Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Some vague thoughts on niceness.

As well as thinking quite a lot about the small things, I think about the ordinary, unsung traits. I think a lot about niceness and kindness. I don’t think I am an especially kind person, but I try to do nice and kind things. Sometimes, I almost think every choice can be boiled down to picking one of two possibilities: the good or the bad. Are you going to get furious with that Sunday driver and hoot and gesticulate, because your own celerity is so very important, or are you going to smile and let them dawdle for a while? Are you going to be brusque with that poor cold caller, or do your best to understand it’s a shitty job and they are just working off a list, and get out of the conversation with as much grace as you can? Will you rush to judgement, or will you do your best to understand?

The problem with all this is that it sounds so sappy and soppy and utterly pathetic. Niceness and kindness do not make headlines. They are not thrilling or sexy. They are not words which feature in articles about the famous or obituaries for the mighty. (Although, they are sometimes marked. My heart did rather lift when I saw something on the internet the other day about Keanu Reeves being the nicest man in Hollywood.) Columnists are not employed to be nice; quite often they seem chosen entirely because they are so mean.

Being nice and kind is often conflated with weakness. They are the defaults of the mouse, of the doormat, of the pushover. Nice people may be used and abused: oh, yes, she’ll do it; ask him, he never complains.

Yet, in what is often a shouty, rushing world, I sometimes think that choosing niceness is quite a brave, muscular decision. Staunchly standing up for the small, overlooked traits is not the act of a weakling. In some ways, it’s much easier to be jaded and bitchy. You’ll always get a laugh that way. There are very few nice jokes; the sharpest humour often has a low sliver of cruelty in it.

But every time I choose niceness, I feel a little bit better about everything. I can’t always do it. I had some very nasty thoughts this morning, of which I was rather ashamed. They were cross, mean-spirited, finger-pointy thoughts, and they were certainly neither useful nor beautiful. I suppose one cannot be mentally pure or perfect; one has to let off steam sometimes; the badness and sadness of the world is such that every so often one must rant and rave and judge and point and mock or one would run mad.

Yesterday, I had a clear choice. Someone missed an appointment. I was first a little annoyed, then a little disconcerted, and, finally, worried. It was unlike them and I thought suddenly they might be dead in a ditch. I hate waiting for people; it reminds me too much of when my father was late to pick me up from school, and I would sit on the steps after everyone else had left merrily with their respectable parents, whilst I dolefully prayed that my rackety dad might eventually appear. I could have been a bit prickly and terse when the apology and explanation came. I chose, quite deliberately, not to be. Don’t worry about a thing, I wrote; it could not matter less. And, in fact, it could not matter less. I had one hour of mild anxiety and uncertainty. I am not the poor people of Greece. It was an inconvenience so small it could hardly be seen by the naked eye.

These things are a choice, I think. They may not be glittering or remarkable or extraordinary. Each tiny decision leaves hardly a ripple on the sea of life. But perhaps there is something cumulative, internally and externally. If choosing niceness or kindness becomes the default, minuscule increments of something better may accumulate into the absolutely good.

Or something like that.



Today’s pictures:

No camera today as we have thunder and lightning and rainstorms. Here are a few snaps from sunnier days:

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  1. Dear Tania, I do not think niceness and kindness are at all sappy or soppy. Indeed, the Dalai Lama tells us that the route to make others happy is to be compassionate and the route to be happy ourselves is to be compassionate too. He also says that the purpose of our lives is to be happy. So there you have it, niceness and kindness aka compassion are essential to our not getting all bent out of shape by life, or indeed bending other people out of shape too.

    I am no Buddhist and I don't know if you would agree, but I find many of your posts very mindful, by which I mean that you are cultivating the observation of your own mind. Throw in the pictures of Stanley and the Red Mare and you are practically a Zen High Priestess. Don't stop writing about niceness or kindness, or apologise either. Your paddock on the farm that is the internet is one of the nicest places to stand.

  2. Yes, beautifully put.. and it does add up I think, the little nice things, into something bigger than each one... and if it doesn't it's still just a more agreeable way of living. A lady nearly ran me over this morning. I was crossing the road behind her car and she was on her phone and reversed without looking in her mirror. I gave her a very stern look but she apologised so nicely - she was talking to her little boy on the phone who was crying - that I melted. And afterwards I thought we've both learnt something from that because we both did the right thing in the end.... ramble, ramble.. but yes I agree with Make Me a Diva, you are a bit of a Zen High Priestess... also I loved The Red Mare in her own words the other day, it made me howl with laughter... Rachel

  3. Agree to not apologize for being kind! Funny how it's suppossed to be a weakness? I feel like it takes more strength to stop, breathe and make yourself not so important and just give.


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