A Coordinated International Institute On Friendshipology

By Billy Lee  Feb. 24, 2016 <WilliamMSLee@gmail.com>

Since becoming an active member of the South Bay Chapter of USCPFA  ( US-China People’s Friendship Association) I have contributed four articles to Voice of Friendship, a publication by Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries.  Although USCPFA focuses on Friendship between US and China, my real interest is indeed in learning about and promoting Cross Cultural Bonding and Friendship world wide – People to People and Person to Person.

The first article was “Homestay – Building Cross Cultural Friendship” (March 2013) Embrace visitors as Friends by opening your home to welcome them.

The second:  “Meaning of Friendship” ( Sept. 2013 ) Mentioned Harvard Prof. Rudy Tanzi’s Super Brain Theory which suggested that we can instruct our brains to make us behave more kindly and more empathetically.

The third: “To Promote Friendship – Be a Friend” ( March 2015 ) A souvenir Fan specially designed with main title on one side of the fan, and a list of  10 Dos and 10 Don’ts on the opposite face – basically about  Caring and Respect vs. Ignorance or Arrogance.

The fourth ( Sept. 2015 ) : “A Special Workshop – To Promote Friendship” at ICAF’s World Children’s Festival, Washington DC on July 4th week.  The idea for a group of International students to create a Declaration of Interdependence popped alive – with an urgent call for a Coordinated International Institute on Friendshipology.

Friendshipology simply means study about Friendship.  It can, however, involve many different cross-disciplines like: History, Religion, Culture, Sociology, Philosophy, Psychology, Anthropology, Physiology, and Brain-science, etc., etc.. Todays’ computer technology can help us extract essentials from Big Data very effectively with Algorithms. Recent educational focus on Emotional Intelligence and Emotional management etc. are also teaching us new social skills.  Beware! Studies simply means gathering knowledge, but knowledge itself can be dangerous when abused.

“ Coordinated International Institute “ has serious purposes.  “International” emphasizes global Perspectives, Practices and Inclusive Collaborations.  The word “Coordinated” suggests “pulling separate efforts together” to compare, and possibly to cross-fertilize. Today, scientists and scholars are doing multi-discipline research in many different areas separately. More Coordinated exchanges and collaborations seem to make good sense.  Establishment of a Coordinated International Institute will also finally signify our recognition of the importance of Friendshipology, which in my opinion is still being largely neglected and has been taken for granted –like Environmental Issues were forty years ago. Environmental issues were not taken seriously or studied holistically until prominent schools on Environment were established.

There is another important dimension requiring Coordination. That is the need to extend pure knowledge to searching for solutions, methodologies, and practices which can transform our goals to habits and to second-natured behaviors. This is possible according to Harvard Prof. Tanzi’s  “Super Brain Theory”.  In discussion about Empathy, Choosing Empathy, Harnessing Empathy, then Making Choices, Stanford Prof. Jamil Zaki, also emphasized the need to complete the three stages of Emphathy First : “Experiencing” –catch another’s distress. Second: “Mentalizing” –rationalize other person’s feelings.  Third: “Feeling Compassionate” – concerned and motivated to take action and help.  Indeed, the ultimate purpose for a Coordinated International Institute on Friendshipology, is to seek ways to affect people with different backgrounds in our World to relate to each other harmoniously under different circumstances. In my simple mind, it’s simply promoting “Good Feelings”.

This last decade, many remarkable studies, experiments, and practices related to Empathy and Social Emotional Intelligence have been developed with help of advanced NeuroScience Technology. Stanford’s Social Neuroscience Lab conducted by Prof. Jamil Zaki has already been mentioned. Laura Delizonna’s Wisdom Lab at Stanford on Mindfulness –borrows some ideas from, Thich Nhat Hanh a very popular Zen Buddhist Monk.  Anabel Jensen, Karen Stone McGown and Susan Stillman’s  SIX –SECONDS – Know/Choose/Give – Emotional Intelligence Network, has provided workshops around the world – including Hangzhou, China.  SIX SECONDS is affiliated with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. Two top high schools in the US -Gunn High in Palo Alto, and Phillips Academy Andover, at Andover, Mass. – lead by Instructor Ronen Habib, and Tang Institute Fellow, Andy Housiaux, respectively – have established  special Emotional Intelligence training programs and Empathy & Balance philosophies for their school communities . Ashoka Foundation’s Start Empathy Initiative is also note worthy. They now have classrooms around the world.  All of the above mentioned can give guidance to the proposed Coordinated International Institute on Friendshipology.

I also like to mention the launching of two very important centers in U.S. this past year. The Berggruen Philosophy and Cultural Center, at the Berggruen Institute Santa Monica, California, was to initiate a special Fellowship Program which will send scholars from around the world to an American or British university for a year followed by a year at Tsinghua and Peking University in Beijing. The aim is to use Philosophy as an East-West Bridge, and to find solutions and not to just underline differences. Yale University this February announced the establishment of the Schwartzman Center to advance intellectual work related to ethnic studies fields; intersectional race, gender, and sexuality research; and Native and Diasporic communities both in US and in other countries. It will sponsor conferences, colloquia, working groups and other programming and help support students and faculty building connections across the country and around the world.

As a retired old Architect, I sadly have no expertise on the actual forming of an effective educational organization.  It would be wonderful if we could tie-in the proposed Coordinated International Institute on Friendshipology with some organizations and scholars like those mentioned above.

Actually, International Institute on Peace Education www.i-i-p-e.org  could possibly be a model to follow. They focus on exchange of theory and practice in Teaching Peace Education. Their stated 3 Purposes are: 1) Development of Substance for Peace Education 2) Build Strategic Alliances and 3) Encourage Regional Cooperation. They hold periodic international conferences at different locations of the World.

A dear friend who truly understands my passion suggested that one might begin with a small Friendshipology Foundation which acts as a resource center and clearing house, and promote Friendshipology by “seeding” the world with dozens or hundreds of independent, local, indigenous “club” s that answer to nobody but themselves. Construct a website which will attract kaleidoscope of different approaches to the common goal. His advice sounds promising, but I will definitely need help from younger friends who are facile with the contemporary media technology to accomplish that.

Desperately I need help, advice, and guidance! Right now, I can only make an urgent call, “ Let us no longer leave Cross-Cultural Friendship to Happenstance. Like Environment, it needs to be better understood, nurtured, and sustained ! “ Indeed, I wish we can create a world where Friendship Has No Borders, and we should seriously work on it as we now work on Environment which has no borders.

We need to have people with will, influence, and creativity from different parts of our World to step up and embrace this challenge. – separately and together !

Please contact me with ideas, comments, and suggestions.

Billy – William Ming Sing Lee 李名信(美国) 

271 West Floresta Way, Portola Valley, Ca.94028  U.S.A.


84 Year old retired Architect

Graduate of Phillips Academy Andover,

Yale College, and Yale School of Architecture

A Founding Member of The 1990 Institute

An Active Member of USCPFA- South Bay Chapter  <USCPFA-SBAY.BLOGSPOT.COM>