I wrote this late at night when I was both angry and passionate. It was written impromptu, and after a manhattan. I decided not to edit it, but present it as is.

Some countries seem happy; others are not. In my recent research on what makes some nations (and people) happy I am finding a common denominator.  It is not democracy, money, or even climate that is best correlates with ‘happiness’. It is altruism and trust of one’s neighbors and institutions and government.  In the countries without trust or fellowship, unhappiness abounds.

“King Lear” is a play at first glance with no redeeming elements. It is tragedy throughout: injustice and senseless cruelty and suffering without meaning. What saves it from total despair is dispersed among the suffering are small acts of human kindness. Lear offers the Fool to go in the shelter before him. Various characters help the helpless without any ‘reward’ other than human compassion. A nameless servant dares to speak up when Old Gloucester is being blinded. These acts are make human existence worthwhile and human suffering tolerable, and if a culture doesn’t see the worth of it, woe onto them.

“Not my problem” is not a philosophy; it is an evil. Other people’s problems are our problems. In the story of  Cain and Abel, Cain cries out to God “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and the rest of the Bible is the response

“Yes, we are our brother’s keeper”.

We must continually battle against the tendency to slide towards a culture that belittles the value of trust and friendship, a culture that condones mean-spiritedness and deceit, and a culture that has no room for unrequited kindness.

Research shows being in one of the ‘helping professions’ is correlated to happiness.  One of the spokes in the wheel of ‘mental health  is doing something to help others. Happily, the parts of our brain which correlate to altruism turn out to be in the more primitive parts of our brain, the same parts which control our desire for food and sex. This suggests were are also “hardwired” for altruism. We are not just choosing it.

Rather than bemoaning the absence of manners, trust, and altruism in 21st century America, I am going to take Mr. Gandhi’s advice:

jm12_be_the_change_you_wish_to_see_mahatma_gandhi

This is as profound a truth as I can imagine. I hope to do more in the future. I will smile more, and offer a hand.

In the cimmerian ocean of humanity I want to be one of the few drops that sparkle.

Good_Samaritan_(Watts)

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