The famous thinker Mark Twain was once giving a lecture and noticed that an attendee was frequently taking out his watch. Unable to restrain himself, he said to him. “Sir, I can understand you looking at your watch every two minutes, but to hold it up to your ear to check that it is working seems to me to be frankly excessive. What can this spicy anecdote tell us about education?
It is widely believed that good education is a lost truth in the family and school environment. One only has to walk down the street to see rude behaviour, slanderous graffiti, intolerance of the weak, contempt for educators, rude insults, disregard for the rules… I would call this “bad education of the first degree” – crude, irreverent, public, insolent.
There is a “second degree” of impoliteness. Perhaps our author alludes to it when he ridicules the triumph of polite hypocrisy. It is icy, calculating, distant, sharp; it does not show its face and camouflages itself behind the correctness of forms, but it feeds the worst intentions, it is glib and visceral; fulminating in its scathing appearances.
Is this all? Is there no life beyond impoliteness? Are we to resign ourselves to coexist with the basest of our instincts? I find a way out: to unite good manners with kindness. This is what David Hamilton, PhD in organic chemistry, proves in his book “The five benefits of being nice”. In its pages he presents the results of his research on kindness as a therapy from a purely scientific point of view. In an interview published a few days ago in “La Contra” of the newspaper “La Vanguardia”, this Scottish biochemist argues that being kind makes our bodies healthier and slows down the ageing process: “Research tells us that if you are kind on a regular basis, the risk of depression decreases because serotonin acts on the amygdala, reducing depression, anxiety and stress. And it trains the brain to be more resilient”. He adds: “Small daily actions of kindness are more important than one big action. The important thing is to be consistent. Empathy is the seed that grows the compassion that blossoms in kindness”.
And he concludes with a practical challenge: to spend seven days being kind, provided we respect three rules: 1) It must be a different action every day; 2) One day we must do something that poses a greater challenge; and 3) One of the acts of kindness must be anonymous. Do we lose something by testing its effects? Can we propose it to others?
Personally, I note that his discourse connects with a central truth for the Christian: love as a structuring principle and axis that heals and strengthens all human life. It has an infinite number of guises: paternal-filial love, spousal love, love of God, charity, solidarity, gratuitousness… One of them is kindness, the source of health and the secret of good (the only?) true education.
Juan Carlos cmf
(PHOTO: Element5 Digital)