but what even is kindness anyways

Kindness is one of those mysterious things where you don’t exactly know how to pin it down at times, but you know it’s there. People who are kind just feel that way, and when we really think about it, it takes us a while to come up with a specific example. When we talk to strangers, we can sense a bit of their personality, and even right after we’ve met them, we assume how nice they are based upon it.

Kindness is a level of love that any two individuals can share. It means respect for the other person’s opinions, genuine compassion and interest in their life, and taking time out to do something the other person needs, or might find difficult on their own. Sharing food is often seen as kind because you’re directly restricting your own well being to give someone something they might require.

Yet, kindness is still mysterious because if you’re not used to it or not in very specific situations, it’s not clear what the right, nice thing to do is. Take the example I gave before with sharing your food with a small animal, like they typically show in movies to prove the protagonist is a good person. That feeding might teach animals in real life to become dependent on humans, which increases the likelihood they’ll be hurt because they’re hanging around humans too much. Furthermore, the closest animals we typically could feed are the common species that don’t need the extra food. Not feeding a pigeon isn’t going to kill them, they’re going to hop over to the next family and try their luck again. My point, regardless of your opinion on pigeons, is that kindness is a broad term, and there will always be ways to justify not taking action, for better or worse.

It’s okay to not know how to be kind. We get out of practice, and some people are naturally more compassionate than others. However, we should strive for it, as unnatural as it may seem. We won’t always know what the best, most sincere, and respectful route of action is. Life is ambiguous, but we can always be better. It’s a matter of keeping our eyes open and seeing where we can help. A good starting point is getting into the habit if literally asking, “Hey, is there anything I can do to help?”

What does your face look like?

We only see the mirror view of ourselves. Others get to see all angles of our faces, but we are limited in seeing how we really look on a daily basis. That’s why seeing a video of yourself is such a peculiar event; you are suddenly the onlooker of your own actions. But what is it like for a stranger? What parts of you are most salient? What aspect of your face do people focus on?  It’s important to think about because perspective because we get really caught up in our own heads sometimes.

The fact is, we dwell on certain things. We get bored and start thinking about tasks that aren’t necessary for survival like the humans we are. However it also means that when anything occurs, we are looking through a subjective lens. The faults we see may not be obvious to other people. The beautiful parts we see might also be hidden. We are used to our own standard of features, people, places, emotions, and we compare everything to it,  but it remains an unquantifiable bar. 

All of this is just to say that it’s easy to forget that not everyone has had the same experiences. Not everyone sees what you see. To some people, our noses might be the first thing they think about. To others it might be our forehead or chin. When frustrations arise, try to look on as an outsider. Try to bend your mind. You don’t have to agree, just get out of your own head for a little bit and you’ll find that it shows the other person a great deal of respect.

Make music but make friends first

As physics has progressed as a field, we’ve gradually realized that basically everything is made of waves. Light, gravity, even physical objects are frequencies in some aspect. So actually, it makes sense that sound waves connect to us, because that’s the nature of our reality. Somehow mixes of rhythms and notes with a variety of volumes can speak volumes to our sense of self. Music is the closest thing we have to magic, and it can be absolutely amazing. The focus word there is “can”. If you’ve ever heard any normal children’s choir, you can attest that not everyone can reach the level of magic through music. 

What’s even more amazing is the parents somehow seeing past the horrid screeching at looking at their child with pride. Here you have something that can move people to tears, inspire billions, convince people to give up higher paying jobs, and instead it’s a wreck. But it doesn’t matter because it’s parents caring about what their children do.

Music is incredibly important, in so many ways. Yet it’s power depends on making us feel connected to other people. Songs are great because the emotions it gives you make you feel less alone in feeling them. As to say, music is great because it means that people have felt the same way you have. We need people. We need annoying people to remind us that patience is a virtue. We need beautiful friends to encourage us. We need authority to keep order and challenge when corrupt. There are lots of marvelous things, topics to delve into and analyze, but we should never forget that things aren’t as important as our relationships with others. 

The Fans

Not all passions are equal in the eyes of our culture. People who care about TV shows seem somehow “less” or more frivolous. That arises from the fact that it usually doesn’t require a higher degree of education or complex thinking to watch it. Furthermore, spending all of your time thinking about a show takes away from thinking about something more valued by our culture. However, I’d like to try and change that view point just a bit: why do most people care more about shows than we do real things?

