Kindness From a Stranger

It’s the season for random acts of kindness, and this month I have a small, but beautiful experience to share with you that happened to me a couple of weeks ago.

Last month I practically lived at Starbucks in order to complete my writing goals. Sometimes with friends, and sometimes alone, I always try to sit by the window. The view, no matter how abysmal, always gives my gaze and mind freedom to explore something larger than the room I’m sitting in.

One November evening, I was sitting alongside the window by myself when the sun was setting, the clouds a brilliant orange, a unique beauty to be had for where I live. As much as I complain about my geography, there have been quite a few show stopping sunsets to behold. I’m naturally someone who gets energy from the sun, so when it goes down, I’m immediately tired. Likewise, when it comes up, I find it hard to sleep, as if caffeine could be transferable through light and the moment it beams into the room, I’m suddenly lighter, energized, and happy. So I tried to get work done, but in this few passing moments where the setting sun was changing in such divine ways, I made sure to look up every few minutes to integrate with this beauty. One never knows when the sun will come out again here at this time of year. I looked straight at it, imagining the light passing through my skin and becoming a part of me, a keeper of the light.

It turned out that someone noticed my attempt to become one with the sunset. Shortly after the sun went down, I packed up and headed out the door. Someone politely stopped me from behind when I got outside.

“Excuse me, this is very awkward for me, but I just wanted to give you this.” said a middle aged man with a foreign accent that I couldn’t identify. He handed me a folded up napkin. Confused and curious, I said some surprised and enthusiastic exclamation of “okay” and went to my car to read it. Here is what it said:

   My favorite thing about this is that this person did not leave their number. They wanted no involvement, nothing to gain from the interaction. They simply had the pure intention of recognizing the beauty in another person and wanting to make sure they knew that. As someone with little faith in humanity, this touched my heart on such a deep level, and for the first time in a long time, I had some hope for the kind of people that are out there. I felt like there must be people who see each other for more than just objects, and more than what they want them to be for their own interests. There are truly those who are able to recognize a genuine moment, or characteristic in a person, and leave it at that appreciation.

   But the thing is, this experience did not end there. Shortly after that, I found myself back at the same Starbucks where the tables had turned, and I felt compelled to do something kind for someone else. It was night this time, and a boy and his mother sat at the table across from me. I’m usually very caught up in my work, but something about this boy’s stature and expression screamed at me. With no life in his face, he looked out the window as his mom spoke at him, occasionally getting caught up in whatever he had on his lap top. I felt like no part of him wanted to be there, and I wondered how this could be, until someone else joined them and I realized what was happening. They were there to meet with someone who could help him apply to colleges. Instantly I understood this boy’s dread, and went back to my work with the case solved. Some time afterward, I heard the guest get a bit louder and frantic in his speech, so I looked up. The poor boy was crying, and in his eyes I saw myself. It was a person who had completely lost hope. He did not believe that his efforts were good enough, whether they were or not, who knows, but in this day and age when immense pressure is put on youth to get high scores and do every extracurricular activity known to youth, it can be unbearable. I had the same feeling, the same reality, both in high school and into college. I started to hear more of what this guest was saying.

“You have a score of _____… What this college wants is ____…I’ve known people with ______ get into _______… I think you have a great chance with _____… You do sports, you do everything. That’s going to make you more sellable… Do you do varsity? Mention _____ and it will be a great essay… What’s a good attribute to describe yourself? Like, would you say that you’re the life of the party? People always say they’re going to get good grades but what are you going to offer to the university?”

I was ready to vomit just listening to this. Since when did people become numbers and a sales pitch? Immediately, I ripped out a piece of paper from my sketch book and started writing.

   In my note to him, I was quite frank. I made it very honest, and made it clear that it was from a perspective that had been through it all. I gave it a sense that although this feels like the end of the world, it is all a lot of hype and unnecessary stress (I believe I specifically chose the word ‘bullshit’ as my adjective. It has been my favorite adjective as of late). I told him that future me would want my past self to know that my dreams are valid and worthwhile, but that they’re going to change. They are not fixed. That’s a part of life. So if everything is constantly changing anyway, there’s no use in having so much turmoil over what will or will not be. I told him that he was not a number, or a sellable commodity, that he had something to offer no matter what the school boards wanted. I told him that life was short, and to be truly fulfilled is to find what your authentic self has to offer, and provide that. I told him that in the end it was all going to work out, which is needed to be heard after putting so much hard work and stress into something of this magnitude. Although it was incredibly awkward, like it was for that guy who saw my face looking into the sun, the kindness that I was given gave me the courage to stop him on the way out the door and give him my note.

You never know what people are going through. You never know what is happening in a person’s life, or inner world. This is why kindness, and most of all speaking up when no one else will, is so important. I don’t have to go into rates of suicide or how stressful modern day life can be. Anyone reading this will know and can relate in their own way. So please, if you see someone struggling, do something small for that person. If you notice something beautiful in a stranger, compliment them, or simply tell them what you see. It’s the time of the year when everyone needs it, and when the spirit of the holidays makes it viable.

