Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Two mid-morning things

1. Tea.

I like a lot of Adagio's blends. A favorite is the Butterbeer tea (the particular blend I have may no longer be being made, though). I also like Natasha N.'s "Fluttershy" tea (white tea with forest fruits) and her "Applejack" tea (black tea, but mixed with rooibos and apple pieces).

I also like black currant tea. And Harney's "Vanilla Comoros," which has the added bonus of being decaf. And their mint chocolate tea.

A more recent purchase was a coconut chai. The maker was something like Zania? Or Zenobia? It comes in a little glass jar (it is a loose tea) with a wooden scoop for measuring - I bought it at the natural-foods store. I should get another jar the next time I go back as I'm starting to use it up.

I also like some just-plain-black teas: Harney and Son's "All India" is good, and I also like Lifeboat Tea. This is a Kenya blend and works up very dark and strong. (It's a British tea - named because a small amount of the proceeds, at least when it's sold "over there," benefit the RNLS - which is kind of the equivalent of our Coast Guard). I get it through Amazon but I suspect a British imports store would carry it. (I WISH we had one near me. I am told there is a small, but not tiny, Scots and Brit ex-pat community in North Texas and I know at one time the plumber I was using (who has since retired) was a Scot.)

2. This article: Cruelty and Kindness in Academia.

It hits a few places. First off: I'm incredibly lucky in my department. There have been *disagreements* and even a spat or two down through the years, but there isn't anyone I would describe as "intentionally cruel" - and people like that can make a workplace a misery. It may be that we are a teaching-oriented school and (a) teaching-intensive places tend to attract less cutthroat people and (b) there isn't the same territoriality as a big research school would have.

But I think in a bigger sense, it does hit some buttons for me.

One quotation: "Simply put, kindness has a bad rap. They [Phillips and Taylor] write: “Most people, as they grow up, secretly believe that kindness is a virtue of losers.” We think people who act kind are weak or are only acting that way to further their own interests. Kindness actually makes us suspicious of other people’s intentions."

That's sad. That's just really sad. But I have heard - a lot in my growing-up years - that kindness did make people "losers." I had someone in high school tell me I was a "doormat" because I tried to be kind. And you do often see kind people losing out - at least in the short term.

And while I can't say I've had anyone seem suspicious of me - well, most people who know me know I'm pretty much a WYSIWYG person, there's not a lot of hidden intention going on there. But I've seen people do that and I admit I've occasionally felt suspicious myself.

But I will say: while you may lose in the short term by being kind, I believe - I have to believe - that in the long game you wind up winning. Because you aren't really playing by the world's rules. Because you're forging a different path.

And anyway, I'm kind for "internal" reasons more than external ones - I feel better about who I am when I take that breath, and push away the tendency towards irritation or pettiness. It's for my own peace of mind and sense of serenity that I try to treat people well.

("Bearing a grudge is like carrying a hot coal in your hand, waiting to throw it at the person who wronged you." Doesn't totally fit but it's close)

Another quotation that I think is sad but true:

"Yet academia is not unique in its devaluation of kindness; it’s a reflection of our larger culture."

And this started long before the current political campaign, even though it is held up as an avatar of nastiness and unpleasantness. Why is there a Twitter account you can follow that regularly tweets to you "Don't read the comments"? Why do many fandoms seem to eat themselves? (Apparently some MLP fans have been slagging on the writers for some of the recent more "kid centric" episodes - which I personally enjoyed and am happy to see. But even if you don't like them- the writers are doing what they were hired to do, they're not there just to pander to you. But whatever. I tend to think there's criticism and there's cruelty, and a lot of us have forgotten how to criticize constructively and without resorting to ad hominems.  And it does seem all to often these days people think that just being happy and enjoying what you like isn't enough, you have to tear down stuff you don't happen to like.)

I suppose it's human nature. And that gets amplified  with the anonymity of the Internet (well, pseudonymity, really) and people tend to get louder when they feel they're not being heard (and a lot of people feel like they aren't). And we've bought into the idea that it's a dog-eat-dog world out there and maybe it's got worse, that attitude, with the recent financial problems so many are having - it's easier, I think, to behave ungraciously when you are yourself scared or hurting or angry; it takes a lot of work to take a breath and force yourself to be kind instead.

But I don't know. I strive to be kind (I don't always succeed - sometimes I am hurting, and I KNOW my tolerance was less this past spring when my stomach was bothering me and I was worried it was something really serious). An embarrassing secret: one of the reasons I strive to do this? Some days I feel like it's all I've got; it's the only area in which I can maybe be "outstanding" - I am a good-but-not-great teacher, I am an average researcher at best, I will never be a great pianist, I will never design knitting patterns widely-loved by many people, I'm not agile and graceful physically. So I feel like being polite, being kind, remembering to do little things like say a genuine "thank you" to the person in the shop who helped me is maybe one way I can set myself apart a little.

And yes, I do notice unkindness; I see it all too often in the world today. The person who berates the shop clerk for not being fast enough, the person who has to say something snarky to the other person who is enthusiastic, the person who acts like whatever service they are being given is their due. (Everyone a little dictator in his or her own country - the author of that manners book I quoted a long time ago ("Say Please, Say Thank You") talked about how saying "thank you" stops the "infant dictator" that lives in all of us because it (hopefully) reminds us that the other person is not our servant; that on some level they CHOSE to do whatever it was for us, and we should be grateful.)

1 comment:

purlewe said...

Adagio is such a joy. I love looking at their website. So many blends!

A good, strong black tea is Yorkshire Gold. Perhaps next time we do an exchange I will slip a few bags in to see if you like it. I don't see it often (I know you can buy it on Amazon) but when I do see it I do buy it. Last time I saw it was at Wegmans (grocery store) that I go to about once a year (across the river) it isn't a hardship to get there, but it isn't a place a regularly shop. It was a nice surprise last time I was there.