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.”