the world's only problem

So often I enjoy standing outside on my small piece of lawn and just looking at my garden. I love its sweet collection of little flowers. Each is a friend to me.

We were talking in our house the other day about the world's problems. We decided they could be whittled down to one single problem - the root of all the trouble in the world today and always. Selfishness. People wanting what they want, never mind anyone else.

Imagine what life would be like if people were - not selfless exactly, but - caring towards others. If people honoured others, and respected their needs. There is plenty of food and space and work in this world for all of us (and it can be made without toxifying the land and abusing animals). Imagine if we simply shared.

We heard a philosopher say that the main problem today is within people. His idea was that we would benefit from being smarter, stronger, longer-living, better integrated with technology. We argued that the problem is indeed within people - but that what we needed was only to be nicer. No call for special medicines, special computer programmes. Just people deciding to be nicer.

I can not think of a problem in the world today that hasn't been caused by selfishness, and that couldn't be solved by caring.

None of this has anything to do with my garden. Except I guess that I've found a new experience of love in growing flowers, and when I think of sorrows, of selfishness, it helps to wrap it around with thoughts of such love, to ease the unhappiness. The other day I was outside weeding, pruning a little, and my elderly neighbour came over to say hello. She told me of the pleasure my garden gave her. She told me how to make a Victorian posy wrapped in paper lace (and I listened, never mind that I've been making them myself for years). She quoted her mother, in beautiful old language which surely must have come from a poem or parable, about how each of us has so much to give to others simply by being ourselves. She made me smile. All my neighbours are lovely, in this unlovely neighbourhood.

Everyone in the whole world could be lovely, if they chose to be.


  1. I find it so amazingly wonderful that two people, who live in completely different parts of the world, can share such a simple philosophy...and pass it on to their children & others. I use the word "kindness" and it is the hallmark/foundation/cornerstone of my parenting. I will have failed as a parent if my daughters do not learn faith & kindness while under my care. Kindness is also the sincerest, deepest compliment I know to give a person...sadly, I don't meet enough people to bestow it upon. Small words, simple ideas, but the most powerful :)

    1. I feel the same about my parenting.

      I know a man who is very kind. So generous and kind, always helping others and getting much joy from it. Everyone wonders what his motive is. Why? Why? they asked in bewilderment and often with suspicion. I asked him why today. He said he just enjoys it. Funny (by which I mean sad) how that is so hard to believe in this day and age.

      One thing you wrote here really touched my heart deeply. You wrote of your daughters being under your care. It's an old phrase that we don't hear much any more, but it's beautiful and very meaningful. I love it better than "raising children". So thank you - in that small, very simple and unconscious way, you have given me a gift today.

  2. I have such hard time grasping the ugliness of people...words, wars, violence. Is it easier to hurt a man than it is to build him up with kind hands and thoughtful'd think so every time you read the news or turn on the television. It makes my heart ache, mostly because I believe people are inherently good and don't understand why, as a world, we aren't more kind to one another, even if it's just an honest smile.

    I am so pleased to have found your beautiful space. It's very calming here, full of good heart and soul.

  3. Oh, I agree. Lately I've been feeling that we are actually being discouraged from engaging with others by those who stand to profit from the products designed to "protect us" from others. Isolation is a real problem now, especially in urban areas (ironically the most populated places.) This is a change that truly must start at home. Perhaps we have to start practicing outlaw kindness. :) Kindness is truly contagious. I've seen proof of it here in the small place I live. On a larger scale, I think that kindness, connecting with other human beings,creatures, and nature is what the world needs now.

    1. I love the idea of a renegade group of kindness-spreaders going about the world infecting it with secret happiness! Let's do it!

  4. I've tried in vain to get flowers to grow in my garden but this year they seem to have all given up! Even the trusted roses didn't make it into full bloom. I'd love to visit your garden , it sounds beautiful and how lovely that it's given joy to others too. She sounds like a lovely neighbour.
    Jess x

  5. Have you read William Morris's book "News from Nowhere"? Among other things money has no value - nothing has monetary value. Utopian story but interesting thoughts.

    It's sad when kindness must be subversive or apologized for isn't it.... I can't not!