"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral; returning violence with violence only multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars." - Martin Luther King Jr.
I was watching a television channel’s "breaking news" the other day and what seems to have become the new normal of mass violence and environmental catastrophes. I couldn't help but remember the lines from the movie The Thin Red Line: "This great evil, where's it come from? How'd it steal into the world? What seed, what root did it grow from? Who's doing this? Who's killing us, robbing us of life and light, mocking us with the sight of what we might've known? Does our ruin benefit the earth, does it help the grass to grow, the sun to shine? Is this darkness in you, too? Have you passed through this night?"
What can we do about this new normal? How about random acts of kindness? The phrase "practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty" is a homophone written by Anne Herbert on a placemat in Sausalito, California in 1982. It is based on the chilling phrases of our new normal: “random acts of violence” and “senseless acts of cruelty.” Randomly, the "stage" is always set in the outside world for an "act" of kindness. From a spiritual perspective, as practice, our intent is to be kind but our action will be spontaneous. It is analogous to telling someone a good joke and then laughing out loud with the other--telling the joke is intentional, but the joy of laughter comes from deep within--spontaneously!
"Sure the world breeds monsters, but kindness grows just as wild." - Mary Karr
In spite of, or maybe as a result of, this new norm of violence, I have begun to notice that when I leave my little shack and go into the public, there seems to be a more congenial awareness of our human kinship ( kind, in fact, is related to an old root word cynn "family" or"kin"). I see more "good mornings!" more smiles, maybe more "you go ahead first." I hope this is so, I know I have been saying a lot more "thank yous!"
"Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not." - Samuel Johnson
There is a funny story that happened to me some time ago. I was driving with a friend when I was pulled over by a police officer for going over the speed limit. The officer wrote out a ticket and I said: "Thank you! Please be careful and have a nice day!" The officer looked startled and asked my friend: "What's wrong with him?" My friend answered, " I suppose he's touched!" Lately, when I am at the grocery store, post office or someplace of business and I am finished with a customer service person, I always say to them "have a nice day!" I feel like this is a way to change the current of the present negativity in the world. By changing the "current" I mean becoming more vulnerable, opening myself up to empathy to the other, instead of just keeping to my separate sense of self and just my own needs for the day. It's considering the other. It's "something I can do."
There are many websites now on the internet that give the reader some ideas on practicing random acts of kindness. I came across one that explains the Jewish concept of mitzvah; the word is used to mean a good deed or an act of kindness. Judaism teaches that "the world is built on kindness." I like that author Henry James sums this all up: "Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind."
"Make yourself like a lake with a calm surface and great depths of kindness." - Lao Tzu
P.S. From the little shack: HAVE A NICE DAY!