I've been thinking about kindess lately, and how it makes people uncomfortable, myself included. True kindness, we shrug it off, excuse it, worn weary by its energy and fa la la. Kindness is the sweet dumb sister to Snark. And in this age of online everything, Snark reigns supreme. Snark with its sharp wit, Snark so glamorous and funny. Snark is the drive-by rat-tat-tat blast of energy, always moving, never asking more than a moment of your time. (If given the Universe, Snark would be the Sun, bright, hot and sexy, Kindness the Moon made of a lump of cheese, waxing and waning, quietly pushing us forward then pulling us back, its powers slowly lapping at the sand yet moving coastlines.)
In some cultures, a smile is a sign of submission, the flash of your teeth a threat. In our culture, a smile is a form of currency we flip to the cashier at the grocery store, no warmer than the chump change curled between our fingers. Our smiles have been slowly devalued as the value of something other has risen. And so I wonder in this post-economic crash world, what will become of our smiles, of our distrust of kindness? Of snark and gossip and eyes cast down to the gum-pocked sidewalk? What will become of the one thing we all have but seem afraid to geniunely use?
"We mutually belong to one another," writes philosopher Alan Ryan, "and a good life is one that reflects this truth." No mention of new clothes or houses or cars. No mention of Rock of Love or Bret Michaels anywhere. It seems that not only has our economy crashed, but so has our spirit. As a society, we are staggering from the guilt of it all, each of us out for ourselves, mutually isolated, but that is all.
I curse Bernie Madoff, AIG, blah blah blah and yes, them, too. But I also think that what is happening is not so much a crash as an evolution. As dumb as it sounds, I believe kindness will help us rebuild not only our stock portfolios, but our sense of community, our spirits. So here I am, the girl with the flower power-stickered banana seat bike pedaling lazy circles in the cul de sac. Do you want to play with me? Yes, my bike is dorky. Yes, I am wearing my hair in two uneven side ponytails. Yes, sometimes I lisp (not really, but this is an image of a feeling, I think). I have room for one more and the milk candy is sweet. Do you taste it on the tip of your tongue, too? This thing? This smile? This possibility of something more? I don't know. Like I said: I can't quite grasp what it is, but it's there. And I am here, waiting.