Wednesday, June 15, 2011

An Accurate Measure of Society

“It’s as accurate a measure as any of a society: what is the smallest act of kindness that is considered heroic?” Anne Michaels

Anne Michaels asks this in Fugitive Pieces, an incredibly poetic book of a young Jewish boy who, saved from certain death in WWII Poland, finds sanctuary in Greece and then Toronto. It’s a tale of loss, grief and self forgiveness. It is absolutely beautiful.

In writing about complicity and morality in the war years, Michaels writes:

"In those days, to be moral required no more than the slightest flicker of movement —a micrometer —of eyes looking away or blinking, while a running man crossed a field. And those who gave water or bread! They entered a realm higher than the angels’ simply by remaining in the human mire.”

So I ask, what small act of kindness is considered heroic in the community in which you live? Is it an accurate measure of our society?


  1. At times, to me, a small act of kindness is simply to listen with compassion ... to not judge, just listen to one who so desperately needs to express herself ... to not react or respond unless asked to ... the simple support of thoughtful listening, and allowing a fellow human to express their anger, frustration, loss in a non-judgmental environment. Expression can be very healing, and a necessary neeed.

    Love your blog, Jo-Ann ... it really makes me think and reflect. Your blog inspires me in good ways to be a better human bean.


  2. Hi vog. I appreciate your "small" act of kindness, it is truly a beautiful thing and not small at all. But, is it heroic? And if it is, what does that say about our society?

  3. To answer your question, Jo-Ann ... Yes, I do think that this small act of kindness in active, thoughtful listening is heroic. To support my answer, let's look at the meaning of heroic = actions marked by courage or doing; supremely noble or self-sacrifing (from Merrian Webster dictionary).

    To not let one's ego react, and to instead hold it back and let our compassion blossom, to block our own fears and denials ... to support another, yes, to me that is difficult to do, takes courage, and is self-sacrificng.

    It is wonderful that in this society we have so much freedom and abundance, and yet I think that it also comes with a price ... too many narcistic personalities who cannot see beyond themselves and their own ego.