Saturday, March 21, 2009

Only Kindness Matters

I wrote this while sitting in the massive fortress known as Atlanta Hartsfield Airport, although I did not post until much later because I refuse to pay for Internet service at airports, Starbucks or anywhere else besides hotels and my home. As I sit here people watching, reminiscing about the dark chocolate I just finished and merging its residue with hot green tea, I keep thinking of a line from a song I heard last night on Pandora.

“In the end
Only kindness matters.”

The lyrics come from the tune "Hands" by the singer Jewel. Forget about the context of the overall song. I am captivated by the isolated statement, the simple and heartfelt declaration.

In the end

We place lots of energy toward trying to determine outcomes, both short- and long-term. We are ever seeking to set up the end, attending endless meetings about the future. We build careers, invest money, develop relationships, secure power, and establish status…all in the aspiration of being “okay in the end,” finding some final manifestation of a seamless interplay of elements that will invoke evidence of a successful life.

Often, in the midst of this push toward the future, we make a lot of trade offs in the present moments that we can only string together one pearl at a time. We give things away, or stop using them, or forget we have them.

Things like kindness.

Yet, in the end…

Now many scholars, clergy, laypersons and anyone else with an opinion could wage a rigorous debate about what they feel truly matters in the end. The opinions could fill the pages of hundreds of thousands of blogs. I have no ambition to launch such a debate. For tonight I think I’ll just take Jewel’s word for it, for the artists of our times often are better tuned in to the human condition and our spiritual yearnings than anyone else. For now, just for this blog at least and maybe on other occasions, I will declare that she is right on target.

Following this assumption and line of thinking, I wonder if kindness is sort of an umbrella—under which hang lots of other words that further define and drill down its meaning and impact. Perhaps many of those with differing opinions about what matters in the end will find they have a place under this umbrella as well.

Which religion is right or wrong? Which public or political policy is correct? Which community service approach is the most worthy? Which piece of music is the most powerful or which film the most moving or which work of art the most inspiring?

Only kindness matters. If your art, stance, program, initiative, market share or creed pushes against kindness, you are going in the wrong direction. If we delineate rigorous mores of right and wrong, but offer not kindness, we wax irrelevant.

I continue to be pruned. The world, to me as least, is awash with clutter. Clutter of things, of ideas, of slogans, of persuasions, of ideologies. Strip away 95 percent of it, and get to the heart of what truly matters. Kindness.

Rinse it all off of me, the sticky pollen of meaningless ambitions. Leave only kindness.

That is the word for today. And perhaps for the end as well.


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