The world’s disrupted and has gotten somewhat mad lately. I say this kindly because this reflection is about kindness and its many benefits. As kind as I would love to be, though, I don’t know how it is in your country, at least in mine, things are grievously derailing.
Fear of the other is meticulously cultivated, freedom of speech is under threat, as is the whole legal system, all because of an elected prime minister accused of crimes he doesn’t wish to admit. “something is definitely rotten in the state of Denmark…(Israel).”
When I was a little girl, my father used to say that what we Jews contributed to the world as a nation was an unshakable sense of morality and justice. The Bible says to be kind and just to the foreign, the orphan, and the widow. Unfortunately, judging by how the new Israeli government is run, it seems like they, the government, and we who have elected it, completely misunderstood the Jewish sense of justice.
When it comes to what’s right for the Jews in the Jewish state of Israel or when it comes to people leading the Israeli state in government – let there be a different kind of justice. Justice for one’s own is Jewish justice.
This is our legacy to the world now. Not even the “good” against the “bad,” as the Americans would have it, no, not even that, we’re all about us and ours. Something in me cannot help but wonder if this was not always like that, and why is it so blunt and offensive right now?
It is now more blunt and offensive because it feels like I can do nothing about it. So I voted, we humanists lost the elections, and the militant orthodox extreme nationalistic Israeli Jews won. So this is how it will go from now on – all offensively Jewish with no moral scruples whatsoever.
The great moral Jewish tradition is gone.
Everyone is speaking about this in one form or another. I personally have not. I’ve been busy with Optimal Performance. The fact that I feel incapacitated about the whole thing is part of that. So I thought I’d say something. And there, I did. So by that, I am, to a minimal extent, part of that larger conversation.
This has become blunt and offensive because when you feel incapacitated, you feel weak. When you feel you can do nothing, you want to surrender to circumstances instead of changing them. This is where I think reality’s disruptive nature is on our side.
I know this sounds crazy but bare with me, please. In a world gone mad, maybe one should go a little mad too, join the game and make a difference in the disruption… I know that sounds twisted, but I will explain and speak from experience.
My family was disrupted when I was five years old, when Tal, my brother, died in the Yom Kippur war in 1973. But, like with the state of Israel, one could argue the seeds of that disruption were already there for years waiting for the right moment to burst and bloom. My brother’s death was that abrupt but decisive moment in my family.
My parents, devastated by my brother’s death, were broken. Their grief was all-encompassing, and they lived through it in different ways. My father by becoming increasingly addicted to his work, and my mother by becoming increasingly addicted to other substances.
Eventually, after years of trying helplessly to keep it together, they went their separate ways. I was in the middle of all that, trying to work through my own grief of losing the one person who loved me unconditionally, no matter what. My brother’s love and his kindness to me while he was alive, remained his legacy for me, in a way.
As disrupted as my childhood was because of his disappearance, my attempt to come to terms with that loss, for many years to come, brought me to places I would never have gotten to otherwise. I will not speak of that winding road here. I talk about it in so many other writings, also marked by my wish to speak about that time of disruption in my life and what came after it.
When my brother died, the atmosphere at home changed. There were islands of kindness, to begin with, but somehow they disappeared in the reconning of our, incapacity to be there for each other.
Our grief was so personal, so different for each of us, irreconcilable, non-communicable. That inability to be there for each other where we most needed it, was the essence of that disruption.
Speaking loudly and unkindly at each other was something I grew up with in the few years following my brother’s death. Slowly, very slowly, it dawned on me that living together can be something completely different. A few people taught me that. Without noticing it, I chose people to associate with who were kind.
It was something in my subconscious longing for that kindness that was there before Tal was gone. I found it in my life partner 20 years ago; it was a long search for the right person for me. Still, to this day, I am in awe of having found him, and so many years later, I realize his kindness made me a better person.
So… following my parents’ separation and then divorce, I decided it was time to search for kind people and environments. Cultivate my own kindness. It wasn’t easy, I can tell you. Life doesn’t immediately listen to your wishes for what you seek. Then it’s a question of energy. It takes time to clean yours, or to attract in the precise way that which you are looking for.
More than anything else, it’s a question of practice. You don’t become kind just like this, one day when you decide to. It’s a practice; it can take years. It took me years. Am I done? Absolutely not; it’s a life-long practice; sometimes life throws a curve ball at you, and a knee-jerk response comes out of your past without you having the time to notice.
I am kinder today; I’m improving and getting better, one day at a time. Lately, I read Michelle Obama‘s new book, “The light we carry.” A beautiful book. It moved me deeply. She speaks there about kindness, to ourselves first, about starting your day with kindness to yourself.
I want to be clear; these are two things – starting the day with kindness is one thing. Being kind to yourself is another. More often than not, we are harsh with ourselves. We put ourselves last. Sometimes our past puts us in a tight place where we cannot find kindness for ourselves. It takes effort; it takes intention.
I think, though, that if we can’t be kind to ourselves, we cannot be kind to others. So cultivating kindness to ourselves comes first. Then we can be kind to others, and kindness matters.