Getting at the Heart of Kindness

From The Washington Post:

Book “On Kindness” is just a little over 100 pages long, but those pages are tightly packed with insights into our riven human heart. More accurately, I should say “the human psyche,” because one of the authors, Adam Phillips, is a distinguished psychoanalyst who has written about his work in scores of elegant essays collected in a dozen slender volumes, among them “Side Effects,” “On Kissing, Tickling and Being Bored” and “Going Sane.” The other author, Barbara Taylor, is an award-winning historian whose books include “Mary Wollstonecraft and the Feminist Imagination” and “Eve and the New Jerusalem.” How the pair actually worked together isn't explained, but the resulting text — an essay in five chapters — is seamless and a pleasure to read, though it does demand close attention.

“Most people, as they grow up now, secretly believe that kindness is a virtue of losers.” But Phillips and Taylor show that kindness — “the ability to bear the vulnerability of others, and therefore of oneself” — is essential to our humanity. “Indeed it would be realistic to say that what we have in common is our vulnerability; it is the medium of contact between us, what we most fundamentally recognize in each other.” What kindness does is “open us up to the world (and worlds) of other people in ways that we both long for and dread.” I'll come back to that “dread.”

More here.