I have noticed a hardness.
I have noticed a hardness in the way I speak about people, and the way I think about them.
I have noticed that while in many ways I am accepting, or at least tolerant, of difference (and hopefully occasionally downright welcoming of it), there is a hardness there too. Human weakness, which should inspire my compassion, is often met with indignation and impatience instead.
I have noticed more and more a desire to turn off and tune out. I have noticed that this is not so I can embrace the world beyond the screen but instead so that I can hide from it. I am intelligent and educated enough to understand that the lifestyle systems I am a part of tacitly permit suffering (human and ecological) and I am using this same capacity for reason to try to justify it.
I have noticed that it is hard to forgive.
I have noticed that everyone seems to be shooting or bombing or beheading each other all the time and at a certain point a human death becomes just another one on the pile as long as it’s not in my backyard.
I have noticed an insufficient presence of goodwill in many of my undertakings.
I have noticed that it is much easier, and often pleasurable, to complain.
I have noticed a pettiness, and a need to feel superior.
I have noticed all this can exist in my character, defiantly, almost gloatingly, even as I feel exceptionally fortunate for my myriad blessings and wish to be more deserving of them.
And I have doubts. Doubts in my conception of myself as a good person. Doubts in my desire to have children (why bring them into this world? Why do we need more witnesses for the apocalypse we’re actively unleashing?). Doubts in my conception of my own spirituality and philosophy and what I consider to be true, good, and worthwhile.
And there is, sometimes, an emptiness.
Perhaps my heart felt a bad wind rising and squirreled itself away and it’s under a tree somewhere, in amongst the roots, and it’s holding its breath and listening to each groan as the tree swings back and forth, caught between resisting and letting go and achieving neither end.
Perhaps I am the tree, boughs and branches becoming stiffer the older I get, already firmly rooted in my opinions and beliefs and ways whether the soil will hold or not. Perhaps it’s just that I’m not as good at swaying with the breeze as I used to be. And now I’m waking with every creak. Shaking with every storm. Mourning every leaf that withers and falls, because it happens too fast now, far too fast, and is it just me or are the seasons different than they used to be?
For me, goodness will not be found in perfection. I will never be without my flaws (in fact, if I am honest with myself, I find them interesting most of the time). Perfection is paralyzing. It’s all-or-nothing. It is not in my grasp.
But kindness is. I would say it’s not that hard to be kind, but that’s not always true. Sometimes kindness is difficult. Still, kindness does not require of me any resource or special capacity that I don’t already have. Someone who is poor can be just as kind as someone who is rich. The powerless can be kind, as well as the powerful. The foolish can be as kind as the wise. Kindness does not need the light to survive–it can be found in the darkest of places or the darkest of times.
And the spirit of kindness can be found even in those beings who are, like me, imperfect.
And so I have found my New Year’s Resolution for the year ahead; just a small one:
I want to be kind.