I voted today. Tomorrow, or tonight if you stay up late enough, almost everyone will have a reason to despair because of the results of a local or national election.
I believe, however, that neither politics nor economics ultimately decides the quality of our lives. I am not saying these systems don’t affect us. A leader’s decision to go to war, for example, changes lives forever. I am saying that there are other, more powerful forces at play.
I base this conclusion on the version of history taught in American primary education, which is mostly if not exclusively politics and economics. If history consisted only of the events in the history books, I’m convinced the human race would have wiped itself out long ago because, according to the official version, very little good ever happens. People and nations in power attempt to retain or expand that power and harm or kill a lot of other people along the way. If nothing stood in opposition to that story, the world would be a much more dismal place than it is.
I think what keeps or doesn’t keep us going is how kind we are to one another. While trying to figure out the motivation of the characters in my novel, I wrote to a few friends and asked them what they wanted out of life and why. My former Chinese religion professor wrote back and said, “Be kind, be kind, be kind.”
At the time I thought, that is not an answer, but now I wonder if it might be the only one worth pursuing.
Much of life is beyond our control, even in a country where we get to choose our leaders and in certain cases our laws. Sometimes being kind is all we can do for another person and all we can do for ourselves.
I think we often see kindness as a small gesture and forget what a tremendous difference it can make. It can change the course of history.