With everything going on in the world towards the end of last year, I got to thinking about kindness, and what it meant. Why did some people seem to have it in spades, while others could act with such coldness, such brutality, that surely all compassion, all empathy, must have been clinically removed from their souls? I find cruelty – not angry passion but callous cruelty – truly incomprehensible.
In all this thinking, I started to wonder what “kindness” meant to people. Because I’m fairly sure that, aside from genuine psychopaths, the people who I believed were speaking or doing things of utmost horror probably believed that they were actually good people, at least some of the time. They are not all villains, retreating to their lairs and laughing “BWAHAHA” every time they commit an atrocity. Somewhere along the line, these human beings have either justified their actions due to their beliefs, or have become immune to the suffering of others, because the mind is frighteningly good at self preservation (and nobody wants to admit to themselves “I am evil.”).
I refuse to believe that that people are black to the core. Small-minded, intolerant, cruel, yes. But maybe not evil through and through? I don’t know. I hope not. If you think terrible things cannot be done within the pretext of noble intentions, just ask any religious extremist, ever.
Where is the kindness in all this? How can a man murder in the morning and let the dog sleep on his lap in the evening? Torture someone one day, and buy his mother fudge the next? Show hatred to an entire race of human beings, but love his children?
Mail-art isn’t going to solve any global or existential problems just yet, but this was all at the front of my mind as I was painting these envelopes, so I decided to follow it through. I did a Google image-search on the word “kindness” to see what other people saw in their minds when they heard that word. These envelopes are my interpretations of some of the images at the top of that search.
What does kindness look like to you? What would you draw, if you got “kindness” in a game of Pictionary?
ps. If you’d like to make some mail-art of your own like this, my free monthly emails contain at least one printable envelope template per month, and instructions for you to personalise it and turn into your own mail-art. There are also other tips like letter-writing prompts and links for inspiration, and at the moment I’m sending my e-book, Making Mail: 10 steps to writing letters that become keepsakes, as a gift to everyone who subscribes. You can sign up on this page to be in time for the next email, if that sounds like something you’d like.