I do truly understand that the very fact that I can sit and speculate about the greater purpose of ‘being human’ means that I am in a very privileged position. I am on the top rung of Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs and so many of our fellow human beings are not. So many people on our beautiful planet are living in fear, poverty and extremely challenging contexts. So many people are lost; struggling with the ‘day-to-day’ either physically, emotionally or both. I always seek to keep my feet firmly on the ground, count my many blessings and check in by asking this simple, yet contentious question: What is our core purpose? When you interface with so many different people every single day, you get to see humanity in all it’s guises. You are tested to the full as other people push and pull to be heard, be seen and have their opinions taken seriously. So many people seek to be offended by everything around them, so many people lost and uncertain. Yet every now and then, someone stands out from the crowd, someone who seems to transcend the ‘day-to-day’, whose calmness and steadiness inspires and captivates. I believe these people are the ones who are clear about their purpose and their role in this big, frequently messy world. They have firm values and live with a greater clarity. They put their values into action with every interaction and everything they do.
Why do so many people lose sight of their innate drive and sense of connectivity with the world around them? People seem more content when they see their purpose and see the bigger picture, the connectivity of everything. This is true of the world of work and also general life. However, people have become divided into two approximate camps when considering ‘an outlook on life’ – the left and the right. The left believe in collective endeavor to improve the problems in society whilst the right tend towards ‘personal responsibility’ and the ‘individual’. From experience, this ‘left-right-ness’ of people’s mindsets is a challenge when you are trying to mobilize others to take action to improve a situation. This ‘left-right-ness’ seems to steer people towards making judgments that impose limitations on their desire to move forward. This ‘left-right-ness’ provides a framework within which, people place other people, problems, and everything in the world. Does this mean that the left hold the monopoly on having a sense of ‘greater purpose’ in life? Many studies are highlighting the impact of kindness on both those carrying out kind acts and the recipients. The charity sector is thriving with millions of people committing time and effort to supporting endeavor to improve the world for those most in need. Does it matter that some of these people ‘doing good’ do what they do out of a desire to change what they perceive to be ‘ills’ in individuals? Should we judge people’s intentions when they seek to improve other people and the world?
If kindness is our core purpose, does all kindness have the same value? As human beings, we are able to reason and think critically. Whatever our ‘outlook on life’, I believe we are happier, more connected and gain a greater sense of satisfaction when we commit ourselves to the right balance of self-improvement and being kind and generous to the world around us. Being kind might sound ‘woolly’ to some. It might sound a little vague and quantifiable for a world that seeks to measure everything. Kindness breeds kindness. The most positive connections we can make are through showing kindness, compassion and sending others a powerful message of ‘worth’. This can be achieved with little effort in all our interactions and daily. A smile, a helping hand, an understanding ear cost nothing yet can build a better day for someone.
Have we lost our way? Yesterday; walking through the city, I watched the crowds wander past a young guy sat outside a coffee shop. From his look and the sleeping bag, the assumption is that he was homeless. People ignored him on the whole. Some looked down, looked horrified and then quickly looked away. The young guy was being unceremoniously judged. Another young guy stood out from the crowd, walked over to the homeless man, smiling. He asked if he wanted a coffee and something to eat. Five minutes later, the two were sat down chatting over a cappuccino and eating a sandwich. There was clearly no judgment, no underlying mission or agenda – was this the core purpose of being human in action?
So – what about this ‘left-right-ness’? Surely it does not matter what our mindset is with regards to the ‘how’? Whether we believe it is the role of government to solve society’s problems or whether we believe in ‘personal responsibility’ and ‘self-determinism’, everyone needs to see themselves as a ‘change-agent’, as an enabler of the ‘even better if’, as a ‘force for good’. I believe there exists a deep understanding that transcends this ‘left-right-ness’, an awareness of the underlying connectivity between all people. We are all secretly seeking this deep understanding and we will reach it by being kind, being compassionate and building strong human bonds. We can all be superheroes!
Be kind, be compassionate and connect with the world.
Written by Ian Berryman