How sick of snark are you? Are you as sick of it as I am? And I’m sick if irony, too. I’m hoping we’re in a post-ironic era by now, though perhaps we’re not quite there yet. Irony, to me, is a non-loving posture, a protection, a dangerous fortress. There’s this speech that author George Saunders gave at Syracuse University this past May that has been popping up all over my internet life, and I finally just read it tonight. It’s one of those pieces of writing that makes me feel like people are perhaps moving past this terror of the genuine that seems to be rampant in our society right now; past this anti-confessional moment we’re in, past the too-coolness, the mean, jokey distanced stance that keeps one at a safe distance from one’s own feelings and from others. George Saunders talks about kindness in this essay, and how kindness is what we should focus on, here and now, the sooner the better. And that’s something I can totally get behind.
Excerpt below, full speech here.
Do all the other things, the ambitious things – travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) – but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness. Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality – your soul, if you will – is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Theresa’s. Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.