A report from the Slow Lane
I first ran across the word “humankindness” when I was doing my doctoral research into community. For over 20 years I have been captivated by it. Coined by an anthropologist, the word was his attempt to give expression to the way some people treated other people, not just people of the same village, tribe, or language group, but people of all sorts. This behavior and attitude fascinated me, as does the double meaning of this word. Now I have a vivid experience to go with the concept and I want to explore this phenomenon more.
I think I have liked the word humankindness because it captures something that has been difficult to express; that is, the connection that exists between us. The word has two meanings that express different sides of the same precious coin. Humankindness describes the similarity that exists between us because we are all of the class of mammals called humans. In that way we are all of one kind. It also refers to the way that others are held, with kindness, as we ourselves would like to be treated. The word humankindness addresses simultaneous attributes of what binds us to one another.
Some indigenous people evidently had the wisdom of noticing that all humans had something in common and therefore were respectable, worthy of kind regard. This simultaneous recognition and regard seems to be missing from our modern world. Recently, however, I came to the realization that this form of connection wasn’t a product of on-going physical togetherness, but of wisdom. People can, and do, come to this awareness, not because of the niceness of their families, friends and loved ones, but because they have grown wise.
Not long ago I was involved in a circle of people who began spontaneously to express their sense of community with each other. They had come to confront the dilemma of our times, the threat we humans pose for each other, the planet and Life as we know it. Confronted, as they were, by a vivid recognition of our limited ways, and the question about the kind of consciousness needed in these difficult times, wisdom began to emerge.
They didn’t talk about the need for community instead, they began as a response to the dilemma of our times, to express their experience of community. A part of this group’s response to the horrible mess our kind has created was to feel how kindred they were. Humankindness emerged as way of responding together. Unknowingly this group began to access a kind of collective wisdom that isn’t easily conveyed. A hardship, the difficult, maybe un-survivable dilemma we are responsible for, evoked out of the group feelings of togetherness. The wisdom of combining, of sharing, of learning together, of facing the impossible in unison, began to manifest.
Wisdom comes in many forms. It often surprises us. Collective wisdom, especially in these times, is indeed surprising. But, we are capable (as the anthropologist proved) of recognizing it, of being part of manifesting it, of turning to one another and growing a collective awareness. Humankindness because it is built on upon a biological similarity transcends religion, class, color, psychology, ideology, age, Culture, gender, or education. Humankindness because it is an attitude of regard isn’t dependent upon outside circumstances, but upon inside development. Strangely, a dilemma, of big enough proportions, awakens it. Outside circumstance isn’t the sole arbiter of fate. Because this is so, humankindness can be extended.
I have come to believe that humankindness is a logical waypoint on the journey toward wholeness. Loving oneself is synonomous with loving the other. The mystery of all being is part of The Great Mystery. There is a fundamental Unity but it expresses itself through diversity. The profusion of nature is a reflection of the profusion of Life in which we ourselves are spawned.
The mess we have created could, if we let it, bring us together. That is what I experienced as we all suffered with each other. Facing the dilemma together, in each other’s presence, drew forth from us a fresh recognition of what we have in common. It hurt to notice what abides in us. Wisdom sometimes is the juice that gets squeezed out of us. It’s there, but needs a little pressure to become available. Humankindness is the recognition that the squeeze is always on. Just being human, existing, could be enough.