Sunday, August 4, 2013

George Saunders, a creative writing professor at Syracuse University, gave a commencement speech with an unusual message: Be kind. After it was printed last week in the New York Times, the speech went viral, demonstrating that people are aching to hear that.<--break->Saunders tells a story about a girl who came to his school, was teased horribly, and left at the end of the year. Although he didn't take part, he felt bad that he didn't do more.
What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.
Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded...sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.
Why are we not kinder to one another? Like the Buddha, Saunders says that the problem is that we think we're separate, permanent, and singular.
There's a confusion in each of us, a sickness, really: selfishness. But there's also a cure. So be a good and proactive and even somewhat desperate patient on your own behalf - seek out the most efficacious anti-selfishness medicines, energetically, for the rest of your life.
Do all the other things, the ambitious things - travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) - but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness. Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality - your soul, if you will - is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Bright as Shakespeare's, bright as Gandhi's, bright as Mother Theresa's. Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.

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