Reflection: This week, empathy.
If we are to do our best work in the face of constant chaos and change, perhaps we must first hone our inner virtues as guidance. So here in these notes I'll be reflecting on various themes. This week, empathy.
Hearing Voices is an installation created by Katrin Baumgarten, a multisensory experience of the lives lived by those who suffer from auditory hallucinations. Drawing from research indicating that "these often distressing voices are not caused by a malfunction of the brain, but should be understood as a variation in human behaviour, like being left-handed," experiencing Katrin's work allows one to conjure the empathy required to not just understand, but to fully relate.
Sarah Wachter-Boettcher runs the design & communication publication A List Apart. And she's found that for those who make products, fostering empathy is more important than ever. Easier said than done, she notes: "We can’t begin being empathetic when another person arrives. We have to already have made a space in our lives where empathy can thrive. And that means being open—truly open—to feeling emotions we may not want to feel."
It's worth repeating that empathy requires us to confront our own vulnerability, to experience emotions that make us truly uncomfortable. So important, it seems, that Giles Walker spent a year recording the stories of London's homeless, programming them into an animated figure. Perhaps his work makes it clear just how difficult genuine human connection really is. "As I watch him in action on the streets, its not hard to miss the irony.....people will stop and listen to a homeless ‘robot’ but few give the same time to the real thing.”
As part of my own work to hone these virtues, the scarves I'm producing are made and worn with individuals in my life in mind—those who embody the virtues I value. I've started simply by telling their stories alongside each scarf. I'll be doing more, later. For now, simply consider how to make empathy part of your own life. And find both scarves & virtues at www.alwayscomposure.com.