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Author George Saunders on Why We're Not Kinder


Kindness is a curious thing: few would argue its merits, every major religion lauds it, we teach our kids to practice it—so how can it seem so scarce, so hard to maintain?

Kindness often comes up in the works of bestselling author George Saunders. In this excerpt from the convocation speech he gave to Syracuse University’s 2013 graduating class, he talks about why kindness is important, what obstacles can keep us from being as kind as we could be, and how we can maximize our kindness potential.

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  • Alessandra Rizzotti

    There's a hierarchy of learning when it comes to realizing you're not as important as you once thought you were. It usually comes after you're a teenager. It's actually something I learned in a neuroscience class. What's amazing is when teens start shifting in adulthood and caring for others. I've just started noticing in my high school friends- how they used to really be self-involved-- and now all they want to do is care for something (a child, friend, pet). It's amazing. My boyfriend has always been really kind even when he was younger. And I don't know what explains that. Is it how you're raised? It must be.

  • Ben Goldhirsh

    god damn this was so valuable to read. thank you for posting it.

    I loved his exploration of the roots of unkind behavior:

    "Each of us is born with a series of built-in confusions that are probably somehow Darwinian. These are: (1) we’re central to the universe (that is, our personal story is the main and most interesting story, the only story, really); (2) we’re separate from the universe (there’s US and then, out there, all that other junk – dogs and swing-sets, and the State of Nebraska and low-hanging clouds and, you know, other people), and (3) we’re permanent (death is real, o.k., sure – for you, but not for me)."