Lifelines: Notes on Life & Love, Faith & Doubt

By Martin Wroe and Malcolm Doney

What does a good life look like, and how can we live it?

Friday, 7 October 2016

One Week In...

One week in and we’re 10% of the way there. As we’ve never done this before we’ve no idea how to measure this but it feels like an achievement. Nearly 50 people like you have already backed us on the basis of a synopsis, some early page layouts and a video which confirms why we should both stick to radio.
Thank you very much!
One of our supporters was in touch to ask whether we  had any plans to populate our ‘shed’, which was the reminder we needed to stop looking at the running total on the unbound site every 15 minutes and come up with some new content. Here we go, an early draft of one of the notes in The 95.


Proverbs are back. Short, pithy sayings which make you laugh, surprise you with a twist or invite you to think twice about your day. Authorship  is often contested. As Abraham Lincoln himself once put it, “The trouble with quotes on the internet is that you never know if they’re genuine.” But among the millions of online aphorisms, few gain both popularity and staying power. None have more than this soundbite by the ancient Greek philosopher Plato.

“Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Actually, as Lincoln would have pointed out (had he not died 150 years before the arrival of the internet), Plato did not say this. But the attribution doubtless contributes to the staying power. It was probably coined by a Scottish writer, Ian McClaren, when asked by a religious weekly at the end of the 19th century for a Christmas message: “Be pitiful," he replied, "for every man is fighting a hard battle."

We wouldn’t use the word “pity” these days, but McClaren understood something essential about the human condition: no-one really knows how any one of the rest of us is feeling on the inside, but it can only help if we try to put ourselves in their shoes.

Today we might use the word “empathy”, an attribute, says the anthropologist Jane Goodall, that we cannot underestimate: “Empathy is really important. Only when our clever brain and our human heart work together in harmony can we achieve our true potential.”

All of us, most of the time, in public or in private, are wrestling with the complexities of living this life: from how to negotiate a relationship to how to pay the bills. Some days are difficult. Resolution refuses to arrive. Empathising and responding with kindness will never make things worse, and usually make them better.

Be kind. Show compassion. It’s at the heart of the good life.

“Kindness is like water,” the Dalai Lama says, “religion like tea.”  

Come again?

Well, he explains, in Ethics are more Important than Religion, “The tea that we drink is made mostly of water, but it contains other ingredients as well – tea leaves, spices, perhaps a little sugar, and, at least in Tibet, a pinch of salt – and that makes it more substantial, more lasting, something we want to drink every day. Yet no matter how tea is prepared, its main ingredient is always water. We can live without tea, but not without water. Likewise, we are born without religion, but not without the basic need for compassion – and not without the fundamental need for water.”

In other words, the human race could probably survive without religion, but we don’t stand a chance without kindness.


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