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Empathy Cafe Newsletter
Building a Culture of Empathy and Compassion

   Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each otherís eyes for an instant?  Henry David Thoreau

February 7, 2010    Vol 1, Issue 2

a sense of empathy - is one that I find myself appreciating more and more as I get older. It is at the heart of my moral code, and it is how I understand the Golden Rule - not simply as a call to sympathy or charity, but as something more demanding, a call to stand in somebody elseís shoes and see through their eyes. Like most of my values, I learned about empathy from my mother. 
Barack Obama, Audacity of Hope

2009-10-14 - President Obama Observes Diwali & Calls for Empathy
Full Obama
on Empathy

(2 hr)


Building a Culture of Empathy

Greetings, friends. Here's the second issue of the Newsletter. Hopefully I'll be able to start sending it out every couple weeks or so.

One of my goals is to create a hub of information to keep you informed on recent developments about empathy. I monitor and sort the daily flow of information (articles, books, experts, speakers, videos and events) about empathy and compassion that passes over the Internet. I am actively gathering stories and insights through video interviews from a wide variety of people for a documentary. A couple of us are pulling together a team to organize the next Empathy Cafe event. There's a lot going on, and you're invited to contribute your articles and stories to future editions.

Until now, I've been doing more of an open-ended questing or seeking type of exploration and have collected and organized the material on my website. I find myself thinking more and more about how to actually build a culture of empathy -- What are the actual steps and social structures that can be set up in our personal lives and in society that will support a culture of empathy? I personally still have a lot to learn in this area and will share what I learn in upcoming newsletters.

I've got a new t-shirt printed that says, "Tell me about Empathy", so my photo will be changing soon. I find my self thinking less and less about the political labels such as, progressive or conservative and focusing more on the values themselves. I look forward to hearing from you.


Edwin Rutsch

Empathy Cafe





Join the Next Empathy Cafe Planning Meeting

We are now planning the next Empathy Cafe meetings, the goal being to contribute to Building a Culture of Empathy and Compassion by producing a series of monthly Empathy Cafes, consisting of a presentation by an 'empathy expert' speaker followed by a World Cafe style discussion forum. This is a way to develop support for empathy in our community by creating a space for personal growth, education, networking, community organizing and responsible social action. Our last Empathy Healthcare Cafe generated a lot of positive energy. We need to keep it growing.

Visit the meeting page for more details.
      Planning Meeting Date; February 20th
      Location: Judith's Home in Rockridge
Signup now on OFA
      In addition meet online on our Yahoo Discussion list.

Here's what we need to get started:
1. A Committed Planning Team
     2. A meeting space for at least 100 people
        (Anyone know of a good space in or around the Berkeley area?)

Some possible speakers we can contact would be George Lakoff, Dacher Keltner and the team from the UC Berkeley Greater Good Center, Riane Eisler, Bay NVC trainers, etc.

Californians for Empathy and Democracy
An ideal speaker would be George Lakoff.  He sparked the initiative, Proposition for California Majority Rule, which is a one-sentence proposition to overturn the 2/3rds rule for passing a budget in California.   This initiative, which is now collecting signatures, has empathy at its core.  Here is what George wrote:

George Lakoff

"Democracy is about empathy - caring about your fellow citizens, which leads to the principles of freedom and fairness for all. Empathy requires both personal and social responsibility. The ethic of excellence means making the world better by making yourself better, your family better, your community better, and your nation better. Government has two moral missions: protection and empowerment for all. To carry them out, government must be by, for, and of the people."   From the article,  Where's the Movement? on Huffington Post

I hope you'll join the organizing team for producing the next Empathy Cafťs.

Stories and Insights

Dominic Barter

Interviews Now Online

In my effort to research and gather personal stories and insights about empathy, I recently attended four workshops and conferences; a Nonviolent Communication Mediation Workshop, Dominic Barter's Restorative Circles Workshop, Engaging the Other: Power of Compassion Conference and the Existential Humanistic Institute Conference. I've finished uploading around 60 video clips of 25 interviews from these conferences and they are now viewable on my Youtube Channel.  These interviewees kindly shared a wide variety of stories, perspectives and insights about their personal experiences with empathy. Here are links to a few of the individual and unique interviews to help move our exploration along.

Empathy and ...
  Empathy Documentary: Larry Rosen - Empathy is like a Magic Mirror (3 of 4)    
Restorative Circles Creativity Magic Presence Mediation
Empathy Documentary:  Cindy Tucker on Empathy      
Pain Psychology Cooking Presence
Divine Energy Conflict Spaciousness  Role Playing


Empathy Experts


Carl Rogers




Mary Gordon



Marshall Rosenberg



Riane Eisler



Marco Iacoboni




Karen Armstrong



V. S. Ramachandran



 Nancy Eisenberg




Leah Green



New Empathy Experts Webpage

I've put together a webpage with a growing list of 'Empathy Experts'. These are people doing social, academic and scientific work and/or who have written books, etc. on the theme. This page has a collection of around 50 people so far. I would like to interview as many of these experts as possible for my documentary project. Check the list and let me know if someone should be added.

