Community should assemble ‘handmade prayer flags’

Empathy is the answer to many of society’s ills.

In her poem, “Flare,” Mary Oliver wrote: “A lifetime is not long enough for the beauty of the world and the responsibilities of your life.” Increasingly another thing is true. A lifetime is not long enough to address our deepest concerns and keep up with daily demands. Issues such as global warming, homelessness, the opioid crisis, gun violence, health care and immigration all reflect a common thread of concern.

These everyday realities are influenced by the undertow of a broken political system and an inequitable economy that focuses on self-serving corporate interests. It is the lack of empathy, intimacy, compassion, vitality, and respect for life, which is present in our political and economic systems, that prevents us from addressing these multiple crises. No longer are the problems happening over there or somewhere else. We are being directly impacted and it is increasingly evident that something is weighing heavy on all our hearts.

Might a tactile, impromptu, self-organizing, and collaborative assembling of handmade prayer flags, which show what weighs heavy on us personally, capture the beauty of humanizing experiences of empathy? A counterbalance could be a personal prayer, which is added to the flag. More than a hopeful message, it is an expression of a sentiment of love in addressing the problem to be healed. This may not be a solution to the individual crises, but empathy could create a space above and beyond the ways we have been conditioned to think, which is where the answers lie.

— Suzanne Hubbard