Center for Building a Culture of Empathy

   Home    Conference   Magazine   Empathy Tent   Services    Newsletter   Facebook    Youtube   Contact   Search

Join the International Conference on: How Might We Build a Culture of Empathy and Compassion?

Empathic Design
Empathy Circles

  Restorative Empathy Circles
Empathy Tent

Expert Interviews
Obama on Empathy


    Empathy Tests


Culture of Empathy Builder:  Huston Smith

Huston Smith Talks with Edwin Rutsch about Empathy

 An Interview with Huston Smith, religious studies scholar and author of many books on world religions including The World's Religions.

"I'm a seeker after truth. For me empathy is at the heart of love. We humans are empathetic creatures.'

Sub Conference: Interfaith


Huston Smith talks about the importance of empathy
Video taped on May 3, 2010 at his home in Berkeley, California.



Initial Interview Outline

  • Introduce yourself?

    • I'm a seeker after truth,

    • truth about the big picture

    • the qualitative understanding of who we humans and I am

  • What was your experience with learning empathy?

  • Going through your life story of what you learned about empathy?

  • For me empathy is at the heart of love

    • we humans are empathetic creatures

    • in England Ion Seti- researched infants

      • he found Freud was wrong

    • Freud said human drive is sex and aggression

      • he was wrong

    • but the fist need is bonding

    • looking into the adoring eyes parent

    • Baby will drop the  nipples

    • I see empathy at work both ways

    • for a relationship there have to be 2 parties

    • empathy is encouraging this relationship

  • Empathy is the Well Spring of human life

    • tragically - like wells and springs, they can be clogged

    • in a normal healthy life

    • toddlers and on up they know empathy is at arms reach

    • if they fall, there will be someone that will empathize with their sorrow

    • the tears will quickly be replaced with a smile

    • all of that I experienced in my childhood

  • My father was a missionary in China

    • mother was a piano teacher

    • mother was a professional woman

  • I had a Chinese nanny -Ama

    • there was the same kind of empathetic relationship

  • As I grew older -Friendships

    • friendships are build on empathy

    • friendships don't work if we don't know where each other are coming from

    • Empathy powers our lives - in normal development

    • if no empathy something sours

  • Apex of this is marriage

    • the bedrock of our relationship is recognizing and validating the feelings of the other

    • problems are often a misunderstanding that blocked the capacity of empathy

    • I did not recognize the pain I was causing - I did not empathize

  • Playmates have to know about the other - recognize the feeling of others

    • problems spring out of a self centeredness

  • We're you empathetic as a child?

    • I was the favorite child of my parents and I sought that

    • that is a confession

    • good for the soul and bad for the reputation

    • the empathic relationship was palpable with the parents

    • had a close relationship

    • wish it had been evenly divided with brother

Part 2


  • This assignment has me ponder the subject of empathy

  • Kindra, my wife told me a story

    • a friend (Sharon) was studying under a mediation teacher

    • meditation allows an opportunity for stuff to come up

    • if you do not recognize the negative impulses they are sure to come out

    • deal with them reflectively

    • she worked in hospital

    • man came in with a battered infant

    • Sharon told father you are not the only one to have negative impulse

    • the man relaxed

    • it is a paradigm example of empathy -

    • the nurse empathized with the father who battered the child

      • instead of scolding or lecturing

  • I tried to extract with a definition of empathy

    • it is the capacity to sense the other persons feeling as in oneself

    • on balance feelings are more positive than negation

  • This leads me to Daniel Goldman who introduced Emotional Intelligence (EQ)

  • EQ is emotional intelligent

    •  it can recognize all the factors

    • it can put together all the factors

    • and get a sound judgment

  • A group occasion I attended

    • The EQ - I had to size up the situation

    • an everyday situation to show what EQ involves

  • A definition

    • the capacity to experience the feelings of others  as if they are your own

    • feeling what they are feeling

    • without rating as good or bad

  • Love involves empathy - but empathy does not necessarily involve love

    • for love I need to feel her love for me

    • empathy does not mean approval

    • love presupposes empathy

  • How to build a culture of empathy?

    • you could dream no little dream

    • if would could increase empathy a Pico meter it would increase the happiness of our culture

    • Two steps to rasie empathy and compassion

    • 1. slow down - go slower

      • we are trapped in a culture of speed

      • TV is just selling things - with speed

    • 2. Listen - more than you speak

      • speak when you are spoken to or questioned 

      • people are desperate for listeners

    • Meditation as a way of slowing down

    • Stop, Look and Listen  - not bad advice

    • Did you follow the Obama Campaign?

      • yes, this is a time for pride

    • Build recognition of empathy into the education system

    • I don't think legislation is he answer

    • Noise it about and get the topic into the public conversation

    • you are a pioneer in my this your life works

  • Are there questions you have about empathy?

    • bring our minds back to it every day

    • recognizing EQ - will get us further than introducing the word empathy

  • A metaphor of empathy?

    • do unto others

    • a well and spring

  • What is the opposite of empathy?

    • selfishness

    • emotional

    • obtuseness

    • self-centeredness

  • A metaphor for selfishness?

    • maybe the force in physics that attracts object to each other

    • gravity

    • magnetism

  • that fountain ever on - gushing forth empathy

  • What is the relationship between empathy and justice?

    • need to empathize with the victims of injustice

    • the foundation of justice

    • to feel the impact of the law in question on all that it will affect

  • Empathy as bias in justice?

    • when it's accurately in place - EQ brings into view the consequence for everybody

    • empathy does not mean approval

    • empathy is always in order - it is enlarging our understanding of the situation

  • Who do you know that's very empathic?

    • 35 year friendship with Aldus Huxley

    • he was remarkable

    • an encyclopedic intelligence

    • he was an empathic human being

    • had humility

    • the human condition - only advice is to just be a little kinder

  • To live empathically is to live wisely

  • I commend you  for raising the empathy quotient with this documentary project