On Tuesday I had a conversation with one of my yoga students after class about kindness and about “being good.” I had admitted, at the beginning of the class, when faced with a group simply buzzing with holiday-induced stress, that I’m a bit of a Christmas novice due to my Jewish heritage. I told them that it made me sad to see them so frazzled during what is, ostensibly, such a festive time of year, and I invited them to use our little hour practice as a time to let in a bit more joy. And at the end, as he was leaving, one of my “regulars” remarked to me, “You know, I don’t know if it’s like this for you and your background, but I was raised Catholic, and after all of that formal *stuff* I had to deal with, the only thing I ever wanted to tell my kids was this: be good.”
And I told him that I grew up with that, as well. Just…be good. Be kind. It sounds simple–simplistic, even. But, really, I think it’s far more difficult to be these things than to follow even the most convoluted of dogmas. Easy to say, hard to do.
So… I’ve only read a few news articles from the NY Times, and I feel like I have heard all that I need to hear. (Once again, I’m thanking my lucky stars that we have no cable or satellite tv.) Facebook feeds have exploded, unsurprisingly, and in my minds-eye I can picture the maelstrom of television headlines, special reports (complete with their own logo), the vulture-like circling of hungry-eyed news casters kept awake by their networks only to repeat the same bits of tragic information while dangling the assumption that more titillating details will soon emerge. Am I close to accurate? I hope not…but probably, yes, I am.
We torture ourselves with 24-hour news streams, as though by gluing our eyes to the television or by sending prayers on facebook we can somehow absolve ourselves of survivor’s guilt or the realization that we’ve been focusing on Christmas shopping instead of writing our congressmen about BIG… IMPORTANT… issues. But we are none of us psychic predictors of the future or inventors of time machines, and no amount of communal self-flagellation will bring back the lives of 28 innocent people.
So here’s what I think… This is not the time for prayer–or for the posting of links to studies and statistics in the effort to change or enlighten minds, for that matter. In the wake of yet another absurdly unnecessary tragedy, the best that we can do is re-examine our priorities. Be good. Be kind. We can allow that kindness to replace righteousness, finally. It seems like such a small thing, and it is. And that’s exactly my point.
For me, in all practicality, kindness is the small things. It means giving a student a hug when she’s shared something heartbreaking after class. It means bringing my own bags to the grocery store. It means paying my taxes graciously, and it means valuing the sanctity of human life (humans born, skin touching air) and the human experience above all else. And I just wonder what would happen if everyone decided, finally, to give (or, give over) just a bit for the sake of simple kindness. We don’t all have to be Mother Theresa, and, honestly, that shouldn’t be necessary. But what would happen, really, if, for example, everyone recycles most of the time, if we decide that it’s ok to let go of a few colonial era “freedoms” for sake of the safety of our children, or if we allow ourselves to soften into the practice of democracy rather than stampeding forward to “fight” for it? Give a little, get a lot. We won’t need heroes to swoop in and save us if only we can agree that it’s time for the small kindnesses that will allow us to save ourselves.
I could go on. I could go on and outline exactly how all that I’ve said above should play out in the minds of those who lobby against gun control or those who vehemently protest against making their necessary contribution to the financial viability of our nation. Or, especially, for those who think that the only solution to our nation’s problems is righteous chest pounding, all while taking the supposed fight for our freedoms elsewhere. Instead, I’m going to resist (mostly) pounding my own chest over this since I know there are plenty out there ready to do that for me. Instead, for now, I simply want to ask–no, implore–any one-issue gun enthusiast voters for a deep breath, an unclenching of fists, and a small concession of kindness.
Please. And thank you.
“But most of all, the Great Society is not a safe harbour, a resting place, a final objective, a finished work. It is a challenge constantly renewed, beckoning us toward a destiny where the meaning of our lives matches the marvellous products of our labour.” –Lyndon B. Johnson, The Great Society
“For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.” –Khalil Gibran, The Prophet