I first noticed it on Canal Street in New Orleans. Random steel spikes in building doorways. It took me a minute to figure out what they were for. They certainly weren’t public art and didn’t appear to serve a purpose. Once I was realized they were to prevent the homeless from sleeping, I was astonished.
I was astonished at such intentional unkindness.
Once you notice this phenomenon, you can’t un-notice it. Park benches slant forward, walls are uneven, with jagged masonry; there are pavement sprinklers, spikes, barricades, even coin-operated benches…all with the sole purpose of preventing society’s “unwanted” from inhabiting public space.
It even has a name: Disciplinary (or defensive) architecture.
So this isn’t carelessness or accidental. These are carefully considered, planned, designed and implemented acts of unkindness.
Or, as Alex Andreou put it in the Guardian, “[Defensive architecture] is the aggregated, concrete, spiked expression of a lack of generosity of spirit … Making our urban environment hostile breeds hardness and isolation. It makes life a little uglier for all of us.”
Does that sound like a world you want to live in? Nope.
So hey guys, let’s try to be kind to each other. Practice it randomly. Practice it intentionally. Practice it early and often. It’s actually good for your physical AND mental health!
Let’s aim for more this. And less this.
We good with that?
Extra Yarn, Mac Barnett, Illustrated by Jon Klassen
A little girl discovers an endless box of yarn! Guess why it’s endless? Because she shared it with her whole town! A lovely little children’s book about community and generosity.
The Art of Happiness and The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D.
It’s the Dalai Lama. You better listen because he knows his business.
Compassion is a true source of happiness. Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease, helps remove fears and insecurities and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter.
On Kindness, Adam Phillips and Barbara Taylor
Why does being kind feel so dangerous? And why are we suspicious when we are on the receiving end? A psychoanalyst and a historian attempt to explain how modern people have chosen loneliness over connection- even though we crave it.
Caring about others is what makes us fully human. We depend on each other not just for our survival but for our very being. The self without sympathetic attachments is either a fiction or a lunatic.
The World According to Mr. Rogers: Important things to Remember, Fred Rogers
Like the Dalai Lama, it’s Mr. Rogers.
You better listen to him, too.
The real issue in life is not how many blessings we have, but what we do with our blessings. Some people have many blessings and hoard. Some have few and give everything away.
Congratulations, By the Way, George Saunders
This is the transcript of the convocation address George Sanders gave at Syracuse University.
It is a little book, but it’s simple and uplifting.
So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it. What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering and I responded…sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.
I’m going on vacation this week. I’m going to pay tolls for people behind me. Because someone once did it for me and I felt great all day. What’s the best random act of kindness someone did for you?
This post is dedicated to my favorite bouncer, who won’t say happy birthday to strangers.