Survival of the Kindest

| January 30, 2012

In a supremely Socratic conversation How Can We Make Good Things Happen? we learn about people’s favorite ideas to help others –organizing a community program to assist an elderly woman “on a stoop,” converting an empty hospital into a homeless shelter run by and for the homeless, providing low-cost education and training to adults in an urban setting, promoting the concept of  “Understanding Made Simple,” and creating a grassroots organization for lower income women with anorexia, binge eating, and/or exercise addiction. There are good people who attend, sharing an admirable fullness of spirit, a genuine yearning to help others –and, altruistically, do good in society!

Discussion centers on interrogating our basic assumption of the Idealist Project , an initiative “guided by the common desire of members and supporters to find practical solutions to social and environmental problems, in a spirit of generosity and mutual respect.” The issues to be addressed, first, are how to make things happen, rather than examining our own understanding of the needs. We begin questioning what is actually good for others, if others want to be helped, if good intentions always work, and how education figures in — recalling the teachings of John Dewey and the charitable work of Mother Theresa.

One participant remarks, “We’re used to a certain mode of thinking. What can we do make everyone understand that there is something out there they need to look at? How can we help people think outside the box while bringing context and perspective? How can we make the world curious and compassionate?”

Our book display features:

Altruism, Sympathy, and Helping: Psychological and Sociological Principles

Altruistic Reveries: Perspectives from the Humanities and Social Sciences

Born to be Good: the Science of a Meaningful Life

Economics of Non-selfish Behavior: Decisions to Contribute Money to Public Goods

Ethics in Groups

Kindness in a Cruel World: The Evolution of Altruism

Social Commitments in a Depersonalized World

Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior

Are we evolving to become less selfish, more compassionate, and more collaborative? We discover that most people have a story, obstacles are similar, and connections are needed between people, organizations, and resources.