Today, as the holiday season is in the ascendency for so many, I want to ponder “kindness” once more.
A moment of kindness, given and received.
Sometimes, with the really grand precepts – the ones on which the really big ideas rest, like morality, ethics, trust, faith – the force of the thing is too great to be expressed positively. Like the word “peerless.” Or Gandhi’s “ahimsa.” Ahimsa expresses the complete absence of violence or use of force. The complete absence. Gone utterly, from thought, from word, from deed. The Sanskrit is translated as “nonviolence.”
So, as a blogmate friend has recently written, the absence of kindness may be expressed in hurt, anger, and rage. She writes:
“[B]eing treated unkindly . . . can break someone, human or animal. How many broken people lash out and do serious emotional damage (or worse) to themselves and those around them because they were treated poorly for so long that they finally just gave up on others? How many animals do the same? Every time I hear about a dog attack . . . or hear the rage-filled screech of a cat lashing out at her handlers, I wonder . . . . How badly did that [animal] have to be treated to be unable to bear the sight of a human being any longer?”
Bugs can’t stand even the thought.
In its absence, are we to be condemned as lost causes? if, in our early years, we were not treated with enough kindness? Does this mean we must carry that legacy of unkindness forward to this day and into future generations, broken-backed, enslaved and oppressed by this thick, dense burden of hurt, rage, and despair?
For some, this is tragically so. Many, many more of us do our valiant best not to succumb.
For those of us invited into kindness by our animals’ shining example, though, we are the lucky ones. We are the ones who have become extra-sensitive to kindness’ absence. We want kindness and we will accept no substitutes.
Here I want to do more than want. I want to make that kindness concrete. I want to think of kindness as a skill, one that can be learned, practiced, and exercised – just as surely as muscles can be built.
My FELDENKRAIS® background has schooled me to believe that our bones are the bedrock. It’s my belief that on that foundational awareness, kindness can be built. I think this is true metaphorically, in the sense that kindness may be in our basic nature – but that’s a theory that can’t be proven, or relied-on, with any degree of certainty. Maybe I’m talking more about an idea of core-ness. We feel things “in our bones.”
But I’m thinking about bones as more than just abstract metaphor. I mean this also physically. It’s important to be aware of the perfectly engineered structure that is our skeleton. With that awareness, in my experience, we can connect with an inner sense of basic trust. We can rest in that trust, take repose, be at ease. We can take heart. Through our bones, we are organized, contained, supported. Our soft parts are held and protected. We can “have backbone.”
Kindness, on the other hand, can be thought of as muscle.
Not quite the muscle I had in mind.
Muscle more like this.
So kindness, then, like muscle, can be grown. The seeds of kindness can be cultivated. They can be planted, watered, fed. The weeds that grow in their absence can be detected, acknowledged, and then be left unfed, eclipsed. The flower of kindness can burst into fruit, a hardy nourishing force.
This, Bugsy is very glad to hear.
In my next post (or as soon after as I can swing it), I want to describe more about the nuts and bolts of how this farming project works. Now, though, I need to go get the clothes washed. Reminds me of Jack Kornfield’s After Ecstacy, The Laundry. “Even after achieving realization, we are faced with the day-to-day task of translating that freedom into our imperfect lives. We are faced with the laundry.”
Bugs does not do laundry. He leaves that to Nekoka and Sassafrass.