A writer friend tells me that her local coffee shop has put up a sign “Kindness is the new superpower.” Several of us, all writers, had met for a cheery lunch and we all beamed. We all beamed.
For some reason, I have clung to it ever since. Possibly it is because of the international news. Or it may be that Christmas always makes me pause for thought. But this year, the world has never seemed in such need of kindness. Or so very far from showing or receiving it.
Kindness and Conflict
The OED defines it as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. That sounds a bit pallid to me. Maybe it has been polluted by association with phrases like “kind of”. . It certainly doesn’t sound earth-shaking.
I always thought, probably mistakenly, that it had something to do with “kin”, with treating a stranger like a member of your family. For that is what has to happen if there is any hope of a workable future to follow this Palestinian Israeli conflict. With such atrocities on both sides, the only hope is kindness on both sides.
Jewish conductor Daniel Barenboim and Palestinian-American Edward Said set up the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra in 1999 to bring together musicians from both cultures in a joint project.
Maestro Barenboim wrote a heartfelt piece in October this year. “Both sides must recognise their enemies as human beings and try to empathise with their point of view, their pain and their hardship,” he says.
Kindness to Read
In particular A Song of Summer by Eva Ibbotson. In this an experimental school, based on Dartington, is set up by a lake in rural Germany just before the War. The bunch of odd balls and obsessives who live there are falling apart, until the arrival of the divinely kind heroine. And her kindness seems to be catching, maybe even inspiring. And the hero is, well, a hero. It’s a weepy. But well worth it.
The other is The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. This is a fantasy in which a despised, neglected (and abused) half-goblin son of the Emperor has to take up the reins of power and deal with sniffy courtiers, some seriously dark politicking and constant threats whose source is not always clear.
He forgives in all sorts of creative ways, encourages neglected arts and sciences, and also learns. And is an all round darling. Will give you hope.
Kindness to Watch
My film is a discovery which I fell over because I thought it was a different story entirely; The Adam Project. It stars Ryan Reynolds as an impatient, cynical, wise-cracking test pilot who lands in a forested US state, out to save the world, or at least his girl friend, from a monstrous asset-grabbing egotist. (Sound familiar?. Yes. Him. Only this one’s a woman.)
There’s also Jennifer Garner, giving a jewel of a performance as a widowed mother doing her best with an impatient, cynical wisecracking ten-year-old.
The kindness here is all in the characters – and in the ultimate salvation of grown up Reynolds’s cynical soul. It’s funny and clever and cute. And there’s some cracking action and real edge of the seat tension. (At least there was for me. But then I’m notoriously wimpish about fight scenes. Sorry!)
But the joy is his character’s discovery of kindness. Twice. It’s lovely. Left me purring.