Kindness. Contemplation. Creation. Connection.
In the early evening on Wednesday, June 16, when almost all of Greater Vancouver was watching in shock and disbelief as the Stanley Cup riots unfolded, I sat in the comfort of my home staring confoundedly at my computer screen as I watched live-feeds from several local TV stations stream images of chaos and civic unrest around the world. Cars had been lit on fire, store windows smashed, and a weird manic, angry jubilation was captured that showed mostly young men, and some young women jumping on vehicles, looting stores, beating people senselessly. I wondered what our future will look like with this generation at its helm.
I toggled back and forth from live-streaming to Facebook sharing comments of disgust and shock with friends. We kept each other apprised of the events, and how our friends and families were fairing who lived or worked downtown. As we watched tens of thousands of people try to leave the downtown core, we saw thousands more stay to watch as the riots escalated. Within hours, Vancouver was in lock-down, riot police were called in and it was evident that the central core of the city was ravaged.
How could our society have devolved to such disgraceful and base behaviour?
What I have learned, however, is that nothing is simply yes/no, good/bad. It’s not that simple. There are complex relationships between things that when looked upon as a whole are a bit like a cut diamond. Many views are reﬂected like facets of the gem seen from above or through the kaleidoscopic crystal within. Turned and viewed through this prismatic lens connections that constitute the myriad facets of society are each affected by their relationship to the other within the whole, and nothing exists singularly.
Out of the demonstrations of anger, hostility, and groundless destruction bloomed a gentle but strong surge of compassion, concern and creation. The tides of people with positive motivations flooding the streets transformed contempt into kindness. To put things into perspective, the number of people responsible for helping and restoring was more than the number of people responsible for harming and wrecking. And many of them were the same age and younger as the rioters.
So, to go back to the second question first, about the devolution of society. To begin with, I don’t think it’s the whole of society that has devolved, it’s a small part of it. However, they are responding to an aspect of our society that is unhealthy. Krishnamurti wrote, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” The rioters have exposed a discontent in our society that must be addressed. Sadly, despite all the material comforts around us, we are still not satisfied. Even though are needs are met, we are still unhappy. Perhaps we resent the person who has a newer or better car that starts right away that doesn’t need to have its started tapped, and because we don’t know where the starter is we tap anything that we think might be the starter! Perhaps we are unhappy because our clothes aren’t new, or we want to live in a different home.
But our car starts despite its age, our clothes keep us warm or cool, and our home provides comfort and shelter. We are reading this on our computer, or perhaps somewhere we have access to one. We have friends and family. We aren’t starving. We have our health.
The rioters shone a light on the malaise, and it’s up to us to do what we can to fix it. As we learn to be happy in our lives, to appreciate what we have and accept where we are at this time, we spread that happiness outward. If, as it has been said, it takes a village to raise a child, then if we consider that we are all children to a certain extent, we are raising each other. We are all helping each other. Young and old alike, we teach and learn concurrently. So, our society is not devolving, but there is a problem. But it is clear that there are so many people who are caring, concerned and kind that a transformation can take place. We are evolving.
Which leads me to the first question concerning the younger generation at the helm of society in the future. If all I have stated above is an indication, that there are more people who have insight, compassion, mindfulness, balance and kindness than otherwise, I would say the future is hopeful and it will be in good hands. That was my impression after five Kindness Flag Project events on the street, talking to huge cross section of society. The people who materialized to help are true leaders. By their actions, they proved that there’s a lot to be happy about today. And confident about tomorrow.
The fluttering flags are a reminder of the importance of loving kindness. Perhaps their messages will be teased off in the wind and carried like pollen to fertilize more kindness elsewhere. I hope people will consider what kindness means in every aspect of their daily lives, particularly at times when it’s most difficult.
There is a gentle breeze of transformation blowing.
And from little acorns mighty oaks grow…
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