Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth. What you held in your hand, what you counted and carefully saved, all this must go so you know how desolate the landscape can be between the regions of kindness. How you ride and ride thinking the bus will never stop, the passengers eating maize and chicken will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho lies dead by the side of the road. You must see how this could be you, how he too was someone who journeyed through the night with plans and the simple breath that kept him alive. Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. You must wake up with sorrow. You must speak to it till your voice catches the thread of all sorrows and you see the size of the cloth. Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, only kindness that ties your shoes and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread, only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world to say It is I you have been looking for, and then goes with you everywhere like a shadow or a friend.
The world is like a great spider web—minus the spider. Or rather, including the spider, as even the tiniest of creatures are card-carrying members of our silky, web-like world. This lacy, cosmic extravagance in which we all find ourselves can be explained with elaborate cosmological or scientific models, but the spider web is all we really need to stir our imagination.
As a theologian, I believe the spider web is the perfect image for understanding process theology, a spiritual path built on the idea of a web-like universe where every small gesture of kindness sets the whole world atremble. The silken threads that connect us are awash with possibility after possibility for tremors of love and beauty to ripple across the universe.
In this great web—so delicate and sensitive and made of divine materials—we find our meaning and purpose. Bathed in such a vast belonging, we move about with care, not only for ourselves, but for every filigreed corner of our intricately woven existence. This precious web, both beautiful and treacherous, needs our attention and our nurture. Most of all, it needs small gestures of kindness.