Because someone studies or writes a book on the topic of empathy doesn't necessarily mean that they deeply manifest it in all parts of their lives. My partner Joan keeps reminding me that sometimes I'm  ďthe most unempathetic person around. Some people spend time studying certain aspects of life and don't spend time living it."  The real experts are of course the people that daily manifest these qualities in their personal lives with the people they interact with. I'd like to find and interview people that embody a great deal of empathy in their daily personal lives and put together video profiles about them as well.
Who are the personal experts that you know?

Featured Expert

Jeremy Rifkin
Economist, writer, public speaker and activist.

Today I'm featuring Jeremy Rifkin -- he has just released a new book titled The Empathic Civilization. He also posted an article on the Huffington Post about how empathy relates to the Earthquake in Haiti, so that is timely.

I recently went to Jeremyís talk in Sonoma, CA on January 24th and videotaped it. The video is about 1 hour and 20 minutes with Q & A. Itís been uploaded to Youtube, but his office asked I hold off making it public until the publisher OKs it. Hope that happens soon. I had a few minutes to talk with Jeremy while I was miking him for audio and later when he was signing my copy of his book. He was quite interested in the empathy documentary project and I'm contacting his staff to see how we can collaborate. He also mentioned that Huffington Post will be doing a month of discussions based on his book. So keep an eye out for that.

I feel this will be a significant book in helping to generate a national dialog about empathy. The book is huge, with over 600 pages. The introduction and first chapter are viewable directly online on his website at EmpathicCivilization.com. Jeremy told me it took him 4 and a half years to put it together. The books covers a lot and pulls together many threads from; history, philosophy, science, child education, psychology, etc. and ties it in with distributed energy and communications trends to boot. The research is amazing; I just started chapter seven and have nine more to go.

Jeremy's work lays a significant corner stone into the foundation of a new Empathic Civilization. Following are some more links to videos, radio interviews and articles you can check out.



Interview in Washington
A short overview of the book.


At Praxis Peace Institute in Sonoma, CA
While I don't have the full video publicly available yet, here's the introduction to the talk by Georgia Kelly, the president of Praxis Peace Institute, the organization that sponsored the event. January 24, 2010


KCTS 9 Connects: Jeremy Rifkin Interview
" with host Enrique Cerna. Jeremy Rifkin, author of The Empathic Civilization, argues that people are more empathetic by nature than historians give us credit, and how science is shattering the myth of human beings as materialistic, selfish beings.

Radio Interviews

Michael Krasny - KQED Radio interview
"European adviser and author Jeremy Rifkin challenges the notion that people are innately selfish and materialistic. In his new book, "The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis," he alleges that our future rests on our ability to function as an empathic society. We talk with Rifkin about his call for a "third Industrial Revolution." January 25, 2010

The Bob Edwards Show - XMradio inteview
"Social thinker and author Jeremy Rifkinís book The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis looks at emerging scientific studies that show humans are not naturally aggressive and self-interested, but fundamentally empathetic.  Rifkinís book is a new interpretation of the history of civilization, focusing on the development of human empathy through the present time. " January 31, 2010

Here are three recent articles written by Jeremy for the Huffington Post. There's also an enthusiastic article about the book by Arianna Huffington.

For this month's HuffPost Book Club, I have chosen a big book -- both figuratively and literally. Jeremy Rifkin's The Empathic Civilization clocks in at close to 700 pages and sets out to present nothing less than -- as Rifkin puts it -- "a new rendering of human history and the meaning of human existence. ...

Please read The Empathic Civilization and join in our month-long discussion about it. Not only will Jeremy Rifkin be regularly blogging about the issues his book raises, we will also be featuring posts from over 30 of the world's leading scientists, scholars, and public policy intellectuals in a many fields, which will allow us to have a robust and informed discussion on what it will take to create and nurture a truly empathic civilization.


The Empathic Civilization: Rethinking Human Nature in the Biosphere Era


 Two spectacular failures, separated by only 18 months, marked the end of the modern era. In July 2008, the price of oil on world markets peaked at $147/ barrel, inflation soared, the price of everything from food to gasoline skyrocketed, and the global economic engine shut off.

The Earthquake That Triggered A Global Empathic Response:
    What The Haitian Crisis Tells Us About Human Nature

Frantic tweets and videos have been seeping out of Haiti, pleading for help from the rest of the human race in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake that leveled one of the poorest countries on the planet, spreading destruction and death.

Why Have We Become So Uncivil?
When we talk about civility, we are really talking about empathy: the willingness to listen to another's point of view, to put one's self in another's shoes and to emotionally and cognitively experience what they are feeling and thinking. To civilize is to empathize.

SF Examiner

Filmmaker Edwin Rutsch Documents President Obama speaking about Empathy  

Teresa Rose wrote an article about the Empathy Video Project for the Online San Francisco Examiner. She writes a weekly column about mediation and has used links to several of my videos for her articles. Teresa's a life coach and holds workshops on Empathic Communication in San Mateo, California.

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