Kindness Overflowing, Right?

As I mentioned the other day, in the previous blog post, I read Ransom by David Malouf.  I found the book fascinating and sought to read some of his other books.  I just finished reading An Imaginary Life.  As a writer of both poetry and contemplative thought, I was very much inspired by Malouf’s keen sense of communication through a poetic and contemplative voice.  I literally wrote pages of quotes in my journal, not so much for the content, but more for the style.

An Imaginary Life is a fictitious interpretation of Publius Ovidius Naso, a first century A.D. Roman poet who was banished to a small village away from his “kind” and allowed to exist in a barbarian community who showed him kindness.  Let me quote the description: But then he becomes the guardian of a still more savage creature, a feral child who has grown up among deer.  What ensues is a luminous encounter between civilization and nature, as enacted by a poet who once cataloged the treacheries of love and a boy who slowly learns how to give it.

I have been pondering this quote from Malouf: Kindness, I know, is the way – and time [speaking in regards to civilizing The Child].  To reveal to him first what our kindness is, what our kind is; and then to convince him that we belong to the same
kind.  It is out of this that he must discover what he is.

The latter part of that quote, “it is out of this that he must discover what he is” has been really challenging me.  I think how often I do something for others out of kindness – give a hug, buy something, carry a burden for, or intercede in some way.  Is it really kindness?  Or is it easement of my own feelings?  Is it enabling?  Is it allowing her to discover for herself who or what she is?

Integrative thought:  I do not wanting to negate kindness.  I know it is one of the Fruits of the Spirit.  I know we are to be clothed in kindness.  I have to at times, though, do a self-check as to my motivation regarding my kindness.  My desire is that my kindness is without strings and not for my feel-goods.  Nor is it to stand in the way of someone discovering who/what she is.

Kindness is not so much about how I feel as it is as Maya Angelou says: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Go, be kind today, but let it overflow out of the kindness you honor you with in your own self care…and periodically check to see if your kindness is standing in the way of someone discovering who she is.


A Quiet Meditation: Labyrinth and Cicadas

Diemeniana frenchi, an Australian species
Image via Wikipedia

The other day I met a friend at this little country church on the top of a hill, off a back, windy road.  In the middle of nowhere there is this beautiful labyrinth, well-groomed with pebbles, plants, and little white benches.  I go there some times to meditate and pray.  I thought it would be a lovely place to meet a friend, pray, enjoy the environment… and a little visit…and it was.  The sky was brilliantly blue and tattered with wisps of white clouds.  It was warm in the sun but the breeze at the top of this hill was more than enough to make it feel even a little cool.

We, each, journeyed out on our own to walk and pray.  It was immediately evident that the cicadas were enjoying the day as well – the males bellowed out their chorus at decibels too much for my ears at times…and yet the chatter added to the environment.  We both arrived at the center of the labyrinth and sat in silence for a minute or so.  At one point the cicadas silenced as well, just for a moment, but the absence of their chorus made the silence grander.

I was captivated by the moment because I had just read a section of a beautifully, captivating novel, Ransom, by David Malouf in which he was writing about the cicadas.

“But out here, if you stopped to listen, everything prattled.  It was a prattling world.  Leaves as they tumbled in the breeze.  Water as it went hopping over the stones and turned back on itself and hopped again.  Cicadas that created such a long racketing shrillness, then suddenly cut out, so that you found yourself aware once again
of silence.  Except that it wasn’t silence at all, it was a low, continuous rustling and buzzing and humming, as if each thing’s presence was as much the sound it made as its shape, or the way it had, which was all its own, of moving or being still.”
(p. 126)

I shared with my friend the synchronicity of his words and our experience as we sat in the center of the labyrinth.  I related to her that I didn’t think I ever saw a cicada except for the shells that sometimes are found clinging to a limb or a blade of grass.  She smiled and pointed and there walking onto the cement bulls eye between us was a cicada – how fun.  We had the privilege to marvel over the beauty of the day and to meet, up close, the creators of such a long racketing shrillness.

Integrative thought: Be open to seeing, experiencing, expecting…and…enjoy, notice, and marvel.  You don’t have to go to the top of a hill to a country labyrinth to pray,
make your life a prayer, pray without ceasing, and keep your eyes open…there is
much to see.

[I highly recommend Ransom, by David Malouf.  Malouf is an Australian writer who in Ransom reimagines the pivotal narrative of Homer’s Iliad.  Once into the second chapter, the book was hard to put down.  The gentleness and power of his storytelling is worth a read.]