Kindfulness

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In 2015, a question was posed “so, if you’re so sensitive to the pulse of change, what’s the next shift in the focus of human relations?”

The answer surprised us both. Kindness, I said.

We were sitting in the basement café of the RSA. The BBC’s Religious Affairs correspondent, Caroline Wyatt was at another table in a thrillingly vivid cerise mac which would date the meeting at around 2015.

Since then, it has been something of a slow burn and a matter of impatient finger thrumming in anticipation of its rise up agenda items.

But it seems we’re approaching that happy moment when promoting acts of kindness is understood as a universal good, available to all. I don’t mean deliberate action designed to go out of the way to be kind to one another. I mean when the default setting of kindness informs the nature of actions.

Action designed to benefit others necessarily benefits the doer. It generates a sense of well-being, calms the viscera and extends agapé. The glorious validation that comes from being meaningfully useful rolls in, wave upon wave, when we give our higher selves license to spill generosity of spirit over our rim.

I say that but offer no scientific proof: yet.

Together with University of Sussex, the BBC’s All in the Mind is launching The Kindness Test “to explore our everyday experiences of kindness in different settings.”

Starting: that’s the hardest moment of anything as it requires peak energy. Starting the process to lift intentions over the hump of prudence (self interest) isn’t nearly as heavy a thing as one might think. And the benefits … well, you know them already and that they kick in with immediate effect.

Nourishing virtues like the capacity for kindness – thankfully limitless in us all – it’ll be so interesting to listen to how it impacts your mood, emotional resilience, well-being and vitality generally. Happily, business leaders are beginning to recognize the degree of power which comes if they have the courage to be kind.

Scroll back through these pages to search out plangent howls for compassionate Kindfulness: there are a few.

madeleinebaird.com/blogos

Part Three: Sentience

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This is a moment for yodelling ‘At Last‘.

In its Action Plan, the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill commits to:

  • Recognize animal sentience – the capacity of animals to have feelings, including pain and suffering
  • End the export of live animals for fattening and slaughter and taking “further steps” to limit foie gras trade
  • Bring in “more effective powers” to tackle livestock worrying as part of its Kept Animals Bill
  • Stop people keeping primates as pets, improving standards in zoos and “cracking down” on puppy smuggling

We’ve written endlessly on this – that it’s potty to deny animals sentience. If you have had a pet, wandered in nature or watched even one social media clip of a dog/cat/bird/horse/otter/grizzly bear/dolphin/panda/ elephant/orangutan reacting to or initiating some self-entertainment, then it is impossible … just impossible … to refute conscious decision-making, delight-bringing, care-demonstrating capacity of all living creatures.

That we don’t speak their language has persuaded those of our species who traditionally determine such matters that animals lack consciousness. [Odd though: that they understand and react to ours.]

To be clear, we find Consciousness synonymous with Life. Consciousness IS life.

That means feeling joy, pain, loss, scepticism, hunger, cold, confusion, irritability, revenge, love [that’ll do; Ed] are states of awareness experienced by ALL breathing creatures. And it’s going to be validated in law.

At last. #whyzittakensolong ?

madeleinebaird.com/blogos

Part Two: Necessity in naming

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Hermaphrodite lobsters appear as 1 in 50 million. Thare split-colour displays the condition of gynandromorphy; in this case, the blue side’s female, the brown male. Aren’t thay magnificent?

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© J_P_M

Since rising in emphasis to inculcate cultural priorities, we’ve been thinking on normative solutions to Gender.

Cards on the table: provided none is harmed as a result, once grown we think every child born has the right to love and be loved; we think every child born has the right to express their truth.

In light of which, do we not owe it to one another to listen to what each says about themselves and accommodate those wishes accordingly? Gender fluidity, for those who experience it, is an all-consuming demand.

Well, in that case, grammar needs robust refreshing. Personal pronouns in current declension just won’t do. So we start the debate which we hope others will embrace, dissect, ventilate, broaden. Here’s an opening suggestion:

  • I, you, he, she, thay
  • Me, you, him, her, thane
  • Mine, yours, his, hers, thine/thare
  • S/he, wo/man, Mr, Mis, mrs … though that’d be wierd

An essential property of human life is our humanity. The huffing, puffing and eye-rolling which accompanies the utterances of many who find this trivial might be calmed by reflecting on what it means to be acknowledged for our true selves.

Name: to a large extent, our name IS our identity: it captures who and what we are. Spelling it correctly is part of honouring that. Thus mis-spelling a name demonstrates a lack of respect for that person: if the meaning of a term is its reference, then it must be carefully and correctly applied as a rigid designator : just as, for example, understanding thare [non-binary] gender for who thay are.

There is both freedom and tyranny in such refreshed approach to how we greet the world. Empathy is a real help in supporting efforts to navigate through: I don’t suppose anyone intends harm yet being careless with others’ feeling impacts as a dreadful blow. For many, sense of self supervenes on how one’s treated: being diminished by tactlessness is an empirical universal, alas.

Sensitivity to others deepens one’s own river of humanity, allowing it to flow ever more freely. Although at first we found this enlarged way of understanding our many-peopled-world difficult, there is something utterly splendid in the necessity of correctly naming others: that opening oneself out as walls come tumbling down.

madeleinebaird.com/blogos