As Compassion is Becoming Scarce | The Urgency of Empathy and Social Impact in Museums

[I think in moments like these, it’s important for museums—and the people who work for them—to pause and reflect on the roles that we serve within our communities. Yes, museums are institutions that hold collections. But they can also serve a powerful role with our communities as active spaces for connection and coming together, for conversation and dialogue, for listening and sharing. Museums can be spaces for individual stories and community voices. They can be a space for acknowledging and reflecting on differences, and for bridging divides. They can be spaces for growth, struggle, love, and hope.

Roman Krznaric is among a growing chorus of voices who see an urgent need for empathy and human understanding in an era too often marked by violence, hatred, resentment, self-interest, and toxic political and social debates. In his TEDx Talk “How to Start an Empathy Revolution,” he defines empathy:

“Empathy is the art of stepping into the shoes of another person and looking at the world from their perspective. It’s about understanding the thoughts, the feelings, the ideas and experiences that make up their view of the world.”

In September 2015, Krznaric put these ideas into practice in the realm of museums with the development of  the Empathy Museum,dedicated to helping visitors develop the skill of putting themselves in others’ shoes. Its first exhibit, “A Mile in My Shoes,” did quite literally that, setting up in a shoe shop where visitors are fitted with the shoes of another person, invited to walk a mile along the riverside while being immersed in an audio narrative of this stranger’s life, and then write a short story about it. With contributions ranging from a sewer worker to a sex worker, the stories covered different aspects of life, from loss and grief to hope and love.]  

Read the full article:

The Urgency of Empathy & Social Impact in Museums

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Alain Badiou on Love

From In Praise of Love | Alain Badiou

Love… is a quest for truth… truth in relation to something quite precise: what kind of world does one see when one experiences it from the point of view of two and not one? What is the world like when it is experienced, developed and lived from the point of view of difference and not identity? That is what I believe love to be.

We shouldn’t underestimate the power love possesses to slice diagonally through the most powerful oppositions and radical separations. The encounter between two differences is an event, is contingent and disconcerting… On the basis of this event, love can start and flourish. It is the first, absolutely essential point. This surprise unleashes a process that is basically an experience of getting to know the world. Love isn’t simply about two people meeting and their inward-looking relationship: it is a construction, a life that is being made, no longer from the perspective of One but from the perspective of Two….

Love cannot be reduced to the first encounter, because it is a construction. The enigma in thinking about love is the duration of time necessary for it to flourish. In fact, it isn’t the ecstasy of those beginnings that is remarkable. The latter are clearly ecstatic, but love is above all a construction that lasts. We could say that love is a tenacious adventure. The adventurous side is necessary, but equally so is the need for tenacity. To give up at the first hurdle, the first serious disagreement, the first quarrel, is only to distort love. Real love is one that triumphs lastingly, sometimes painfully, over the hurdles erected by time, space and the world….

To make a declaration of love is to move on from the event-encounter to embark on a construction of truth. The chance nature of the encounter morphs into the assumption of a beginning. And often what starts there lasts so long, is so charged with novelty and experience of the world that in retrospect it doesn’t seem at all random and contingent, as it appeared initially, but almost a necessity. That is how chance is curbed: the absolute contingency of the encounter with someone I didn’t know finally takes on the appearance of destiny. The declaration of love marks the transition from chance to destiny, and that’s why it is so perilous and so burdened with a kind of horrifying stage fright….

The locking in of chance is an anticipation of eternity… The problem then resides in inscribing this eternity within time. Because, basically, that is what love is: a declaration of eternity to be fulfilled or unfurled as best it can be within time: eternity descending into time….

Happiness in love is the proof that time can accommodate eternity. And you can also find proof … in the pleasure given by works of art and the almost supernatural joy you experience when you at last grasp in depth the meaning of a scientific theory.

A Message for Christmas… and Thanksgiving, and all Special Days Out There

Bufflehead Farm: Jon and Tracey Stewart’s Animal Rescue Farm

[If everything goes according to plan over the next few months, the family’s 12-acre tract of land in Middletown, New Jersey, will soon be home to dozens of rescue cows, sheep, turkeys, goats and other animals.

The project has long been a dream for Tracey Stewart, an animal advocate and former veterinary technician, who has tirelessly worked to promote a plant-based lifestyle, animal welfare issues, and support for organizations like Farm Sanctuary.

The Stewarts have worked to slowly and meticulously transform Bufflehead Farm, purchased in 2013, into a safe place for rescue animals. They currently have four pigs, including two piglets rescued from the side of road in Georgia last summer.According to the New York Times, four sheep will also soon arrive — as well as many other abused or neglected farm animals in need of a home.

The couple eventually plan on opening Bufflehead Farm to the public, but by appointment only to start. For Mrs. Stewart, educating about what they’re trying to do at the sanctuary will be a big part of that outreach. “Our hope is to get a lot of school groups in,” she added.]

Being in the Moment

Unconditional Love, Capitalism, and Unmasking the Conditions of Loveability

[The patriarch of my family was a first-generation Italian-American: an anti-fascist, feminist, anarchist sausage-maker. For him, money was the most important thing in the world, but only so that you’d able to give enough of it to your children so that money wouldn’t have to be the most important thing in the world for them. Work is the most important thing in the world, but only so that the next generation doesn’t have to work as hard as you….

…. I order to believe that you deserve the glut of resources and love that comes with being a respectable member of the middle class, you have to erase the true cost of that status—the exchanges, violence, and power that earned you that care. Bourgeois liberals will admit that the world is a violent place, because they’re liberals, and they’ll admit that they did well in that world, because they’re middle class, but hey won’t often admit that succeeding in a violent world must mean employing violence for your own benefit. This is what I mean by erasing transactionality.]

Read the full essay here | CASPAR for THE NEW INQUIRY

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Alain Badiou: a Life in Writing

[Love, says France’s greatest living philosopher, “is not a contract between two narcissists. It’s more than that. It’s a construction that compels the participants to go beyond narcissism. In order that love lasts one has to reinvent oneself.]

In his new book, Badiou writes about his love life. “I have only once in my life given up on a love. It was my first love, and then gradually I became so aware this step had been a mistake I tried to recover that initial love, late, very late – the death of the loved one was approaching – but with a unique intensity and feeling of necessity.” That abandonment and attempt at recovery marked all the philosopher’s subsequent love affairs. “There have been dramas and heart-wrenching and doubts, but I have never again abandoned a love. And I feel really assured by the fact that the women I have loved I have loved for always.”

Read the full story | THE GUARDIAN

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