“If you follow the things that make you happy, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living.” – Joseph Campbell
In the past few years I have made some drastic changes in my life. After 20 years of working as a senior economist at the Central Bank of Israel, I decided to move into the field of art. I make large statues from wood and bronze, and modern art works on big industrial iron plates. Two years ago I decided to write a book, which I named Secrets of Kindness: A Journey Among Good People. The book is a collection of stories about people who help others.
Why did I do this? Why did I leave a safe and steady career to pursue the uncertain calling of art and writing?
The answer is actually pretty simple. I was bored. I felt unfulfilled by my career. It didn’t excite me any more. It didn’t interest me. And it certainly did not provide me with any sense of joy. I looked deep inside to try to find what will make me happy. I was looking for something that will grant me a sense of satisfaction and joy, and most of all give me a sense of purpose.
I needed courage, a lot of courage. Life changes are scary. Abandoning the expected familiarities of life, leaving a senior position in a respected institution to start a career in a completely unrelated field is a scary thought. Especially since I was completely and utterly unknown in the field I was entering. All of my past achievements were for naught in the art world. In essence I was starting anew.
However, I realized that if I decide to persevere, to not give up, and most importantly if I decided that life can be exciting again, then there’s a good chance I will discover in myself things that I never knew existed. We can surprise ourselves, and simply be happier.
Secrets of Kindness: A Journey Among Good People is the story of a journey through the world of altruism. It is a fascinating mosaic of interviews with good people – religious and secular; young and old; people who have come from great deprivation, leading them to change and growth; and others who absorbed the compassion in their parents’ home which became part of their heritage. All of them are people of kindness.
Often, people ask me what do the people whom I wrote about have in common. They are so different from one another. Every one of my interviewees has had a unique path. Well, I don’t know the answer, but I can say for certain that all of them enjoy what they do. Giving to others enriches their lives, makes them feel good about themselves, and provides them a great sense of joy. That’s the secret.
Robert Thurman, the first American ordained by the Dalai Lama to be a Tibetan monk when he was only 24 years old, and who now serves as the Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Columbia University in New York City, said:
“The key to saving the world, the key to compassion, is that it is more fun… Generosity is more fun… So then you decide, well, I’m sick of myself. I’m going to think of how other people can be happy. I’m going to get up in the morning and think, what can I do for even one other person, even a dog, my dog, my cat, my pet, my butterfly… And you don’t do anything for anybody else, but you get happier, you yourself, because your whole perception broadens, and you suddenly see the whole world and all of the people in it. And you realize that this — being with these people — is the flower garden that Chiho showed us. It is Nirvana.”
Photo by Frederic Mancosu