Kindness in the Comments
An internet snark’s snarky review of “Natural Meditations” by Dean Sluyter
In my quest to avoid the Virus, I have managed to spend a great deal of time reading and commenting on The Internet. In my brief, masked encounters with other Humans, I have come to believe that people are much nicer when they are facing each other rather than interfacing with each other.
I have been deeply curious about meditation, exploring different formats and reading various philosophies. Recently I read the award winning book, “Natural Meditation: A Guide to Natural Meditative Practice” by Dean Sluyter. In it he tells a lot of wild anecdotes about fascinating people, but those are his stories, and I think the best way to describe the book is to tell you about a moment when the book ‘clicked’ with me.
So again with the Internet. I was unwinding on Reddit, surfing “New”…I enjoy watching the feed as it comes in fresh. The very first image that came up was a person who posted a photograph titled, “This spoon of peanut butter after my friend took a bite.
Sitting at my computer looking at a photograph of a spoon, my inner cynic came out. I felt annoyed that this trivial thing had been brought to my attention. “I don’t get it . Why would someone post this?” I thought out loud to my screen.
The lessons of Sluyter’s book got me thinking about empathy, so I hung onto my own question. “Why would someone post this?”
I didn’t know the story around this spoonful of peanut butter, but I started reflecting, ‘what If I could just see the spoon from the eyes of a person who wanted to share the photo with strangers on the internet, what if I changed my perspective and tried to see through someone else’s eyes?’
I simply twisted my snark into an attempt at kindness. It wasn’t a noble act, I just tried to say something nice instead of saying something mean. This person doesn’t know me, doesn’t get how goodofaguy I really am…I am just another line of text on The Internet to them, a faceless voice in the void just like they are to me. But aside from the armies of Twitter Bots out there, most of those voices are real people, all connected by the same struggle, all worthy of Love.
I agreed that it indeed was an elegant spoonful posted on my screen. I said:
“I had a snappy comment about this, but it wasn’t nearly as elegant as that peanut butter.”
It does have a delightful balance of color and shape. I dismiss it at first, but if it were painted in oils on a canvas in a gallery I might stop and stroke my chin at it a few times. We should never stop looking for beauty when we can find it. This stranger reminded me of that and I am grateful.
I made my comment and went on my way. The line wasn’t my best work, but it felt really nice to be more kind rather than cruel, no matter what the reaction. I have been trying to figure out a way to incorporate empathy into my daily life; to learn to instantly perceive the woman blocking my access to the potatoes in the grocery store as someone who has as much right to the potato aisle as I have to it. In that moment, in that spoonful of peanut butter, I saw that I had the power to change my own personal narrative. It was that simple. Not some thunderous awakening but a choice to be kind and fair.
When you spend your day taking in information, it is easy to forget that there is a person on the other side of that window. A major point of Sluyter’s book is that being kind is something that takes practice, but it is something that anyone can practice in whatever moments that they find, and that we don’t need to be enlightened masters to feel the amazing joy that comes from looking at the world through Love rather than cynicism.
It really is just that simple.