Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.
-Naomi Shihab Nye
[Ralph Steadman art]
In spite of this worldwide system of linkages, there is, at this very moment, a general feeling that communication is breaking down everywhere, on an unparalleled scale…what appears [in the media] is generally at best a collection of trivial and almost unrelated fragments, while at worst, it can often be a really harmful source of confusion and misinformation.
He terms this “the problem of communication” and writes:
Different groups … are not actually able to listen to each other. As a result, the very attempt to improve communication leads frequently to yet more confusion, and the consequent sense of frustration inclines people ever further toward aggression a and violence, rather than toward mutual understanding and trust.
More from Maria Papova/brainpickings and David Bohm:
“It is clear that if we are to live in harmony with ourselves and with nature, we need to be able to communicate freely in a creative movement in which no one permanently holds to or otherwise defends his own ideas.
Language is collective. Most of our basic assumptions come from our society, including all our assumptions about how society works, about what sort of person we are supposed to be, and about relationships, institutions, and so on. Therefore we need to pay attention to thought both individually and collectively.
“Dialogue” comes from the Greek word dialogos. Logos means “the word,” or in our case we would think of the “meaning of the word.” And dia means “through” — it doesn’t mean “two.” A dialogue can be among any number of people, not just two. Even one person can have a sense of dialogue within himself, if the spirit of the dialogue is present. The picture or image that this derivation suggests is of a stream of meaning flowing among and through us and between us. This will make possible a flow of meaning in the whole group, out of which may emerge some new understanding. It’s something new, which may not have been in the starting point at all. It’s something creative. And this shared meaning is the “glue” or “cement” that holds people and societies together.
Contrast this with the word “discussion,” which has the same root as “percussion” and “concussion.” It really means to break things up. It emphasizes the idea of analysis, where there may be many points of view, and where everybody is presenting a different one — analyzing and breaking up. That obviously has its value, but it is limited, and it will not get us very far beyond our various points of view. Discussion is almost like a ping-pong game, where people are batting the ideas back and forth and the object of the game is to win or to get points for yourself…
In a dialogue, however, nobody is trying to win. Everybody wins if anybody wins. There is a different sort of spirit to it. In a dialogue, there is no attempt to gain points, or to make your particular view prevail. Rather, whenever any mistake is discovered on the part of anybody, everybody gains. It’s a situation called win-win, whereas the other game is win-lose — if I win, you lose. But a dialogue is something more of a common participation, in which we are not playing a game against each other, but with each other. In a dialogue, everybody wins.”
[Illustration by Ralph Steadman for Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451.’]
“Character is higher than intellect. Thinking is the function. Living is the functionary… A great soul will be strong to live, as well as strong to think.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
[A] great influence into the spirit of the scholar, is, the mind of the Past, — in whatever form, whether of literature, of art, of institutions, that mind is inscribed. Books are the best type of the influence of the past… The theory of books is noble. The scholar of the first age received into him the world around; brooded thereon; gave it the new arrangement of his own mind, and uttered it again… It was dead fact; now, it is quick thought. It can stand, and it can go. It now endures, it now flies, it now inspires. Precisely in proportion to the depth of mind from which it issued, so high does it soar, so long does it sing.
I do not see how any man can afford, for the sake of his nerves and his nap, to spare any action in which he can partake. It is pearls and rubies to his discourse. Drudgery, calamity, exasperation, want, are instructers in eloquence and wisdom. The true scholar grudges every opportunity of action past by, as a loss of power. It is the raw material out of which the intellect moulds her splendid products.
Character is higher than intellect. Thinking is the function. Living is the functionary. The stream retreats to its source. A great soul will be strong to live, as well as strong to think…’
More framer Cultural Ambassador Maria Papova/brainpickings:
‘…till you remember that you are a blessed piece of spirit-dust in spirit-wind.
Now more than ever, you must breathe till your ounce of breath becomes the sky, again and again.’
‘We are on the verge of possibility. The individual or nation without a vision must perish until the vision is reborn.
What is our vision going to be in the midst of confusion, doubt, and uncertainty? It is either going to fall before the confusion and be destroyed, or something transcendent within us is going to rise and look to a certain future, to an eternal Reality, to a god-principle – – to an Infinite Presence, responding to us according to our acceptance.
There is no individual good. Good belongs to everyone. Good fulfills itself only as it multiplies itself; therefore, there is no good that belongs to you and to me alone, not final peace to us only as individuals.
The watchword is not exclusion but inclusion, and the more good we release, the more good we experience.’
-Science of Mind
“You may have expected that enlightenment would come like zap! Instantaneous and permanent. This is unlikely. After the first ‘aha,’ it can be thought of as the thinning of a layer of clouds.”
Every pilgrim on a journey feels the exhilaration and glow of being liberated. Then, as the work of the new world becomes real and trying, there arises a want to go back to where we lived before awakening. Because in the challenge of growing, we can feel, “Oh, God, this is too hard. I just want to go back to before I was aware.”
Even we we give ourselves completely to life’s journey, there’s always a dweller on the threshold, trying to distract us from what matters, just as we arrive. Like those among the Jews who, after leaving Egypt and experienced freedom, went to Moses to say, “We really hate the desert. What do you say we go back? Sure, we were slaves but it was clean and were fed. It wasn’t so bad, was it?”
This undertow of consciousness is understandable and inevitable. Life always seems to progress by the expansion of revelation and the contraction of hard work.
As we awaken more deeply into the pilgrimage of the heart, there are always new things to lift and new things to build. It’s not just, “Oh, we’re awake! Isn’t everything wonderful?” The path of wakefulness is rugged and slippery every step of the way.
As we negotiate the real work of staying awake, we need to be vigilant with the pilgrim in us who wants to move forward and kind with the fearful one in us who wants to go back. For all I’ve learned, for all my wakefulness and sensitivity, for all the turns in my journey, there’s always a small voice in me ready to say, “Let’s go back. It’s easier to hide.”
This is a crooked path to enlightenment: two steps forward, one step back; two days of being heartened, one day of being disheartened. This is the dynamic of being alive. This is what we work with and for.
Science of Mind
“Gandhi said, ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’ Let’s use that same formula and say, ‘Be the peace you want to see in the world.’ When we are the peace in the midst of the turmoil, we open up to receive the gifts of the Spirit.
In this peace we are divine instruments through which the all good of God flows to us, through us, and as us.”