Little Kindnesses (warning, first section is quite dismal)

My 4am fretting the other morning was about how little kindnesses keep us all human. I was half dreaming a quite disturbing state of mind where I had spiralled off the bottom of the ladder into the sort of dangerous mess that society would naturally shun. I was all over a bleak tangle of spikey shards, shattered and hopeless, and it felt like I would never recover until the day I died, shut off for ever from the warmth of other human contact. The only way this debased, dehumanised, abject condition could be ameliorated – so my thought process ensued – was the shaft of light brought by some small kindness shown by someone, anyone. Just a brief gesture of sympathy, of understanding, a touch, a smile, something unironic, a simple reaching out, even just for a moment. This kindness wouldn’t have saved me – not charity to place me back on the straight and narrow in a practical way. My imagined state of removal from normal life was too far gone for that. This was all I could hope for, and so given, I would be reminded that I am still human, that there is still something connecting me to some sort of salvation, or redemption – at least in my own mind.

Then in a lighter frame of mind (the dismal one only lasted an instant), I dwelled on little kindnesses, and how we may forget to act them for what ever reasons of busyness, embarassment, lack of courage, past rebuttals, ingrained selfishness, etc – and how easily they can be to do, and how rewarding they can feel. The sort of small acts that have no strings attached – you’re not trying to look good, score brownie points, manipulate somebody, and so on – almost an involuntary move to help somebody else. I optomistically believe that the human genetic makeup is wired for us to find the capacity for this, even seemingly out of nowhere, and that this  doesn’t depend on the motivation of Christian or other faith either, but that our religions have grown out of what we already naturally are. That this goes awry in people is unfortunately true, but is that more likely of a non-believer as it is in a Christian? Discus (sic).

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4 Responses to Little Kindnesses (warning, first section is quite dismal)

  1. ian russell says:

    I don’t know. I mean, it’s always more complicated than we can think – I believe that is the latest comprehension. I battle daily with small acts of forgiveness. A kind of kindness?

    I really hope all is well with you, John. You’ve got me worried.

  2. johnnynorms says:

    I am honestly fine Ian – maybe I look down the abyss a little too much sometimes. These things usually come on the back of some bad dream or other. But I often think too much – usually about relatively lighter things.

    Forgiving is the key word isn’t it? If someone deep down still has the desire for forgiveness or redemption, then they aren’t that far gone. What troubles me is the idea of a person who has so little thought for other people, that they seem to have lost all their humanity. The day after I wrote this, I saw a news item about a cold-blooded murder, and the perpetrator was apparently so callous and calculating, that the little kindness would ping off his rhinoceros skin, accompanied by chilling laughter. If my life had been blighted by someone like that, could I forgive them when it would seem to make no difference at all to his outlook whether I did or not. I think it would be important to me and my soul. If I forever hated him, I might become more like him. If I forgave him, I would hope (however forlorn) he became more like me. The ideal of Jesus Christ is somebody who will always, always forgive. Forgiving the person, not the act ofcourse. I wonder if he was really like that – the ideal persists though…and I’m personally far from ideal.

    Hmm..Frippery next post, I promise!

  3. ian russell says:

    That guy sounds insane.

    You mentioned doing some printmaking – have you done any yet? I’m half way through but have only produced silly examples so far. The idea is to learn the techniques and go off and create masterpieces in our own time. If only.

  4. johnnynorms says:

    When I get too bogged down by the evil in the world, I can think of no better antidote than to search out a bit of Ken Campbell – talking about anything. An eccentric one-off, and very sane.

    Printmaking…nooo. I still have a book out the library, which I’m planning to buy off the Internet so I can give it back. Haven’t so much as cut a potato in half (apart from when I did do that to cook it).

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