However, what this story did for me (in addition to making me think that I wish I’d said it) was to remind me of the quotes I have been collecting over the past few years. In recent years, whenever I have encountered something in a book, play, movie, whatever, which struck me as being especially clever, profound, pithy, witty or otherwise worth remembering, I’ve tried to write it down in a Word document labeled as “Quotes.docx” on my computer. So, I thought I would use this entry to talk about a few of these.
When I watch the news on TV, I am all too often reminded of our (collective) failure to follow J.M. Barrie’s suggestion: “Shall we make a new rule … from tonight: always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary.” I do realize that this is all too unlikely to happen, especially in our political life (which is too bad), but I have never found that trying (I admit I don’t always succeed) to be kind doesn’t really hurt (and isn’t much work). I suggest it.
Randy Pausch, in The Last Lecture, suggested that, “If you’re really a problem solver, you know yelling at somebody rarely solves the problem, and if it does, it does so in the short term with tremendous long term negatives....” I think that this statement of his, and the quote from Barrie, tend to lend support to each other and that these comments are both really suggesting the same sort of thing.
On the other hand, I don’t wish to appear too naïve, or “goody-goody.” I am aware of the fact that the world isn’t going to just change because I wish it could be a kinder, gentler place. That, in fact, there will always be unpleasant aspects to life. Rick Boyer, who was on the English faculty at WCU and was the son of one of my high school teachers, wrote a Sherlock Holmes pastiche called The Giant Rat of Sumatra (this title is mentioned by Watson in The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire, but the story is one of those which Doyle never wrote/published). In it, Boyer has Holmes suggest to Watson that, ”It's best not to be too optimistic. Remember; pessimists are surprised as often as optimists, but always pleasantly.” I like this because it reminds me not to get too carried away with the idea of expecting the world to be “nice,” although I certainly wouldn’t suggest that one should go about with a chip on his/her shoulder expecting unpleasantness, because it’s almost sure to be found, under those circumstances.
I think that it’s entirely likely that kindness is not a state of being, but a decision. And, as Gandalf says in The Fellowship of the Ring, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” Somehow, deciding to try to be kind seems harmless, and more likely to make life easier for us, and others, than making the alternative choice.
I think that a great deal of life revolves around the choices we make. We can choose to make our own lives (and those of others around us) pleasanter, or less pleasant. I think the first is preferable. This doesn’t require a great deal of effort, skill or ability. But, as Albus Dumbledore said in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, “It is our choices ... that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
I urge you to try to make wise choices, ones which will, ultimately, make your life (and the life of those around you) happier, healthier and more satisfying.
I expect that I’ll touch on some more of the quotes I’ve collected sometime, but I think that will do it for now.