Vicki Clough Curates

Musings on art and life.

An Open Letter on Kindness

Dear You,

We don’t know each other very well. We might not know each other at all, but I’d like you to imagine that you are me. Better yet, imagine I am faceless, nameless, incorporeal — the voice and presence inside your conscious head, one not your own, that possesses its own experiences and personality. You/me/we could be anyone. Someone known or unknown. A person of any colour, gender, sexual orientation, religious or secular, physically different to the ‘norm’—wheelchair-bound, deaf, blind … maybe there are psychological scars—depression, a history of abuse, dependency, debilitating compulsions or introversion… maybe homelessness. Maybe not a person, perhaps a tree, a river or an animal… this list could go on for pages, but it’s simply enough to imagine that you are not-you.

It might be assumed that real-you possesses some form of respect for this new not-you. Imagine, as this new being, regardless of what form this not-you takes on inside real-you’s head, that whatever not-you has to say is ignored. Imagine that even your well intentioned messages are disregarded, or treated as invalid. Not-you is mute to all around and is not given the space to speak not-you’s vulnerability and truth freely, safely and without judgement.

Now imagine that the most valuable exchangeable thing in the world is kindness. It’s a currency more affective and effective than anything else in the known universe. Imagine that when kindness is exchanged, that it possesses the power to change lives, making everyone more wealthy and healthy than in their wildest dreams. Imagine that real-you/not-you are wealthy already, in this way and that you are attempting to share with those around you. All the kindness not-you asks for in exchange is to be listened to and understood, to make this life more bearable, as not-you may attempt to do for real-you. But there is no exchange. This not-you gives kindness freely and receives none in return. Not-you is rendered mute, still. Perhaps they have already been judged to be undeserving of kindness, for reasons unknown.

To ignore another being is psychological abuse. To encourage ostracism and isolation, to discourage open and honest or safe communication, or to invalidate or downplay the physical, emotional or psychological experience of another being is straight-up bullying. Some of the best financial advice advocates for paying yourself first. Invest in yourself. Would you want this hypothetical not-you to invest in real-you? How long should not-you attempt an exchange of kindness before giving up, or becoming bankrupt, adding to the psychological scars carried by this not-you? Does real-you feel any kindness for the imagined (or perhaps real) not-you?

Dear You, in case you are confused, this is not an exercise in moral superiority or self righteousness. It’s an exercise in empathy and compassion. Empathy is the greatest gift bestowed upon humanity. It exists in abundance and it is both sustainable and renewable. But it often goes un-given. Empathy allows for a valuable exchange and investment to be made in those around us, human or otherwise. Sitting with another’s experience of the world swirling around in our heads can open up our rich vaults of kindness and allow radical change and growth to occur.

I invest in you with kindness.

Many happy returns.

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Thank you to Umar and Takis for your freely given empathy, valuable reflections and feedback. I am unspeakably fortunate to call you my friends.

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This entry was posted on June 21, 2015 by in criticism, Personal, Uncategorized and tagged .
Vicki Clough

Vicki Clough

Vicki is an independent curator and craftsperson with a focus on socially engaged and participatory art and events. In January 2016 she helped launch Reconstructing Resilience, an ongoing research and curatorial project that aims to address the various forms of sustainable practice. She has been the Curatorial Director of Figment Toronto since 2014 and has also co-curated exhibitions including Move to Stillness, for the Harbourfront Centre's Kick Up Your Heels Festival (2015), The Duel, AGO First Thursdays (2014) and What Are You Made Of? OCAD U Graduate Gallery (2013). She initiated the Toronto based workshop model and website Polymers in Action: Socially Engaged Art and the Environment as part of her studies at OCAD University, where she obtained her Master of Fine Arts degree in Criticism and Curatorial Practice. She publishes on anything that interests her deeply and moves her to the point of lengthy verbal expression.

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