Shows are captivating because they have story lines. As humans, we love stories, we think in stories. Yet they are also captivating because a vast majority of them have character development. You can trust someone is going to change, and most likely it will be for the better. It’s comforting. Also, if they are done correctly, shows can be amazingly interesting. Science is absolutely fascinating, but not thrilling like watching dragons attack a castle. Books are entertaining, but people don’t like spending the energy it takes to imagine and process the words.

When you compare random bits of data, it’s much harder to get excited than over Person A killing Person B over Person C who loves person D who loves person B. In our lives, we love stories, but we also get frustrated when our lives work out more like a series of random events and less like a path that leads somewhere. Not all passions are equal because some roles seem to be only available to those who are skilled enough to achieve them. Fans are a dime a dozen, but lawyers? Learning the Law takes years of extra schooling. The problem is most lawyers probably aren’t that passionate about the law. 

 What if we were as passionate about our lives as we are by really good shows? What if we could see ourselves as the protagonist and the hard work as a mighty challenge that’s worth overcoming? Consider becoming a fan of your own life.

It’s okay to be afraid

Fear is a part of our lives. As Americans, we don’t like thinking about that: “We’re free independent people! We do what we want because we want to do it!” But even if we say the only thing to fear is fear itself, we don’t apply that to our everyday lives. We fear being judged, failing, being embarrassed, and more. Then it stops us, freezes us up from taking risks.

However, fear is also a powerful motivator, if you’ve heard any villian-monologue. True in a lot of cases, fear is an influential emotion. It can even be a healthy motivator. Everyone experiences fear at some time or another, but it’s a matter of what scares you that drives your actions. If we fear remaining the same, we can strive to make a change. If we teach ourselves to fear the risk of doing nothing, we can convince ourselves to take risks that help us in the long run. 

And it’s okay to be afraid! Fear has such a negative connotation around it because it seems like only cowards get scared. However, fear is very real. It’s even a wise action to be afraid; it means you know the risks and are alert for your safety. Being afraid means being on guard in dangerous situations. If you are afraid, you can prepare yourself, it makes evolutionary sense. When we experience this fear, the key isn’t to try and ignore it, but push through it. Be afraid and take the jump anyways.

The nature of courage

Being able to learn is a gift. One of your common phrases of conventional wisdom is that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. The idea someone would purposely do the same thing over and over again is absurd because who would ever want to live that way? Stagnant? A common horror trope is having someone live the same day over and over again. Even if it’s a wonderful day, over time it becomes a miserable prison. The real question, however, is why we let ourselves remain stagnant when we’re not even caught in such a loop. 

I’d argue that we are mostly held back by our fear. It’s easier to fear the unknown, so we tell ourselves its okay to live without ever really moving forward, even if we’re miserable there. It’s not that you don’t want to be an artist, it’s that you fear being able to support yourself. It’s not that you don’t want to write a book, it’s that you fear no one will like it. It’s not that you hate strangers, it’s that you fear they will hate you. The core destroyer of dreams isn’t some parent or teacher or reality even, but the fact that we are afraid of what we don’t know. 

And yet! We long to grow. It’s the most satisfying part of every narrative. We are humans who love to learn, we’ve developed entire fields based on a simple question: “Why?” Maybe you feel 100% content with your life, but if you do, you are in a very small number. Everyone can improve themselves, everyone can learn to be better than who they were yesterday. Fear is always there. Courage, however, is being able to scream and crawl your way past it so you just get it done. Be courageous, learn and grow, even when you want to play things on repeat. 

Hey you’re pretty skilled!

Everyone has different gifts. Some people naturally are caring or wise, others can really work hard and persevere. There are such a wide variety of people, all with different talents, and it’s honestly amazing. Even That Jerk you know, from work or around your neighborhood, has a few qualities that could be really amazing if they used it right. 

We all have things we can do well, but those things can also be our weaknesses. People who are in tune with emotions recieve the full brunt of them and there’s no dial to turn it down. People who are honest and ambitious tend to hurt those they care about because others’ opinions genuinely didn’t occur to them. People who work hard can be taken advantage of and treated like they are less just because they do have to work to get where they want to go. 

We do all have talents though. Books with segmented groups based on personality are fun because the reader wants to find out where they would fit into the world if they were in it; it’s why Hogwarts houses, what Divergent group, and Percy Jackson’s Olympian houses grab our attention. If we know how others see us, we can play a role and be accepted by the community we’re in. The problem originates in the fact that no one fits a stereotype perfectly. There’s no one perfect ‘Slytherin’ or ‘Child of Hermes’. We expect our full spectrum world to fit into distinct categories because it’s helpful; the hueristics makes things easier to understand and deal with. 

