THE BLOG
03/25/2014 12:22 pm ET Updated May 25, 2014

The Humanizing Element

Sir Ken Robinson said the following on feeling and knowing:

Feeling and knowing are part of the same complex of a whole being. Our feelings are a form of perception. And they are affected by what we think. By our frameworks of ideas. They are affected by how well we can express ourselves and the languages we have available to do that. So part of the task of education is to connect ourselves with ourselves. And I think the reason so many people get depressed and lost is they have lost the connection with themselves.

The role of artists in making new connections, widening our imagination, relaxing and opening our minds, speaking to our feelings, triggering our senses, filling us with joy, making us feel our unresolved pains, giving us comfort, shedding light on injustice, being critical, making us see the world through the eyes of someone else, giving us a mirror of our behavior and so much more, cannot be emphasized too much.

In the United States of America, there's an Arts Advocacy Day every year, where supporters of the arts let their voices be heard to politicians and more importantly to the public at large. One of the highlights of this day is the Nancy Hanks Lecture, where every year a prominent speaker stands up for the arts with a passionate speech. Often held by artists themselves who do their best to convey in words the essence of the miracle we call "arts and culture." This year, on March 24, the Nancy Hanks lecture was given by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. I am very grateful for those people who keep vocalizing the importance of arts and culture.

One of my favorite movies is Les Petits Mouchoirs. In general, the film is about relationships between friends, and how a few hard issues between them have never been discussed. It's about how emotions and frustrations that have evolved over many years have never been dealt with. At their annual group vacation, all these bottled up feelings and emotions come out, which creates tension and distance between the friends. At that precise moment in the movie an artist, in real-life singer Maxim Nucci, arrives at the vacation house of the friends and is asked by them to stay for dinner. The artist accepts the offer and after diner he gets his guitar and plays a song for the troubled group of friends. How often do you talk to your family and friends about things that are important to you, and the things that bother you or keep you awake? How often do friends and family share their innermost feelings with you?

We are talking about the universal power of relationships and why we need to take care of them. There is a new nonprofit organization called Relationships First which has made their main focus making relationships better. The organization consists of therapists, relationship experts, best-selling authors, social entrepreneurs and, mind you, artists. One of the members of the Board of Directors is singer and songwriter Alanis Morisette. One of her songs is called "Underneath," part of the text goes like this:

"There is no difference in what we're doing in here  
That doesn't show up as bigger symptoms out there"

The School of Life is a school founded by philosopher Alain De Botton. According to De Botton, the humanities should help us to live. The School of Life is devoted to developing emotional intelligence through the help of culture. They address such issues as how to find fulfilling work, how to master the art of relationships, how to understand one's past, how to achieve calm and how better to understand and, where necessary change, the world. The School of Life gives Secular Sermons on Sunday, which I love to watch, and can be found on their YouTube channel. If you are unfamiliar with Sunday Sermons of The School of Life, I would suggest you start with a lecture by its founder Alain De Botton on "Art as Therapy."

Richard J. Davidson, PhD is a renowned neuroscientist and founder of the Center For Investigating Healthy Minds. He claims that kindness can best be regarded as a skill. This means that if like me you're not always as friendly as you could be, you can train yourself and learn to become better at that, to be kinder both for yourself and your surroundings. For adults, the positive results and effects of mindfulness or meditation are clear and based on hard scientific proof according to Davidson. The Center for Investigating Healthy Minds is now examining if mindfulness and other constructive mental tools can also be taught to children and if they have a long lasting effect on children. To give you an idea of what mindfulness for children in the classroom might look like, I recommend the following documentary called "Healthy Habits of Mind."

What these three organizations, Relationships First, The School of Life and The Center For Investigating Healthy Minds have in common is they want to give us practical tools that enable us to create more healthy and happy lives for ourselves.

Paul Ekman, psychologist, says that problem of our time is to achieve a global compassion or otherwise run the risk that we will destroy ourselves. Ekman has worked with agencies such as the FBI, the CIA and local police forces. He's a man who can speak out of "hands-on" experience. Ekman and the Dalai Lama are co-authors of a (coming) book called "Moving Towards Global Compassion."

Nelson Mandela concluded his Nobel Peace Prize speech in 1993 with:

Let the strivings of us all, prove Martin Luther King Jr. to have been correct, when he said that humanity can no longer be tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war. Let the efforts of us all, prove that he was not a mere dreamer when he spoke of the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace being more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.
Let a new age be born.