The Highest form of Wisdom
A few years ago I was in a local boutique and they were giving away window stickers that said "Only Kindness Matters." I took one of these stickers, cut off the word "Only" and stuck it to the rearview mirror in my car. I looked at this sticker all of the time and I really contemplated it. I had a huge issue with the word Only, but even after removing it, the word still haunted me.
The story in my head went something like this: Kindness is NOT the only thing that matters. Sometimes we have to be angry, set limits, be firm, connect to our righteous anger and even rage. Saying that "Only" kindness matters is a phrase born out of white privilege and a disconnect from the horrors of the world.
I was indignant. The wild mother-bear in me was rising up during this season of my life. The destroyer mother, Kali, Medusa, Calypso, she was ravaging my shadow psyche. I wanted someone to stand up for Life. To burn down the corporations. I imagined giant dragons flying over cities and just burning them to the ground.
Kindness is no solution, I thought. Kindness is weak and feeble, like the love and light new age spiritual movement. We need something real, and bone deep. Something connected to the shadow realms of disowned power and rage.
I spent years being angry. I spent years feeling this rage boiling in my blood. I really and truly believed that we needed a radical, maybe even violent, revolution. Kindness was not fitting into the equation of changing the world and making life work for everyone.
During this time, my mom gifted me with a piece of art that says "The Highest Form of Wisdom is Kindness." When she first gave it to me, I felt the fury rising in me. Here it was again, this feeble mantra about the powers of kindness. I hung the art in the basement of my house, in a room a almost never went into.
Very slowly, as I connected to my own rage and helplessness, I began to see what was hiding under all of this anger. I was actually very afraid, and very in love. I was so desperately in love with this world and all of its beauty that some part of me became fiercely protective, just as I would fiercely protect my children. I was terribly afraid of everything that is being destroyed. I was hopelessly afraid of corporate greed, powerful bullies like the agro-chemical industry, and politicians who were not public servants but corporate puppets. I couldn't see a way through this except annihilation of the enemy. In a way, I had been radicalized by my own helplessness.
Fear turns off the higher parts of our brain. The amygdala senses a threat to our survival and shuts of input from the neocortex (think logic and reason and the more refined and civilized human emotions) and prioritizes input from the reptilian part of our brain responsible for survival and the fight or flight response. I had become a victim of fear-mongering. I had been converted to a person bent on survival where the ends justify the means. I had been radicalized, in a way.
Very slowly, I have healed this fear and rage in myself and have connected to the part of myself that loves. The part of myself that is in awe of a sunrise and the dewdrops on a spiderweb. The part of myself that is gentle and soft and incredibly strong. This part of me knows that love and kindness are the backbone of regeneration. It is the soft rains that allow the seeds to germinate. It is the easy breeze that deposits new life in the soil. It is the warm and gentle spring rays that coax the seed out of the ground. New life requires kindness, gentleness, nourishment and coaxing. Fire and tsunamis destroy, but gentleness regenerates.
This is not to say that there aren't times when Fire is necessary. Watching Kali pour her fire through the eyes of Emma Gonzales today reminded me of how important this fiercely protective archetypal energy truly is. Here is the video if you haven't seen it: https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/17/us/florida-student-emma-gonzalez-speech/index.html
Perhaps we have to go through a period of destruction before regeneration can begin. Maybe I needed to really feel and walk through my rage before I could trust in my kindness. Connecting with our collective fear and anger and righteous indignation may be the season that we are in, collectively. It is time for us to stand in our anger, to hold hands and root down and say "enough is enough." I know now deep in my bones, that fierce love is what is beneath that rage. Love and protectiveness and hope. We wouldn't be fighting if we didn't believe that something else was possible.
Maybe in the end, it really is "only" kindness that matters. Without it, we would be left with the fallout of destruction without the hope or the means for rebirth. We must stay in community, laughing, dancing, serving, making art. These connections to one another are what keep us from being lost in the rage. They ground us in the hope that tempers the fire and allows space for regeneration.
These days, I choose to be someone who is anchored in regenerative and restorative practice. I still feel the fire, very much and very often. I still rage at injustice and feel fiercely protective of the Earth, her creatures, my children and all children. Within this fire, I am practicing birthing a new world, a world where gentleness and kindness are valued and effective. I truly believe that this is the highest form of wisdom available to us, as human beings. Allowing our ferocity to be rooted in the belief that in the end, kindness matters. Otherwise, what would we be fighting for?