This post is part of Aid to Zen – A Quick Guide to Surviving Aid Work from A to Z by Alessandra Pigni
In yoga there are poses and counter poses that are designed to work together. We move our body one way and then we move it in an opposing manner to calm and rebalance the body. Today in Aid to Zen I’m going for a pose and a counter pose: a brief reflection on becoming jaded and a poem on kindness to counterbalance the cynicism.
J – Jaded
Remember Jaded Aid? The crowdfunded initiative that the Guardian called “the drinking game for disillusioned humanitarians”? (as if we needed more cynicism and more booze in aid). Its slogan: “be the cynicism you wish to see in the world”.
Now, English is not my first language and before I got into aid I had no idea what “jaded” meant. Since Aidland is full of non-native English speakers, here’s a reminder:
adj. Worn out; wearied
adj. Cynically or pretentiously callous
Being jaded can be a coping mechanism to hide our disappointment, hurt, disillusionment, anger, sadness, despair, burnout. But it also makes us feel somewhat superior and good about ourselves. Check out what some of the research on cynicism has to say:
“Cynicism is popular because it stimulates brain chemicals that make us feel good. A cynical lens makes the world look predictable and it makes you look superior. But this negativity hurts you in the long run.” – Loretta Breuning Beyond Cynical : Transcend Your Mammalian Negativity.
Let’s wrap it up with a comment from a seasoned aid worker: “I stood for my values so many times and looking back I probably just missed opportunities.” That’s what becoming jaded sounds like.
K – Kindness
For the counter pose the slogan could be: “Be the kindness you wish to see in the world.” Sounds excessively “sugary”, but bear with me and enjoy a taste from Kindness, a wonderful poem by the Palestinian-American poet Naomi Shihab Nye:
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
“Be the cynicism you wish to see in the world” or “Be the kindness you wish to see in the world”? Maybe it’s not an either/or question. Maybe being alive does not require that we are completely consistent. After all contradiction is the criterion of reality, wrote philosopher Simone Weil.
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