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The Oxford Muse

Make Your Own Portrait

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. It’s aim is to pioneer new methods to improve personal, professional and intercultural relationships in ways that satisfy both private and public values.

We enable people to create written self-portraits which express what they want others to know about them. We help them to clarify their tastes, attitudes and goals in many different aspects of life; and to sum up the conclusions they have drawn from their experiences in their own words. Our goal is to create portraits from all nations, to discover who inhabits the earth.

The world is filled with polite, shy, inscrutable, unintelligible, tight lipped, superficial, dishonest and also honest people who for one reason or another do not say what they think. The search for freedom of speech has barely begun. Many do not reveal their thoughts because they are not sure what they think. Many would be braver in their speech if they were more certain of a sympathetic hearing. Many, particularly in places where success depends on conformity, are schooled to be hypocrites. The hidden thoughts in other people’s heads are the great darkness that surrounds us.

Illuminating that darkness could be the great adventure of our new century, both through brain and cognitive science which have suddenly made enormous strides in unravelling the processes of thought, and through changes in our habits. Our attitude to free communication is still shaped by the Enlightenment which believed that superstition and prejudice were the main obstacles to clear thinking and that education and legislation were enough to liberate it. But understanding the implications and motivations of what others say is still a challenge. We need a second Enlightenment to penetrate the many darknesses that remain.

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