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

If you like my work and would like to see my creative projects come to fruition, please support me on Patreon.

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Embracing the Intellect of the Heart

   In our society, there is an enigmatic taboo that leads many to distrust what they’re instincts tell them to do, where to look, how to be, etc. Sometimes for good reason, but sometimes in excess. From a very young age, all we want is to be accepted, or perhaps to at least be considered “acceptable” in some way if you were not someone who cared what others thought. Either way, we have all struggled to meet a standard at some point in our lives. This is how we’re guided to follow the grain from square one, until we come to a point in our maturity where we completely forget we are following something external at all and are tricked into thinking everything we want and strive for is related to our authentic selves, or true purpose. It is because of this that we sometimes stray away from what we are intuitively pulled towards by the heart, and replace it with our mental constructs and external ideas.

Over time, I’ve been lead to the idea that the heart has an intellect that either no one knows or no one acknowledges. To many, this statement might be very confusing because we’ve made the very definition of the word ‘heart’ to serve as an antonym for the word ‘intellect’. Perhaps this is a symptom of living in separation of the two: “Use your head” or “Follow your heart” we say. We seem to use one or the other depending on the situation. But what if we merged these two concepts together, and used them at the same time? What happens then?

   Personally, I have found that I’ve used my heart to figure out where my mind is supposed to go, upon which my mind takes over and synthesizes what its given. Then, it would be my heart’s duty to feel out the conclusions I’ve drawn, and so on. It goes back and forth in an ebb and flow continuously. In rare instances, I find the two coalesce, like two bodies in space that circle around one another until gravity finally leads them to join in an epic blaze of light and color. They become the same thing essentially, that is what I meant by there being “an intellect to the heart”, which opposes the separation the two concepts.

Two white dwarf stars orbiting each other every 5 minutes.

Photograph courtesy NASA/Tod Strohmayer (GSFC)/Dana Berry (Chandra X-Ray Observatory)

 

The result of this has always been interesting. I’ve come up with my best ideas and produced my best work in these states. But for whatever reason, I see many people not trusting the way they feel, and rely on what they see, or vice versa. I can’t help but notice that we as a society live in a sort of disconnect that keeps us from reaching our full potential, truthfully in many ways apart from what I’ve even discussed so far.

But allow me to diverge for a moment, because I have something I wish to convey.

   I truly believe that certain instances call for you to act on your instinct rather than what is customary. The right thing to do just might be the opposite of what your mind advises. For example, life-changing inventions and problem solving skills generally require an “out of the box” method of approach, as we like to call it. Well, what is this vague “out of the box” thing people speak of? I am no expert but logic would lead me to believe that it involves avoiding the perception that is no longer providing any solutions to the problem, and what most likely lead to the problem in the first place (a rewording of the well known quote by Albert Einstein “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”).

   Sometimes we seem to think that something needs a lot of thought and intellectualization, which is likely a product of our education. However, you may inadvertently think yourself into a box that will not lead you anywhere beyond what you can see. A problem may call for a solution that requires a completely different angle of approach. I have found a method that works for me to avoid this trap. It is one simple statement: ‘I know that I don’t know’. It is known as the Socratic Paradox, where one knows that they know nothing. It is possible to have conclusions come out of this approach that are not entirely accurate, but at least it comes from an honest place that lacks any bias that may steer me away from the truth. It’s a good start is all I’m saying. And truth is so subjective that I really can’t ever say anything with complete certainty as we all have our own truth, with threads of validity woven through it all. But when I am listening to someone preach something or share their opinion, I now always ask myself this:  “Where did they begin with the creation of that belief?”

In starting with “I know that I don’t know”, I’m choosing to be careful about contaminating my own understanding with someone or something else’s (which is probably already riddled with mistruths because I’ve never known anyone to approach life in such a clean-slate way).

I can hear everyone’s thoughts right not at this point. They say “But Kerry, what does this even have to do with what you were saying in the beginning with the heart nonsense?”

Calm down, I’m bringing it home.

   Perhaps for some of history’s game changers, the “out of the box” notion is disguised as this moment where the idea of the head and the heart connects, creating the capacity to reach conclusions that could not be made otherwise. Its a sort of reaching out of the five senses, with knowledge previously gained guiding the way, and the willingness connect to something greater than yourself or what you already know.

   If we are to be guided by a true purpose, or wish to live a life of authenticity, we must challenge preconceived notions, understand where it is that they come from, and in doing so, open up to the intellect of the heart.

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Featured image credited to Jacob Jugashvili 

Created to Create

“Imagination is more powerful than knowledge”

-Albert Einstein

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In my own personal quest of understanding, I am encountering more and more often the idea of how our thoughts manifest into physical reality, and how we were created to create. This is true, and not necessarily on some mystical level that lacks rationality. We see it every day with our technologies. Our entire civilization is built on a foundation of things that were once ideas. It all had to be conceived first. Imagination is more important than knowledge because imagination manifests knowledge.

Think of a brick layer, whose tools, bricks and cement would represent knowledge, the facts that are at hand. These materials mean nothing if you don’t know what to do with them, just as facts are meaningless without a way to postulate scenarios. (I like this analogy because it also hints at the importance of the materials to build what we conceive, the role that knowledge plays in this scheme). Imagination gives knowledge shape, and therefore meaning.

All this, and yet our public schools are keen on teaching children how to think, and that the facts listed on a lecture slide in college is what will determine whether you are a functioning citizen. Perhaps this approach does make you a functioning citizen, but not in the way that is unique to yourself, not in a way that incorporates your own full potential.

I am writing this as a frustrated participant of this system. As a junior in college, I’m tired of the perpetual quest of trying to emulate what my external environment wants out of me, rather than simply drawing upon what I already know, working with what comes naturally, and applying it to our society in the most constructive way possible. I am weary of the idea that nothing is more important than making yourself into something that someone else wants.

So while we live in a civilization of such impressive creations, how is creating not given more weight in our external and internal lives? I suppose there could be a few answers to this, one major reason being money and greed. Our creations have been centric to this facet, virtually becoming a God of sorts, as it seems to be the reason we do anything today. We have to. Some of us create to earn a living, so we can eat food, to live and make more money, and so on. And so it is not about creating to create, but creating something that fits the status quo. This methodology ultimately leaks into the education system and the vicious cycle continues.

I understand that there is a reason why things are the way they are. I understand there are ideals that are simply not ready for our way of life, and that we have a long way to go towards a system that is morally sound and embraces humanity, rather than one that oppresses and controls it. However, I think there is still something we can take from these ideals, and although I’m not certain of how, I believe there are small ways to effect change.

I think it starts with waking up and realizing the distinction between our life’s purpose and our means of survival, because as humans, these things are completely separate and unrelated. It surprises me every day just how many people have forgotten that we have free will, and that we have a choice despite the constraints of our environment (which ironically, could potentially be eliminated with the realization of this fact). In many ways, we are a cog in the wheel. But I don’t believe we were meant to be cogs for this particular wheel, which is of control and prohibition. You have a choice to be what you want to be. To live your life like a song, a painting, poem, or an interesting novel, whatever suites your soul. And when you do this, something beautiful happens. Not just for yourself, but for those witnessing the change around you, who can then begin to believe that they too have this power, and they too can live life with greater purpose.

Our creations will change us, and how this happens is solely dependent on what we think is worthy of creation, either that of money or that of who we truly are at the core. This translates to the choice to keep living like we are living, or to live as we naturally came: created to create.

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 “When I say be creative, I don’t mean that you should all go become great painters and great poets. I simply mean let your life be a painting, let your life be a poem”

 -Osho