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Sustainability is about ecology, economy and equity.- Ralph Bicknese

The Sustainability of Kindness


Enjoying the sunIf you haven’t seen Rainn Wilson’s youtube talk show Metaphysical Milkshake (featured on the SoulPancake channel), you should definitely get on that. The interviews with various celebrities take place in the back of a van and feature conversations related to philosophical and personal issues that go far deeper than standard talk show fare and push viewers towards introspection. I recently watched an episode with Writer/Director/Actor Josh Radnor in which the two discussed air pollution in the form of unkind verbal output. Radnor asserts that kindness being seen as a sign of weakness is a poison to progress, saying that if we’re going to move anything forward, “it’s gonna have to come from compassion and kindness.”

All too often it does seem true that the mentality of kindness, openness, and positivity is seen as being naive and weak, with an attitude of cynicism and a general cold nature thought of as the way to get by in the midst of what can be a very cruel world. But as Radnor goes on to theorize, our own approach to communicating with people has its own power, a verbal footprint if you will, in the way that our words affect others, that either adds to or fights against an atmosphere of bitterness that can sometimes seem consuming. “If we could think of our words as having some charge or heft,” Radnor says, “that they go out in the world and actually trigger things.” Together Wilson and Radnor turn the idea into something like sustainable conversation, likening the mean things that might come out of our mouths to air pollution. “It’s kind of a weird fusion of environmentalism and spirituality,” Radnor says.

I love this concept, and it rings incredibly true when you think about it. As Radnor also brings up, we’re very able to feel the atmosphere of a room that we enter, be it a kind one, an unfriendly one, or something else entirely. It’s alternately frightening and inspirational to think about just how much power our own negativity or positivity can have. Art has this power as well, of course-just think of how your mood changes when listening to a good song-and when we’re interacting with people, we are the art they’re being exposed to, a direct, immediate, and live influence on their inner emotional landscape, the climate of which may go on to affect others we have no contact with at all in the littlest or biggest of ways; who knows how far and how deep our words can reach. For this reason, being kind is a sustainable act, a vote for the happiness of others, and a pillar to support the extremely fragile construction of a positive atmosphere. You can check out the interview below.

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