I’ve been thinking a lot about kindness at the moment, particularly kindness to ourselves.
The world around us has transformed over the last few days. News coverage, billboards, websites all homogenised to loss.
Mourning and solemnity are the suggested modes of travel.
There’s a strong pull to falling into line. Or, inevitably, not.
Fall in, or fall out.
Our polarised way of relating to complexity offer us all the sophistication of living life by hokey cokey: black/white, leave/remain, monarchist/royalist, in/out, in/out, shake it all about.
And this is troubling because humans really aren’t neat.
We’re messy. And contradictory. We have an enormous capacity for sitting both with and in contradiction; it is, quite frankly, a superpower. But that doesn’t seem to be in vogue currently so we’re invited to pick a side instead.
And more often than not this can cause confusion.
Humans are meaning-making machines and in the general humdrum of lives we often don’t notice the habitual and potentially somewhat arbitrary meaning that gets attributed to things, to facilitate our smooth running through life.
But when we find ourselves living through history in real time, we may become more aware of the need to make or attribute meaning to what we’re experiencing - and then experience the potential disorientation when there are gaps or overlaps in what makes ‘sense’ to us.
Which is where kindness comes in.
Kindness looks at contradiction and doesn’t judge.
Kindness says, “I thought you didn’t really care about the monarchy and yet I see that you’re weeping into the cupboards as you’re unloading the dishwasher. Isn’t that something. Look at your capacity to feel, even if you can’t draw a straight line between WHAT you’re feeling and WHY you’re feeling it. Wow. How amazing.”
Kindness allows us to sit in the place where meaning-making may stutter or stumble and offer us empathy.
Kindness is the friend that knows how to sit alongside us in companionable silence and make everything feel ok.
Kindness needs turning up to 11 when a monarch dies.
Rilke wrote, “Fling the emptiness out of your arms into the spaces we breathe; perhaps the birds will feel the expanded air with more passionate flying.”
When the air around us is expanded by collective grief, I suggest we all embrace kindness in our arms to remedy any feelings of unexpected emptiness.
Sending you all kindness today, and over the coming days.
Cover image: Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash