I’ve been thinking these past few days about the power of kindness to shape my life, and form a better destiny for humankind. This thought process was sparked, in part, by last week’s episode of the FOX series Cosmos (memo to Neil deGrasse Tyson: stop blowing my mind, damnit!). If you haven’t been watching the show, for shame! The reboot of Carl Sagan’s series is a beautifully crafted love letter to science and the many men and women who’ve fought to increase human understanding. But more than that, it proves some very important ethical points. A running theme throughout the series is that small acts of compassion had immeasurable positive effects for human progress and flourishing. Or, in simpler terms, that kindness is rational.
Sunday’s episode, “The Electric Boy,” told the story of a young boy born into poverty and the lowest of the British classes. With a little initiative and hard work on his part, he made a connection with Humphry Davy, one of the premier English scientists of the time. Davy’s act of kindness was to invite the young man to work in his lab at the Royal Institute. Once established in the Institute, the young man, Michael Faraday, would go on to revolutionize modern science with his invention of the electric engine and the generator, and his discovery that electricity, magnetism, and light were one unified force. This last discovery paved the way for James Clerk Maxwell and Albert Einstein’s work, and many of the useful devices we enjoy today – radio, television, computers – would not exist without Faraday’s work. And none of this would have happened without the initial act of kindness. Another wonderful example took place in episode 4, when a different boy – Joseph von Fraunhofer – was rescued from a life of servitude and hard labor by the king of Bavaria, who gave him an education and a job at the Optical Institute. Fraunhofer would add his invaluable insights to the development of lenses and telescopes and, in his biggest discovery, synthesize physics and astronomy by discovering spectral lines in the light of stars. Once again, a simple act of kindness pays off big time.
Of course, the kindness of others in my own life is the primary reason I’m presently mindful of how good deeds can have great dividends. I can’t promise I’ll revolutionize modern science (in fact, I can pretty much assure you I won’t!), but I can promise all of those who’ve donated to my nursing school campaign to work hard and help as many others as I can in my new career. I can promise, in other words, that I’ll show kindness in my life and keep the investment paying off.
Right now, as I sit and listen to River laughing jubilantly and lounging on a carpet of spring sun, I’m feeling optimistic for my life and hers. It’s a good feeling. On that note, here’s a free photo of the day!
Camera Photo: Nikon D40, 1/160 sec; f/6.3; ISO 200