and their values. Only then can we develop effective strategies for political and social transformation.
Take climate change. We have an empathic gap across space, where we don’t relate to what is happening to small island states, and we are failing to emphasize through time with future generations. Let’s start with building new social institutions, instead of museums with dead space, creating museums and libraries with experiential and conversational public space. And let’s start with reintroducing civil discourse into one of our most important institutions, the House of Commons, as we all need to learn our way forward in our search for solutions to climate change adaptation and mitigation.