The Oxford Muse (http://muse.prettygetter.tv/)
The Muse was established in 2001 on the basis of ideas developed by Theodore Zeldin. It is registered as a charitable trust in the UK and as a non-profit Foundation in the USA.
The aim is to pioneer new methods to improve personal, professional and intercultural relationships in ways that satisfy both private and public values.
The Muse brings people together who want inspiration to think more imaginatively, to cultivate their emotions through practice of the arts, to understand the past better and to have a clearer vision of the future. The Muses of mythology were not teachers or lawmakers but catalysts who brought excitement and a divine spark into everyday lives, enabling people to see and to say what normally they dared not; they asked not for worship but to be celebrated in festivity, banquets, song and dance. Our aim is to enable people to become muses to one another.
The outcomes we seek
- increased opportunities for individuals to be better understood and respected, using Conversation Meals and new kinds of Self-Portraiture
- redesigning work so that it fulfills contemporary aspirations, through practical experiments inside existing institutions and corporations and by rethinking self-employment
- an improved ability to relate to, and work creatively with, others who have a different specialisation, experience or opinion, through our conversation-courses on Misunderstanding, Collaboration and our projected postgraduate MCA.
- friendlier relationships between the sexes, with more imaginative awareness of the diversity of human potential, which all our projects aim to encourage
- greater understanding within families of the aspirations of each member, and more respect across generations, using self-portraits which are often a revelation to families where open conversation is a rarity
- collaboration between civilisations, through the breaking down of stereotypes, and the discovery of what they have in common and what they can do together
- the dissemination of a broader general culture, and greater ability to integrate more branches of knowledge, which is the aim of the MCA
- new roles for those who are accused of no longer being young, through our rethinking of the pensions and insurance
- increased mutual trust in businesses, cities and other communities, our Conversations are increasingly being used as a preliminary to achieving this
- a supplement to what can be achieved by universities, networks or self-development. We are not competing with other organisations, but exploring what has not yet been attempted.
The Conversation Menu
The Muse organises Conversation Meals at which you are seated in pairs with someone you have never met, or know only very vaguely. You are each given a Menu of Conversation that looks like a restaurant menu, with starters, fish, grills, dessert etc, but instead of descriptions of food dishes, each heading contains topics to talk about, 25 in all.
A Muse introduces the meal and explains how to proceed and the rules of what is more than a game. Each of you chooses a topic, and when you have finished discussing it, the other chooses a topic and so you go through the Menu. That normally takes two hours, though we have known it to last seven hours.
We have been amazed by how quickly the conversations become animated, and how interesting and memorable the event becomes. You get to know a stranger very well, and find that you are learn a lot about yourself too, in discussing such topics as ambition, curiosity, fear, friendship, the relations of the sexes and of civilisations.