Hear ye! Hear ye! Kindness is Contagious!

Kurt Vonnegut, POW in Dresden before, during and after US bombs destroyed it, returned from WWII to spend the rest of his life urging us to be kind.

Arthur Clarke, inventor and author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, said on his 90th birthday, “I have great faith in optimism as a guiding principle. I hope we have learned something from the most barbaric century in existence (20th). I would like us to overcome our tribal inhibitions and begin to think and act as if we are one family.”

Our tribes, our religions, all developed rules and regulations aimed at seeing to it that people got along as the groups survived and grew in their own locales. Now, as our tribes and religious preferences intermingle in travel through sophisticated transportation systems, shared art, science, music and electronics, the reality is that our groups, tribes, religions, and countries are now One Multi-Talented Family. This extended family needs to learn how to get along together for our mutual benefit.

Winter solstice gives us the opportunity to reset our sites and begin to think and act as the Family of Humans on Earth. How do we need to behave with each other to thrive and grow as a family? Our health depends on our ability to be kind.

Here’s what researchers are saying about the benefits of random acts of kindness: such acts make us feel good, reduce stress, make us live longer, and tame the “selfing” regions of the brain lost in thoughts of past and future instead of staying in the Now. Being kind gives us healthier hearts by releasing oxytocin which releases nitric oxide to dilate our blood vessels, makes for better relationships by releasing endorphins, the spirit boosters, and serotonins that give us the feeling of satisfaction and well-being. And, best of all: kindness is contagious.

Dacher Keltner, Dir., Social Interaction Lab at UCBerkeley, has a book out: Born To Be Good: The science of a meaningful life. Keltner says that our species has remarkable tendencies toward kindness, play, generosity, reverence and self sacrifice- all vital to the task of evolution – survival, gene replication, and smooth functioning groups. He notes that Charles Darwin also studied compassion and found that the most compassionate human societies fared better.

So, here’s to the coming light! May we use it to remind ourselves to be kind and spread the condition everywhere!

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