Making kindness less extraordinary

In the privileged days of being a carefree graduate student I picked up an old fraying copy of Aldous Huxley’s beautiful biography from a deliciously sprawling library of books at a family friend’s home in Hyderabad and fell in love with the deeply moving sentences and paragraphs he had written on various occasions to his wife.

One that has stayed with me for the way it resonates with what one encounters in living every day is where he expresses a child-like in-credulousness about why human beings find it so hard to be kind to each other and what it would take to make an everyday kindness, in every interaction, less extraordinary…

The book also left me with a longing for the sort of deep respect, regard and affection he had for his wife, Laura – the kind often found between old friends – and made me believe that nothing short of that was really worth anyone’s while.

Another aspect that left a deep impression on me was a similar quality of calmness and equanimity that he brought to the prospect of someone’s passing. Without once being condescending, he made it seem like it was a transition to another level of consciousness – a passing on rather than a ‘passing away’… a time for extraordinary mindfulness rather than fear; for humility, grace and acceptance than fright, disbelief and revulsion.

Today, after all these years, as I waited my turn to pay my respects to one of the gentlest, wisest, and most affectionate avuncular figures in my cousin’s life I found myself remembering what Huxley said. And I wished as I stood surrounded by the inconsolable sobbing of those close to him, that I could have addressed the sweet, calm, resting face of Uncle C with the form of address that Huxley invokes throughout the book, “Oh nobly born…’