Kindness

What strikes me is that art has become something that has to do with objects and not with people or with life in our society. Art is a specialty of experts called artists. But why shouldn’t everyone be able to turn their life into a work of art? Why is that lamp, this house a work of art and my life not?

Foucault during an interview with Paul Rabinov, 1984

Reflection

It is time for me to look back on an intensely eventful year. I already wrote several blogs about the coronavirus and the impact on our lives. The touching stories people shared with me regularly reminded me this year of Seneca’s statement:

“Sometimes, even life is an act of courage.”

The word that keeps popping up in my mind this month is “kindness”. I don’t think anyone would disagree with me that we are witnessing a never before seen level of intensity of responses regarding many issues. I often want to comment on posts that I see on social media but I often decide not to. I am afraid I will do more harm than good. We all want to be heard. But very few are willing to think critically about their positions.

Dr. Wayne Dyer wrote eloquently:

“When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.”

What a different world that would be. Kindness is a form of recognition of the Other. Emmanual Levinas says about the Other:

“It is not you who gives the world a place, but it is the Other who speaks to you, appeals and gives you a place.”

To me, indifference violates this vital connection.

Freedom of attitude

I allow myself every day to be challenged by art, literature, music, and poetry to broaden my perspective. The book that was central to me this year, and not for the first time, is ‘Man’s search for meaning’ by Viktor Frankl. In his book, Frankl explains that people have two psychic powers to endure painful and potentially disastrous situations; these are the ability to make decisions and freedom of attitude. Frankl emphasizes that we are not at the mercy of our environment or events, as we dictate how we allow them to mold us. Frankl’s logotherapy is based on the Stoic principle that we can use our willpower to give meaning to our lives, even in the bleakest situations.

A strength

Many people equate “kind” with “soft”. They have not experienced that kindness is a strength, that has the capacity to change the world if enough of us exercise that strength.

Being kind is not always easy. Being kind means caring. It means making an effort as we all do when we choose to listen. It means thinking about giving the Others er what they need without asking or expecting anything in return. It means letting go of my judgments and assumptions and respecting people and situations as they are.

So being kind is not soft; it is a choice and it can help give meaning to our lives. I hope we will all choose more often to be kind. We need it so much!

A random act of kindness, no matter how small, can make a tremendous impact on someone else’s life.”
― Roy T. BennettThe Light in the Heart

Painting: Alessandra Marzatico – Kindness