By Gary Suttle
What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?
The Golden Rule exemplifies human kindness, cooperation, and reciprocity. Many religions expound the renowned rule in one way or another:
Buddhism: A clansman (should) minister to his friends and familiars...by treating them as he treats himself.
Christianity: As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
Confucianism: What you do not want done to yourself, do not do unto others.
Hinduism: Do naught to others which, if done to thee, would cause thee pain: this is the sum of duty.
Judaism: Take heed to thyself, my child, in all thy works; and be discreet in all thy behavior. And what thou thyself hatest, do to no man.
Pantheism similarly heeds the Golden Rule. Pantheists strive to treat others as they wish themselves to be treated, but their warmheartedness spreads beyond humankind-- Pantheists agree with those who extend the Golden Rule to relations with other life forms and the Earth itself. Showing kindness and consideration to other creatures and to the environment is the natural thing to do (interestingly, the word "kind" comes from the Old English word "gecynde" which means "natural").
The Golden Rule may have arisen from early peoples connectedness to the land and the need for cooperation. Hunters and gatherers often acknowledged with gratitude any part of Nature they utilized. They felt kinship towards to the animals and plants that underpinned their survival. Hunting itself encouraged cooperation. A large animal kill would spoil if hoarded by a single hunter and his family; sharing the food avoided waste and garnered appreciation and reciprocity from fellow hunters. As the descendants of people who learned to share and care for mutual benefit, we have an inherent capacity for fairness and kindness.
Nature matches humans conscious cooperative behavior with innumerable unconscious acts of cooperation. Bees pollinate flowers, coyotes keep prey from overrunning their habitat, decomposing bacteria return nutrients to the soil. Pantheists, with their deep feelings for Nature and their recognition of our dependency upon natural processes, revel in these countless expressions of cooperation.
Of course, there's a darker side to life. In Nature, 'survival of the fittest' often appears anything but kind, as when stronger fledgling birds push weaker ones out of a nest to their death. In human society, sheer self-preservation sometimes tarnishes the Golden Rule.
Cruel acts occur all too frequently, requiring forceful amelioration or tit-for-tat action. Life-threatening warfare may necessitate hurting others. Even the simple act of living requires taking plant and/or animal life to sustain our own. But following the Golden Rule whenever possible can better the future. Pantheists join with people of goodwill everywhere to tap and expand the underlying human heritage of kindly cooperation.
The Golden Rule brings with it a golden gleam. Friendliness fosters felicity, and by extending kindness to others and to the Earth, we brighten prospects for a secure and sustainable world.
SELECTED QUOTATIONS ON KINDNESS
Kindness is the golden chain by which society is bound together.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
An effort made for the happiness of others lifts us above ourselves.
Lydia M. Child
The golden rule is of no use to you whatsoever unless you realize that
it is your move.
Do every act of your life as if were your last.
It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely
try to help another without helping himself.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Three things in human life are important: The first is to be kind. The
second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.
Goodwill to others...helps build you up. It is good for your body. It makes
your blood purer, your muscles stronger, and your whole form more symmetrical
in shape. It is the real elixir of life.
If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come.
My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.
The Dalai Lama
I wonder why it is that we are not all kinder to each other than we are.
How much the world needs it! How easily it is done!
Contrary to the cliche, genuinely nice guys most often finish first or
very near it.
Kindness in words creates confidence, kindness in thinking creates profoundness,
kindness in giving creates love.
A human being is a part of the whole that we call the universe, a part
limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings
as something separated from the rest--a kind of optical illusion of his consciousness.
This illusion is a prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and
to affection for only the few people nearest us. Our task must be to free
ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace
all living beings and all of nature.
Shall we make a new rule of life from tonight: always to try to be a little
kinder than necessary.
Sir James M. Barrie
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