Summer is lingering far too long here in the Arizona desert. So every day, I check the newspaper forecast to see when we will finally see autumn.
Today’s paper told me that in several days, there is a 5% chance of rain. And I found myself throwing down the paper in total exasperation. “Really?” I said aloud to the dog. “A 5% chance it will rain?”
Translated to a more useful forecast, there is a 95% chance things will be sunny and clear. Yet as they do every day, the weather prognosticators focused their limited newspaper ink not on what was likely, but on what was unlikely.
What does that have to do with building a world where we naturally and reflexively treat all beings with kindness? Everything.
Kindness is the norm. Kindness surrounds us everywhere and all the time.
UNkindness is the exception. Despite what we see on the news, people are not overwhelmingly horrible to each other. If they were, life would be unlivable. (And in fact, in those rare places where UNkindness is the norm, life is, in fact, unlivable.)
And yet we believe that exception is the norm.
That belief no doubt stems from our fears of how horrible that exception can be and often is. But that doesn’t make it true.
Our deeply held belief that unkindness is the norm influences everything about the lives we lead, the work we do, the laws we pass. Our assumptions guide our actions.
Studies may find that we are, at our core, empathic beings. Given our deeply held beliefs that that is not true, we choose to ignore those studies, looking instead for signs that reinforce our belief that deep down we are all greedy, fear-driven, ego-centric beings who will, left to our own devices, act badly.
“We are what we think,” said the Buddha. “All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we create the world.”
There is a 95% chance it will be sunny today. There is a better-than-even chance that you will find kindness all around you today.
What would it make possible – in our work, in our nations, in our politics, in our lives – if that is what we conditioned ourselves to expect?