Discover more from Civic Renaissance with Alexandra Hudson
How to act amid war? Cultivate humanity, through civility, at home
Learn about the virtue of a great soul and watch, read, or listen to the latest coverage of my book!
In times of atrocity and senseless loss of life that we witness from afar or experience firsthand, we feel viscerally the pain and suffering of others. It’s easy to feel helpless and to wonder how we can and should respond or how we can help those suffering far far away.
My book, The Soul of Civility, as a humanistic manifesto, offers an answer.
Guard and cultivate our humanity.
We can do so by reviving an appreciation of the gift of being human, both in ourselves and in others.
There’s really not much to be done for atrocities far away.
But we can let it help us revive an appreciation of the gift of human life in all its forms. Then act in ways that appreciate the gift every day.
We can look people in the eye, smile, and offer a word of kindness to a stranger. We can let the suffering of others remind us to do our part to not cause unnecessary suffering at home.
This is one argument Steven Pinker made in his work, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. He credits the rise of the novels as a humanizing force that cultivated the reader's empathy muscles in new ways. It helped them see the world through the eyes of others, even those with whom they differed. This cultivated their own humanity and made them desire to be gentler to their fellow human beings.
We can, too.
We see this idea of caring for humanity by caring for the human beings in front of us across historical and ethical traditions.
As Kierkegaard wrote, "I must love all of humanity as particular neighbors, and I must love them all equally."
As the thirteenth-century Persian-Islamic poet Rumi wrote,
A generous friend
gives life for a friend.
Let’s rise above
and be kind to one another.
The Huainanzi, the ancient Chinese text dated from before 130 BC that expresses the ideals of ancient Daoism, is also expressly humanistic. It states, “To be thoroughly loving toward all sorts of [living] things yet not love humankind—this cannot be called humaneness.”
Or as Louis de Jaucourt, eighteenth-century French scholar and author of the entry on hospitality in the Encyclopédie wrote, "[Kindness to others] is the virtue of a great soul that cares for the whole universe through the ties of humanity."
We can care for the world by caring for those in front of us, right where we are.
Wishing you a lovely weekend!
CATCH UP ON WHAT YOU MISSED
Watch The Atlas Society’s Jennifer Grossman interview me on her 175th episode!
Read my article “Civility and Political Freedom” in Real Clear Books & Culture.
Listen to Caleb Zakarin and I discuss my book on New Books Network.
CONNECT WITH ME:
LinkedIn: Alexandra O. Hudson