Guard within yourself that treasure kindness. Know how to give without hesitation, how to lose without regret, how to acquire without meanness.
George Sand (French writer 1804-1876)
The writer Amandine Aurore Lucie Dupine (George Sand was her masculine pen name) was an amazing woman – a bohemian and feminist who shocked people by wearing masculine clothing and smoking, and living an entirely unconventional life. She had many affairs – famously with Chopin and de Musset. If ever you go to Majorca you can visit the beautiful monastery at Valdemossa where she spent an uncomfortable winter with poor, doomed Chopin.
It makes me smile that double standards have always enabled men to pass harsh judgment on women like George Sand. For example, her contemporary, the lubricious poet Charles Baudelaire wrote: ‘She is stupid, heavy and garrulous. Her ideas on morals have the same depth of judgment and delicacy of feeling as those of janitresses and kept women … The fact that there are men who could become enamoured of this slut is indeed a proof of the abasement of the men of this generation.’
That’s enough to put me on her side!
I found this rather lovely quotation in a book of inspiring thoughts, and feel rather ashamed that I can’t pinpoint where in her writings it occurs. But I’d been reading about yet another example of viciousness in the Twittersphere and got into an argument on Facebook with some people being vile and abusive about the Prince of Wales – and I thought how kindness is in short supply in this world of ours. God, I hate the nastiness that seems to prevail all around! I’m so glad I don’t ‘do’ Twitter and some days I think I’ll give Facebook up – but there the key is not to engage in pointless arguments. And in truth, I have seen (and received) so much kindness on Facebook…So again, focus on the kindness and ignore the rest.
Wise George Sand is asking us to be kind, to be quickly generous, to be stoical when things don’t go your way, and to enjoy obtaining the things you love without being grasping. All good advice, eh? I think I follow them all – at least I really do try to – in my own life.
But there is always room for improvement – and it’s a very good exercise to stand up for generosity of spirit whenever you can. I was put to the test last night at a small party, where a woman I know very slightly was being very negative indeed about the recent engagement of a young woman we both know. The story is a complicated one, but in the end I decided I shouldn’t let her ill-feeling pass. So I told her, ‘At a time like this the one thing we can all do is offer a blessing.’ Reluctantly she was forced to nod.
After all, a blessing is kindness in action.