A group or flock of ravens is formally known as an Unkindness. For centuries ravens have gotten a bad rap for being associated with dark happenings. Their propensity to eat other birds’ eggs, dead flesh of all kinds, and being mythological tricksters does not help their negative image. In contradiction to these negative traits, in many cultures, ravens symbolize rebirth, opportunity and survival. They are family birds that gather together to collect food in hard times. They console one another after fights and often express emotions and intelligence. They mimic human sounds as a parrot does. Like ourselves, they are complex, contradictory, and diverse creatures.
Floyd Cheung, Vice President, Office for Inclusion and Equity at Smith College recently shared the following words with his students:
“Part of living in a diverse community includes acknowledging the diversity within ourselves, for we contain multitudes. The poet Walt Whitman coined this phrase in his epic “Song of Myself,” in which he asked rhetorically,
‘Do I contradict myself?
Very well then, I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)’
Each of us contains multitudes. We are more than our race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, religion, class, age, size, political leaning, or disability. We are all of these identities at once, however visible or invisible any might be in a particular context.”
Cheung’s thought is reminiscent of T.S. Elliot’s writing, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. Elliot tells us cats live on three levels: 1) the social level visible to all, 2) the personal level only revealed to the inner circle of close friends, and 3) the private level known only by the cat itself.
The complex, contradictory, and diverse life of Leonard Bernstein has recently been brought to light in Bradley Cooper’s film Maestro. Bernstein’s daughter, Jamie Bernstein, writes in her book, Famous Father Girl, about her mother, Felicia, and a scene that appears in the film:
“Another crucial section of my book made its way into Maestro—from the chapter where I describe my mother’s final days as she was dying from cancer…. I sat at my mother’s bedside, having what turned out to be our last real conversation. (Speaking to the complexity of life) My mother held my hand and said: ‘Remember, the most important thing is kindness. Kindness, kindness, kindness.”
There is a thread that we can choose to weave through all our different selves. It is the thread of kindness.
The quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Being selfless, caring, compassionate, and unconditionally kind. Like love, it takes practice to understand and feel it. We share love with others through kind acts such as a smile, a nice word, an unexpected deed, or a planned surprise.
As we age there is a growing awareness of the need to both give and receive kindness. Our lives are richer when we choose to be a person of kindness. The value of giving and receiving kindness is powerful when center stage in our lives. We can keep in touch with our peers, listen with understanding, and be open to the kindnesses extended to us. Acts of kindness can improve our physical and mental health and strengthen the bond between the giver and the receiver. Kindness counters stress by boosting hormones such as oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates our moods.
Over time life can teach us that being kind is more important than being right.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. – Maya Angelou
Regardless of the persona we display, these words ring true: “Remember, the most important thing is kindness. Kindness, kindness, kindness.”
Written by: Hartzell Cobbs
About the Author: With a sprinkling of exuberance and vitality, Dr. Cobbs is an accomplished author of three books and numerous articles published in different venues throughout his life. Dr. Cobbs’ first book, Thanatos and the Sage: A spiritual approach to aging (2008), offers a thought-provoking interpretation of the interplay between how to live life with meaningful intentions and the eventuality of coming to terms with death. His second book, RavenWind (2019) delves into the raven’s role as it relates to Native American myths, legends, and folktales and global history. His reflections on the spirituality of living and dying depicted in his books are threaded throughout the short essays posted on the website for “Smart Strategies for Successful Living” and in his latest book, The Moon at the Window: Senior Reflections.
Check out these heartfelt and inspirational books…
The Moon at the Window: Senior Reflections: CLICK HERE.
RavenWind: CLICK HERE.