Sharing a common love for books, they will read parts of The Power of Kindness by Piero Ferrucci. Ferrucci is an Italian psychotherapist and philosopher whose highly-acclaimed book delves into the profound benefits of leading lives of compassion. The Dalai Lama endorses it as “a book after my own heart” in the preface.
The book makes the striking argument that kindness is actually at the heart of all the values we hold dear, including honesty, warmth, forgiveness, contact, sense of belonging, trust, mindfulness, empathy, humility, patience, generosity, respect, flexibility, memory, gratitude, service, and joy.
As it happens, the idea of empathy has certainly been grabbing some news headlines recently. Ferrucci defined empathy as “the expansion of consciousness” and has very definite views about the importance of having it. “Empathy”, he writes, “is an ingredient of the emotional intelligence necessary for acting competently and efficiently in today’s world.” For him, it is “a prerequisite for communication, collaboration, and social cohesion”. He goes even further to say that “if we annul it, we return to savagery – or cease to exist”.
A story of empathy that was told to me recently concerned a wealthy tycoon from Thailand who took time out to be a monk. During his short pilgrimage, he discovered the meaning of empathy when he was led to witness the cremation of a deceased person. As required by his faith tradition, he was to reflect and imagine that the body was his. In his deep meditation , he identified with the pain and suffering of the deceased and in the process, learnt what empathy is about. Emerging from his pilgrimage, he returned to the business world as a completely transformed person.
Three years ago, when I first started to drive this movement, someone responded to one of my published letters. He was critical of my views on a certain issue and offered a few ideas of his own in an email to me. I responded by inviting him to have tea with me. He did. After about 10 minutes, he said,
“I must confess I told my wife that if I sensed that you were not open to listen and seek to understand my views, I would walk out of this meeting. But I am not going to because I can see that you are listening.”
Whatever empathy is, it certainly includes the willingness to listen and not jump to judgments or conclusions. That is the power of kindness. It disarms and builds relationships.
*If you would like to attend the reading of The Power of Kindness, the details are as follows. I will be leading the discussion and look forward to connecting with you there.
Saturday, 15 Mar 2014, 3.00 – 6.00pm
Multi-Purpose Room (Basement 1), Central Public Library
100 Victoria Street, Singapore 188064