The weight of kindness

The weight of kindness

I recently read a paper on an some obscure thing called “Infinite Ethics,” by Nick Bostrom. Reading his work, I interpreted Infinite Ethics to mean the ethics of infinities. The questions about rights and wrongs and how they work on a finite and infinite scale. Nick Bostrom’s paper in brief talked about a world of infinite positive and negative. A world in which infinite value could not be changed by the addition or subtraction of a finite value.

It made perfect sense to me then. The stars we stare at night, the titanic oceans and the mountains that surround them- these immortal, immense things- they cannot be changed by one person. These are beautiful things we found when we were born and which in our dying, we shall leave behind. They cannot be changed. And yet- they can.

Out of darkness, we light fires that warm us and keep the wild animals at bay. Beautiful yellow fingers that make colors unfamiliar yet beautiful. Yellow, ember, blue, violet and green, mixing and lighting up the sky in the brightest hues and telling stories in shadows cast against walls and in sparks that rise to the night sky in violent bursts of life and death.

In the same breath, we light even bigger fires that burn down entire forests and drive entire species to extinction. We light even bigger fires that produce so much more than we need. And yet in this state of excess, so many still have so little.

In such a world- a world of infinite happiness and simultaneous sadness and misery. A world of infinite sorrow and triumph, what is one small act of kindness worth? What is it all worth against the bad- the vile, the murder, the war- Aleppo, the refugee crisis in Europe, unemployment and HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa?

It is worth one person’s happiness. It is worth a single person’s smile. It is worth protecting a friend’s courage. A single act of kindness is worth hope.

A friend of mine had his birthday yesterday- and I forgot to wish him a good one- Happy belated birthday @Finn Woelm. Finn on his birthday, as his only present, asked that each person who knew it was his birthday, did someone else an act of kindness. That- is the weight of kindness.


The original article I wrote is on medium

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