Honestly, maybe you don’t fill into a label solidly. Maybe you’re on the fringe between two categories. Maybe you think your talents don’t even exist. Life can be hard, and it’s easy to think that your own individual skills are worth nothing in the whole scheme of things. However, little actions build up, working with people to join your little skills together can make something sincerely awesome. Just because it isn’t clear to you what things you’re skilled at doesn’t mean you aren’t skilled in some manner. 

Own up and glow up

Koalas have unique fingerprints like humans. In fact, in some instances stolen property was traced back to a specific mischievous koala. I’m not sure if the koala was represented properly in court, but the thing about fingerprints at a crime scene is that it’s not as upfront as it may seem. You only get partial prints, or perhaps the person was there but didn’t commit the crime. DNA at a scene of crime can be planted purposefully. In the case of the koala, I don’t think anyone nefariously decided to frame the beast. However, it is a thing of importance to remember that responsibility for our actions is primarily our own choice.

The funny thing about humans is our bias. We overestimate our abilities in forseeing an event in hindsight, we compare ourselves to those who are slightly worse than us. We even convince ourselves we are skilled at certain tasks by twisting the definition of “skill”. Maybe Sally doesn’t make the best tasting food, but she makes food in a systematic way that keeps her kitchen more “put-together” looking. Taylor has food everywhere and is a mess, but the outcome is delicious. In both Taylor and Sally’s minds, they are both “good” cooks, but they define it in the way that works out best for themselves. (Gilovich, 2011)

That being said, humans hate taking responsibility for when we mess up. It’s not pleasurable in any manner. With only bits of information, we can convince ourselves it was someone else’s fault. However, that only hurts us in the long term. By being honest and saying , “I messed up”, we get to move on. We get to grow and become better people. It’s up to us, whether we want to go after who we want to be. 


Sources

  • Gilovich, T., Keltner, D., & Nisbett, R. E. (2011). Social psychology. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

Do you know what you’re doing right now?

Everyone could always do more, but we don’t because we are human. We need sleep, food, and social interaction. We need to rest and do nothing every once in a while, to mentally relax. Still, its hard to know where the line is. Where does ‘needed rest’ end and ‘unhealthy procrastination’ begin? We could always do more, but do we always know what things we should put the most value on? Afterall, family is important but if the Boss expects something to be done by Monday, how do you navigate the waters well enough to give everyone what they need? 

Balance is such an important concept, entire religions center around it. Still, with our human limitations, how do we learn to keep it? 

We don’t, not at first.  What we do instead is learn. When we mess up, it gives us the hint that we pushed too hard in one area and not enough in another. The reason older people have been treated with respect over the centuries and different cultures, is because they’ve simply had the experience of messing up enough to learn how to do less of it. Everyone fails. The key is to take something away from it and rush back into the game anyways. There is nothing shameful about trying your best. No one particularly knows what they’re doing, you just get better at pretending like you do. So go out! Learn the limitations and do great things.

What the outside of the box looks like 

The price of individuality is that we never truly know how we come across to the people we meet. The strange feeling you get when you watch a recording of yourself still isn’t precisely everyone else’s view of you because you’re a biased watcher. You know You, and everyone else you have to trust at their words and actions. Each of us passes thousands of strangers in the street, in the shops. Everywhere we go we come across people we’ll never know, who make snap judgements about what kind of people we are. Those snap judgements shouldn’t hold massive sway over us, but sometimes we need to know the snap image we have of ourselves. Who do we see ourselves as? Someone who will do great things? Good family members? Or someone despicable?

We’re all complex, you can’t deny that. However, if you get to the bolts, core actions, what kind of person are you sending across an image of? Other people’s opinion shouldn’t be the be all or end all, but it can be a good summary of who you really are, not just who you think you are. I can think I’m a nice person, but if I’ve been rude to cashiers and gossiped about some co-workers, am I really as “nice” as I think I am? 

People have a habit of being mean to other people. We are cruel and unforgiving as a species. But we can also be better than that. How other people view us isn’t the end of the world, but we shouldn’t leave it to the wayside either. Let’s be honest with ourselves. Let’s look at ourselves with open minds. Let’s work to be better, we can do this.