Or, The long road to meaning something or other maybe
|May 30||Public post|| 1|
Kindness is having a moment right now, what with the world’s largest bully taking over the world’s most powerful country and literally putting babies in cages. Things aren’t looking much better over here. When you’re living in the worst timeline you want to feel there’s light at the end of the shit tunnel.
But back to the list. The list was part of a newsletter, from the now-defunct website The Awl, called Everything Changes. Written by Laura Olin, it sought to chronicle the small motivational wonders of everyday life. Each week Olin would ask her readers a question, and each week hundreds of them would respond with advice to their teenage selves, or magic coincidences, or, in this case, tiny kindnesses that lifted the spirit and embiggened the man. It was and is a very good thing.
I look at this list a lot.
In 2013 the author George Saunders gave the convocation speech at Syracuse University. In it he shared a story about watching a new classmate fail to assimilate into the larger group, a deliberately unremarkable sequence in his life that, in his inimitable way, he finished with this remarkable observation.
What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.
Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded . . . sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.
Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?
Those who were kindest to you, I bet.
It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.
Try to be kinder. When I was flailing about the ocean of my mind, looking for an anchor, this was all I could find that made sense of life. It was the only thing I could think of that justified my being here. The idea that, for all my incredible flaws, I was, at heart, a kind person. We’re all here doing the best with what we have, and the only undeniable truth is it’d be a damn sight easier if we just upped the general level of kindness for everyone across the board.
Or as Kurt Vonnegut wrote in God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater:
Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.
I will continue to try and be kinder, both to you and to myself.
LISTEN: 5 by SAULT (Soundcloud)