12 Days of Kindness
“What if you were wrong? What if everything you ever believed was a lie? What if you missed your opportunity because you didn’t know your worth?” Shannon Adler asks readers these questions. “What if you settled on familiar, but God was trying to give you something better? What if you decided not to go backwards, but forward? What if doing what you have never done before was the answer to everything that didn’t make sense? What if the answer wasn’t to be found in words, but in action? What if you found the courage to do what you really wanted to do and doing it changed your whole life?”
James Joyce needed a word to describe someone knocking on a door. As a writer, he understood the importance of descriptive phrases but he wanted something more than “He knocked on the door.” He wanted to illustrate the sound but could find nothing he deemed satisfactory. He sat back and envisioned the scene in his head and came up with the longest palindrome in the English language – TATTARRATTAT!
A palindrome is a word that reads exactly the same front to back and back to front. From the Greek word “palindromos”, it literally means running back again. How often are our lives like that – running back again over the same mistakes, never seeming to get anywhere, never realizing unspoken and fuzzy dreams? In 2002 Peter Norvig, with the aid of a computer, wrote the world’s longest palindrome sentence. It contained fifteen thousand, three hundred and nineteen words from sixty-three thousand, six hundred and forty-seven letters. It began “A man, a plan, a caddy…” which sounds like the start of a great story. In fact, one might think he’d borrowed it from Brian Doyle Murray who wrote the movie “Caddyshack”.
The name Peter Norvig may not sound familiar to you but he is the head of research for Google, Inc. In 2002, Peter Norvig read that Dan Hoey had created a computer program that had generated a 540 word palindrome in 1984 and the challenge to make one longer was on. Hoey had established certain parameters for his palindrome and Norvig decided to follow many of those himself. The result was a palindrome deemed to be the world’s longest with 2,473 words and no proper nouns.
Norvig’s palindrome sentence, though, did not make much sense. He describes it this way: “It contains truths, but it does not have a plot. It has Putnam, but no logic; Tesla, but no electricity; Pareto, but no optimality; Ebert, but no thumbs up. It has an ensemble cast including Tim Allen, Ed Harris and Al Pacino, but they lack character development. It has Sinatra and Pink, but it doesn’t sing. It has Monet and Goya, but no artistry. It has Slovak, Inuit, Creek, and Italian, but it’s all Greek to me. It has exotic locations like Bali, Maui, Uranus, and Canada, but it jumps around needlessly. It has Occam, but it is the antithesis of his maxim “Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem.“ If you tried to read the whole thing, you’d get to “a yawn” and stop. “
Sometimes we go through life with that same yawn and then while we may not literally stop, we really do spiritually in our soul. We stop dreaming and we stop believing in others. We assume we know what is what and who is …whatever. Today there will be pundits and politicians and cult leaders verbalizing words which will not be based upon envisioning but rather based upon fear and greed. We will approach others using those same views, kindness becoming lost in the process, turned into cruelty which overtakes our humanity.
Norvig described his palindrome sentence by making a reference to a principle developed by English logician and Franciscan monk William Occam. Known as Occam’s razor, the Latin phrase translates as “entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity” or “plurality should not be posited without necessity.”
There are times when we need to see the details, observe the minute differences but those times are few and not usually present in the superficial traveling of our lives. As we approach someone to give the wave of greeting or share a smile, we need only to see the overall body. We are not going to spend the rest of our lives with this person we are passing. We are simply sharing the gift of kindness by envisioning their being as a living creature.
My challenge to you today is to dare to dream of the goodness of those with whom you share your city or state. Don’t multiply the differences beyond what is necessary. Simply see them as the human beings they are.
Anthony Liccione explains how such behavior can lead us to improving our own lives as he describes another palindrome. ““Level, is spelled the same forward and backwards. Those on the upper level can always hit the bottom, and those on the bottom can always rank to the top. Envision your footprints up there already trailing, and your feet will soon follow suit.”
Shannon Adler has some good advice on how to envision a better tomorrow: “Choose to let go. Choose dignity. Choose to forgive yourself. Choose to forgive others. Choose to see your value. Choose to show the world you’re not a victim. Choose to make us proud.” I would alter that last directive to “Choose to make yourself proud.” After all, these twelve days of kindness are not just about helping others but about helping ourselves as well.
Change doesn’t happen overnight but it starts with a single envisioned goal. Dare to envision a better world and better you. See the possibilities in the person you pass, not the differences. Envision victory in life and it will happen, maybe not on some grand scale but you will be victorious. A dream is a wish your heart makes and if you envision that dream, the wish just might come true. Envision a better world and a better self!