Posts Tagged ‘Kurt Vonnegut’

Hear ye! Hear ye! Kindness is Contagious!

December 19, 2015

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!


Who is included in ‘Each Other’?

September 4, 2014

In our quest to keep each other well, who is included in ‘each other’? Is it our family, our friends, people in our state or country, or people anywhere in the world?

Stunned by the display of US Apartheid this week and US support of previously labeled thugs intent on continuing the Palestinian holocaust and destruction elsewhere, every act of mine made me question. How many ‘other’ people in the world can turn on a spigot and wash up or take a shower every morning, how many have safe water to drink, how many have a safe home to sleep in, how many have enough nourishing food to eat, how many have a beautifully cared for land to live in?

I needed a day in the mountains to hopefully figure out whatever my responsibility is to this quest to keep each other well.

I drove up through Franconia Notch through mountains waking up, then continued on to Crawford Notch for a day’s loop hike up Frankenstein Cliffs and around to Arethusa Falls. The cliffs were named for Godfrey Frankenstein, a pre-Civil War artist whose paintings inspired so many people to visit the White Mountains. My destination was Arethusa Falls, the 200’ waterfall, highest in NH. My hike was over beautifully groomed trails, alongside, up and over the cliffs to the falls, thanks to our State Park System Trail Crews, and freely accessible to all ‘others’.

Questions continued. How many people can enjoy sitting next to a little waterfall to have lunch, much less such a magnificent one? ‘Others’ were there at Arethusa Falls from NY, GB, China, Poland, as well as NH. We were bound by our exhilaration as the hike pumped us up to share with each other the wonder of this place.

Clearly, our health and happiness depend on knowing that others are also happy and healthy. When we hear of a friend’s illness, we immediately try to think of ways we can help them to be better or to ease discomfort, and as they become well or more comfortable, we feel better and more comfortable. It is not surprising that the unrest many of us experience right now is a direct response to the plight of others.

Kurt Vonnegut, beloved American who survived the bombing of Dresden as a POW there, spent the rest of his life restating the message he thought most important to us: “You’ve Got To Be Kind!” There are no ‘others’. We are all ‘each other’.