Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Kindness - could it be a minimalist value?

Here's poet Naomi Shihab Nye's thoughts on kindness - a favorite poem of mine, and one I'd like to give you to think about before you leave for the summer:


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 purchase bread,
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.


Fence Sitter said...

I think kindness should be a minimalist value, but at this point I don't think it is. There are too many people out there willing to sacrifice kindness for other things, usually things that involve personal gain. Another reason I think kindness isn't a minimalist value is because the opposite is too easily justified by society. We can be mean to people if they are mean to us or if they deserve it, and on and on. If kindness was a minimalist value cruelty couldn't be justifiable. Didn't one of our philiosphers have a theory to that effect?

But I like the poem. Just FYI.

Bea said...

I remember learning in a health class that in society, people have three basic needs. I can't remember one of them, but the other two are being liked and belonging. In order for everyone to obtain these needs, kindness is important. It's hard to feel liked if people are unkind.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that kindness ought to be a minimalist value, and maybe it's close. Most people are kind to people in groups they belong to. They tend to have a harder time being kind to outsiders.

In the first chapter of Bok's book, she discussed not doing harm as a minimalist value. I think kindness takes that value a step further, but it is still a basic need for people to be able to get along.

Kat said...

If you include kindess under the categories of things like nurturing and love...then in a way it is a minimalist value. In sociology and psychology classes, they talk about numerous studies that involve nurturing or the lack of it. The development of a young child (or monkey, or whatever) is greatly affected by whether or not they receive affection from another. They survive because of food and water...but they lack anything some cases even the motivation to live. Kindess is more important than a lot of people realize, and the outcome is usually good for both sides involved.