It’s Time for a Cross-cultural Institute on Friendshipology

William Ming Sing Lee

At a special workshop “ To Promote Friendship” (ICAF’s World Children’s Festival, in Washington DC on July 4th week 2015)  my colleagues and I came up with this idea for a group of International students to discuss together the meaning of Friendship, compose a Declaration of Interdependence and sketch out a plan for an Ideal International Cross-cultural Institute on Friendshipology.

Friendshipology simply means study about Friendships and Relationships.  It can involve many different cross-disciplines like : History, Religion, Culture, Sociology, Philosophy, Psychology, Anthropology, Neurology, and even Physiology –studying Facial expressions and Body postures. There is so much knowledge and data to be gathered, but todays’ computer technology can help us extract essentials from Big Data very effectively with Algorithms.  Beyond gathering knowledge, our challenge is to search for solutions, methodologies, and exercises which can transform our knowledge to goals, to practices, to habits, which become our good second nature.

Today, scientists and scholars are doing multi-discipline research in many different areas separately and collectively.  I read quite a bit recently about Empathy, Social Emotional Intelligence, Gratefulness, and Happiness, etc. – all important factors in initiating, nurturing, and sustaining Friendship. The following scientists and educators deeply impressed me:

Prof Jamil Zaki , Director of Stanford University’s Neuroscience Lab. on Empathy – Choosing, Harnessing, then Making Choices.  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, Ca. 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.   Finally, Dr. Kerry Howells’  “Gratitude in Education – Mind & Its Potential “- binds Thanking with Thinking. Deep.

Truly significant encouragement came from Harvard Professor Rudolph Tanzi’s  “Super Brain Theory”, which basically suggested that we can train our brains to think positive by practice, and another encouraging discovery was Eboo Patel’s  Interfaith Youth Core – working toward inclusivity by breaking the barriers of religious divisions. His writing and talks have been amazingly effective and inspirational. Indeed, the ultimate purpose for an Ideal International Institute on Friendshipology, is to seek ways to affect people with different backgrounds in our World to relate to each other with “Good Feelings” under most circumstances.

I am indeed passionate about this idea on Studying Friendship – how to initiate, nurture, and sustain what I simply call “Good Feelings”, and my passion comes from seeing much of the world’s chaos caused mainly by people who do not get along and have not learned the Spirit and the Art & Science in building Harmonious Relationships -“ The Necessary Lubricant For All Human Activities In This World ”, as I see it  !

Like Environmental Issues forty years ago, Friendship today has largely been left to Happenstance. Environmental issues were not taken seriously or studied globally and holistically until prominent schools on Environment were established. Isn’t it time now to start focusing on the creation of An Ideal International Cross-cultural Institute on Friendshipology ?

As a retired old Architect, I personally have no expertise on the creation of a new Think-tank – research center, but I am absolutely convinced that it should be done, it can be done, and it will be done by inspired, creative, and dedicated people from various corners of this world to take up this Challenge.

Attached: A design of a souvenir ( Friendship Fan ) given out at the ICAF’s World Children’s Festival.  “ To Promote Friendship – Be A Friend “ on one face.  “Ten Do s and Ten Don’t s”  on the other face. ( Fans For Fanning Friendship )   See below.