Kurt Vonnegut put it superbly:
‘’Hello babies. Welcome to earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule I know of babies- ‘God damn it you’ve got to be kind’.”
If I were writing to the newborns today, I would add –It’s a tough and confusing planet right now, our fragile blue place is in trouble… We are gripped by fear, tied together in our dismay, many of us are acting irrationally and driven by panic. But, my little ones, don’t be afraid, because there’s a lot of love, caring and compassion out there. In fact, you will be amazed by all the spontaneous acts of kindness and thoughtfulness-people sharing their toilet paper and hand sanitisers (!); trying not to hoard but help; looking out for and checking in with their neighbours …
You’re probably befuddled by all of this –how can some be so selfish and others so altruistic? So let me share with you the one thing I know as a Jew (and have in common with people of faith and principle) you will always have a choice –You will always have the freedom and responsibility to make the right choices. Our great philosopher, Maimonides said “Free will is given to every human being. If one desires to turn towards the good way and be righteous, one has the power to do so. If one wishes to turn towards the bad way and be wicked, one is at liberty to do so…. There is no one who forces one …or draws one to either of the two ways’’. You, my kids, are born with this fabulous freedom and opportunity.
It will be trying when you’re scared and uncertain of the future to do the right thing, it will take strength of mind and independence of spirit to go against the herd, to hold your head high and say ‘I choose the path of giving and caring, I choose the way of God’. You see we all have a lower and a higher self. Our lower self says ‘ just look out for number one, just look out for me’. Our higher self says – “Yeah, you may live in a highly individualistic society, but you’re also part of a community; it’s about me and you babe and together we’re a lot stronger than we are on our own’. The wise rabbis said, don’t separate yourself from your community; they also told us that God aches when we ache “I am with you in your trouble “. In Yiddish we say the Aybishter shares our tsorris …And oy what a terrifyingly troublesome time this is my kinderlach. So I say to you now – look to the helpers not the hoarders, look to the people of heart, not the fear-mongers, look up to the better angels of your own being not down to those quarrelsome and querulous demons of your spirit. Then you will find giving to others is liberating and so much more satisfying then just looking after yourself and your own …
There was a woman who lived long ago. She was Marie Curie, a great Jewish chemist and Nobel Prize winner who once said: “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood, now is the time to understand more, so that we many fear less”. The words of this wise woman (who acted on her words) remind us that fear is motivated by the most primitive part of our brain, the most basic level of our humanity. Now, my dear children, we need to counter the panic with calm precision and thoughtfulness, to draw on the higher segments of our brain, those better angels of our being. To face and acknowledge the anxiety, to feel the fear and do it anyway. In the wilderness a pillar of cloud and fire accompanied our people of Israel. They were a reminder to an exhausted, worried people that they needed to look up, to rise above the fear, to transcend the immediacy of their reckless emotions. We are as strong as our ideas and our beliefs.
So babies just hold onto this one rule: God help you, you’ve got to be kind!