It’s not exactly news, that kindness is good for us. And yet it does seem important that a new study validates the fact. The Kindness Test is a major new study devised by the university of Sussex and launched by BBC Radio 4 involving more than 60,000 people from 144 countries. They have been asking questions about what makes people be kind. The short answer is that it is because it makes people feel good. Some might even say it is not altruistic at all. They wanted to know if religion was a factor, and in a way it is, in the sense that kindness tends to be an expectation for those who are from religious households. But what is much more of a predictor is personality. Kindness involves being outward, reaching out to people, and extroverts are more likely to do that. In some cases, people may refrain from acts of kindness because they fear their action might be misunderstood. What seems to run across the board is that for those who receive an act of kindness as for those who initiate it, it increases a sense of well being and life satisfaction. Claudia Hammond visiting professor of the public understanding of psychology at the University of Sussex says “it’s a win-win because we like receiving kindness but we also like being kind.” The results of the study are being aired on BBC Radio 4 in a program called The Anatomy of Kindness and Hammond is the presenter. 60% of those who participated in the study said they had received an act of kindness in the previous 24hours. Hammond says that being kind may even stem from ulterior motives, making it a selfish act in a way, because we know from brain research that being kind straight away creates a warm fuzzy feeling. It also makes one feel that we are someone who cares about people and we want to be good. Regardless of all the particulars, the point is that kindness is much more prevalent than we might think.
I rarely focus on individuals doing something good because I don’t want to foster the cult of personality, but there are times when focusing on an individual is a testament to the power of the human spirit and it needs to be noted. I had become aware of World Central Kitchen when they began in 2010 cooking meals in Haiti after the earthquake, and then in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. And one night as I was listening to BBC World Service I learned they were in Ukraine and Kyiv cooking for those who couldn’t cook for themselves, providing several thousand meals a day. The logistics to bring in what they needed were becoming very complex including the fact that not only local suppliers were not always available but also they now often had to pay cash instead of using credit cards. I went to the website and was surprised that instead of the normal hype and pabulum one tends to encounter, there seemed to be a kind of more direct and concise statements. it says, for example ” food relief is not just a meal that keeps hunger away. It is a plate of hope. It tells you in your darkest hour that someone, somewhere cares about you.” World Central Kitchens goes in disaster areas, in war zones and other emergency food relief such as those arising from climate change disasters. Like Doctors Without Borders they link humans to each other at times when despair is near and need is felt so keenly. They are now also working in an area that can easily be forgotten, the famine in Madagascar. And as they learned in Haiti, they prepare food that is locally considered something like comfort food. Jose Andres is the public face, and one that can attract needed donations, he’s been widely interviewed, and recently been named to replace Amos Oz on a White House task force. But the people and volunteers who work with him cannot be forgotten. They too remind us of what human beings can accomplish and stand for.
Sometimes we get so enmeshed in the news of the moment, that important news passes us by. Five of the countries who signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968, the US, China, Russia, the UK and France came to an agreement. They understand that there is no way to win a nuclear war, and further their pledge includes that a nuclear war must never be fought. Indeed it is agreeing to the obvious. Yet because what may be obvious to the general public and what’s seen by government as in their best interest does not always coincides, it took several months to work out the agreement, often amidst difficult discussions. And yet, regardless of whether it was agreeing to the obvious, it’s still remarkable that it was agreed upon and issued.
Given the current tensions between the US with both China and Russia, agreeing on anything is certainly noteworthy. It’s not a panacea and it’s not going to keep China from invading Taiwan when it wants to or Russia from going further into Ukraine, but perhaps such an agreement could be a factor to at least create a pause for everyone to think through the consequences of aggression, of how far they are willing to provoke. Of course so many nations are after nuclear weapons, and India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea to name but 4 already have them. That’s a fact that cannot be glossed over. The danger still exists, and the agreement no matter how important it may be does not solve the problem of nuclear arms and nuclear proliferation.
The agreement is nonetheless an accomplishment, How often in ordinary parlance do we use the phrase ”if we don’t blow ourselves up first.” But for some of us, despite the existence of weapons and of several countries having them, it would seem that when 5 major powers openly declare that nuclear war is not winnable, we are that much safer.
Someone I know slightly has a prosthetic eye which she has already lost twice. Due to the involved process and cost of a prosthetic eye I am told she has been wearing an eye patch. So when I read about a man in England who has been fitted with a 3-D printed prosthetic eye, my interest peaked. When I first read about 3-D printing it was about how easy it would now be to make guns and it felt alarming. Since then the possibilities of 3-D keep unfolding. I recently did a podcast about 3-D homes, and 3-D prosthetics for limbs are being used in several countries helping with land mine victims and others. 3-D makes what it creates more affordable. And so it is with prosthetic eyes. They usually run several thousand dollars. With 3-D it could be as low as $50 although it is doubtful that is what they will end up costing. The man in England, Steve Verze is the first. They are looking for 40 more people to continue the clinical trial. They are assessing the 3-D printed eye for things such as movement, fit, comfort, mucous discharge. Already they know that the initial scan to print the eye which takes only a few seconds can lead to a better fit than a regular prosthetic eye and can better replicate the natural color of the eye. What is important about this news is that it is happening right now at the Fraunhofer institute for Computer Graphics Research and Fraunhofer noted that the process is made possible by the algorithms of its Cuttlefish:Eye software. In plain English that means it is not a dream, it is real and here now. To me it’s not just the 3-D printed eye, it’s what it stands for, the promise of it coming to life. When 3-D is used to better the lives of people as it aims to do with 3-D printed eyes, it is not only extending the potentials of 3-D, it is contributing to using technology to do what it was to do, that is to make a better world.