What Else by Jim Harris
"What else is kindness for?". I was vacuuming when the
phrase came to me. I tend to be open to messages from my subconscious,
and occasionally it obliges me by dropping little one-liners on
my doorstep, usually at the most unexpected times. It sounded
in my head, loud and clear. "Huh?", I thought out loud,
"Who said that, and what does it mean?". Then I had
one of those "Aha!" moments. I realized that it was
an answer to a question that I had been asking myself for many
years. I must digress a bit to explain.
I am an activist for animals.
I don't dislike my fellow humans, I've just always felt a special
affinity for animals. It took me a long time to come to terms
with that and to put my feelings into constructive action. Quite
often I have been out protesting this or that heinous cruelty
when a passerby would shout, "Why aren't you helping people?".
I have always wondered what a proper response to that question
would be. That's where my subconscious offering comes into play.
It is an answer in the form of
a question. In the rhetorical sense, it suggests that any activity
which aims to alleviate suffering or promote well-being is an
appropriate use of kindness. In the interrogative sense, it asks
for all of the needs and causes that can be served by kindness.
There are so many moral and ethical issues requiring attention
in today's complex, crowded world that it can be overwhelming
to think about them all, let alone to try to address each and
The solution, I believe, lies
in specialization. There is a time and a constituency for every
purpose under Heaven. People are sufficiently numerous and diverse
that, if each of us finds our own passion and follows it, - rather
than criticizing others for what they are not doing - the world
will be a much kinder place. So much of the cruelty and destruction
is firmly entrenched and out of our personal control that the
best we can do as individuals is to latch on to a small piece
of it and make it better. Nature, in her wisdom, has planted enough
seeds in enough hearts to take care of everything. We need only
express our inner seed to serve the greater good. I like to keep
things simple. I only know what I know in my own head. I don't
deal in external, Utilitarian concepts like conflicting goods,
or the good versus the best. In my opinion, every single act of
kindness is a plus, no justification required.
So that's where this one little
phrase led me. I wound up writing a gospel-type song about it,
and I finally acquired a suitable reply for those naysayers who
heckle me at demonstrations. Of course, the core of the argument
is a bit lengthy, and time is precious, so I usually just reply
in international sign language (hey, I'm no saint), and save the
discourse for more appropriate forums.
You can find the words to "What
else is kindness for?" and my other songs on my website,