In a 1984 interview, French philosopher Michel Foucault questioned the prevailing definition of art as something created by specialists and objects rather than something that could be woven into the fabric of everyday life. “Why is that lamp, this house, a work of art, and my life not?” he asked.
As we navigate an increasingly polarized world, the concept of kindness has been on my mind. I’ve heard stories of pain, trauma, and loss in recent conversations with loved ones. As the Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote, it’s a reminder that “Sometimes, even life is an act of courage.”
In the face of so much turmoil, retreating into our bubbles and clinging to our opinions can be tempting. But as Dr. Wayne Dyer reminds us, “When given a choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.” As philosopher Emmanuel Levinas noted, kindness is a recognition of the Other, a willingness to see and honor their place in the world.
This recognition requires us to step outside of our assumptions and judgments. As Viktor Frankl wrote in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning,” We can choose our attitude toward even the most painful circumstances. In this way, kindness can be a strength, not a weakness.
Of course, being kind is not always easy. It requires us to care, listen, and give without expecting anything in return. But as author, Roy T. Bennett wrote, “A random act of kindness, no matter how small, can make a tremendous impact on someone else’s life.”
Perhaps, then, we can take Foucault’s question as a challenge. How can we turn our lives into works of art, not just for ourselves, but for those around us? How can we infuse our daily interactions with the power of kindness, recognizing the beauty in each person we encounter? It’s a tall order, but one that has the potential to transform our world.
Painting: Alessandra Marzatico – Kindness