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Kerry Jane

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The Hidden Dogma in Science

   I was an extremely good student in high school. I did everything I was supposed to, taking on as many extracurriculars as I possibly could, while still getting good grades and taking charge of all my responsibilities. I played the flute and made it into our school’s wind ensemble. I was a girl scout and a member of the national honor society, as well as other honor societies. I took on literary clubs and was extremely involved with the community. I also took a great liking to science, particularly biology, and english (depending on my teacher, shout out to Ms. Stern). I like to forget that high school happened sometimes, but I was coerced into thinking about everything despite this when I ran into my 11th grade AP bio teacher as I was writing Metanoia in a nearby Starbucks.

   What can I say about the difference between then and now? Well, I’ve learned that I’m actually a terrible student. But how (after I just explained everything) you might ask? Five years ago, and to this day, I took an interest in science because there wasn’t dogma, and a type of thinking that was open to many possibilities. I liked it because it was a way to test the unknown, and come up with explanations that lacked bias and opinion, unlike  many areas of society (I could name quite a few). After I worked so hard at trying to secure my future and bring myself to a place where I had several options for college, my financial status and life circumstance eventually brought me right into my own backyard at a local SUNY school. This is where my perception changed.

   More and more, I began to see several things that people rarely acknowledge about the academic world, one of which is how biased science could actually be. Everything in this world is driven by money, including the types of studies and experiments that are performed by experts in the field. Thankfully, there can be important discoveries made that are unrelated to the question at hand despite the reason behind funding. However, it can still be very biased.

   The second thing I noticed can be explained through something that I heard from a youtube channel I subscribe to called Ascension Pioneers. The woman said something I have come to find on my own. She said “It doesn’t have to be religious to be dogmatic”. Dogmatic meaning not being able to see the light of a new opening, not being able to accept any other possibility other than the idea, or way of thinking, that you currently have. I’ve seen this methodology leak into every facet of society. It is just so ironic in this case, as science claims itself to be different from religion in that its separated from opinion, from the interests, motives, and beliefs, in an attempt reach an honest conclusion. But even now, it has fallen victim to these human idiosyncrasies. (On a side note, I really do believe scientists have good intentions when entering their field, but like most they get sucked into beliefs and ways of thinking that act as a hindrance to our development).

    I am not a good student because my natural tendencies goes against this. The current system favors obedience. I go about my studies very differently. I ask questions that aren’t deemed important, and my process has too much sentiment (Its also because I’m terrible at multiple choice questions that have two right answers, but thats besides the point). Later on, I am going to write another blog post relating to this, but lets stay on topic for now. School no longer feels like learning to me, it feels like a task that earns a right of passage. It feels like something I have to complete so that I have time later to do my own tests and address my own questions.

   So ironically, while I went into a science field because it is proclaimed to be an honest quest for truth, I have seen little of this. Instead, I’ve seen people who are happily pigeonholed in their career, biased from all the papers they’ve read and specialists they’ve interacted with, who are no longer able to approach an issue (say and environmental one for example, since that is my major) from a different perspective. I think that very often, if a problem still exists after a long period of time of trying to come up with solutions, it is because the people involved with it are not looking at it correctly. The truth in this lies in a quote from Albert Einstein that states “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”.  And yet not many people dare to try things differently. In fact, depending on the environment you’re in, many scientists are criticized, and their work attacked if they stray too far away from the norm. This is an environment that works against innovation, and puts the ultimate development of our civilization at risk.

    It seems now that almost anywhere I turn, there are people who are so set in their ways and will not budge. It inhibits development and growth in both their personal lives, and advancements in our society. “The only constant is change”. That is how our world operates, we are meant to have an ever evolving view of what we believe to be true. The discoveries of the future are meant to show us something completely different from the way we look at life now. That is human, that is part of the reason why we are here.

Perhaps one possible explanation as to why it has gotten to this point is that the current strict system was designed so that we could have reliable information in the first place. In a way, I am happy that things are the way they are right now. It is definitely an improvement from the distant past, when information was largely hearsay and invalid. Im glad that I can at least say a few things with certainty as a result of this academic standard. But something tells me that Nikola Tesla, Albert Einstein, and the Wright Brothers didn’t spend a lot of time making sure their knowledge was up to par with academic/scholarly standards. 

These are strange times we’re living in. Beautiful and unique and momentous, but strange times nonetheless.

   In upcoming posts, I will be discussing things very similar to this topic. Some of which include the role that the heart may play in the midst of our intellectualization. Also, I want to share a TED Talk called “The Science Delusion” by Rupert Sheldrake. It goes further into the truth about our process in science, and how human nature can tamper with the accuracy of our conclusions. Until next time, shoot me a message, comment below, let me know what you think! 

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Featured image credited to Kevin Bourland