Happy Earth Day!

In honor of the Earth Day, I would like to share an excerpt from my introduction to “Fostering Empathy Through Museums” (forthcoming by Rowman & Littlefied, August 2016) – Illustration by: Fatih Mehmet Durmus, 2016:

“Sixteen years into the millennium, this is not a particularly proud moment for humanity. Having visibly altered our planet’s outermost layers, scientists are debating whether our footprint is worthy of naming an entire geological epoch on Earth’s billions of years old timescale after ourselves: Anthropocene, the Age of Humans. Poverty, injustice, famine, radicalism, war, and a lack of human rights thrive in countries around the world.

A steady proliferation of new and ever more powerful technological tools seems unable to correct these ills. One must wonder why they have not succeeded. I believe it is because the tools that are at our disposal are most beneficial when filtered through a worldview that values the collective wellbeing of the “Whole” –our unified humanity and the planet, inclusive of all living beings as well as its life-supporting natural resources.

Such a unifying worldview cannot be attained and sustained without empathy: our inherent ability to perceive and share the feelings of another. Empathy enables us to connect with ourselves, and with others while awakening us to our connectedness as parts of a greater Whole. An awareness of our connectedness calibrates and harmonizes our values, attitudes, and behavior. Awe of, and appreciation for, this interdependent Whole inspires us to meaningfully engage with it through acts of compassion and altruism that, recent scientific findings reveal, are like “chocolate” to us. Not only are we wired to connect, but also to find ways to serve towards the greater good. This phenomenon is a self-sustaining cycle: powered by empathy, leading to compassion, altruism, and a rewarding sense of fulfillment of our humanity.”


“Empathetic Museums, Empathetic Schools” a presentation by Dr. Emlyn Koster, and Dr. Elif Gokcigdem – Newseum, Washington, D.C. (April 9, 2016)

On the invitation of Dr. Emlyn Koster, Director of North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (former director of the Liberty Science Center, NY), and Donna Gaffney, DNSc, FAAN (Chairperson, For Action Initiative; Advisory Board Member (2002-2012), Families of September 11), I’ve had the privilege of sharing the platform with Dr. Koster to present the concept of “empathy-building through museums” at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, April 9, 2016. The presentation titled “Empathetic Museums, Empathetic Schools” was hosted as part of the Newseum Teacher Open House, celebrating the inauguration of their new online curriculum “Freedom in the Balance,” which is based on the original curriculum developed by the For Action Initiative and the Liberty Science Center in the aftermath of 9/11. 700 teachers from Washington, D.C. area signed up for the open house, and the empathy-building through museums presentation reached nearly 300 people. For more information regarding this presentation please contact: greatolivetree@gmail.com

“How to Cultivate Global Compassion” an interview with Paul Ekman by Jill Suttie, GGSC

I am excited to share this post from the Greater Good Science Center: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/paul_ekman_global_compassion

It is the first time I have come across the term “distal compassion” which is eloquently explained by legendary psychologist Paul Ekman during an interview with GGSC’s Jill Suttie, where they discuss Ekman’s book: “Moving Toward Global Compassion.”

The term “distal compassion” also encapsulates the essence of what my upcoming book: “Fostering Empathy Through Museums” stands for, as it promotes the need for a “unifying worldview” which can be developed through the cultivation of empathy through museums: https://greatolivetree.wordpress.com/2015/09/25/announcing-an-upcoming-book-fostering-empathy-through-museums/

Paul Ekman explains in his interview with Suttie how he started seeing empathy under a different light after his conversations with Dalai Lama –such an inspiring convergence of science and wisdom! I would like to conclude this post with Rumi, another source of timeless wisdom which has much to offer to our humanity:

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,

there is a field.

I will meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase each other doesn’t make any sense…” –Rumi*

*Coleman Barks, Open Secret (Putney, Vermont: Threshold Books, 1982).

**Illustration by Fatih M. Durmus. Copyright: 2016 by Elif M. Gokcigdem (Ed.), Fostering Empathy Through Museums, Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield, illustration by Fatih M. Durmus