The Currency of Kindness
A conversation with magic experience designer and Fetzer arts advisor Ferdinando Buscema
In this interview excerpt, Ferdinando reflects on magic, kindness, generosity, love, and forgiveness.
The Currency of Kindness
I spend a lot of my professional time in the corporate world, and words like love, compassion, generosity don’t find much space in the business jargon and contexts. We all know that corporations are very much driven by profit, the bottom-line, in a mainly zero-sum-game kind of scenario.
A counterpoint to a generally profit-driven attitude, is the joyfully subversive concept called “random acts of kindness,” an idea whose simplicity and sheer beauty I've always resonated with. The basic idea is to do something kind or good, to help or just cheer up a stranger, for no special gain, if not the pleasure of seeing someone unknown smile in surprise and wonder. That’s a magic trick anyone can do, that makes you feel happy and makes someone else happy too! When the magic works, people want to pay-it-forward... and the message keeps going and going, and it’s win-win-win... win all the way down!
I see random acts of kindness as deeply intertwined with the concept of love, on a cosmic scale. Love doesn’t restrictively mean loving the ones that are close to you, a thing we almost take for granted. Love in its highest form means loving people you do not know, or even loving someone who did you harm. Loving someone who did you harm is almost unimaginable for many. This kind of Cosmic Love has indeed some sort of transcendent and mysterious quality. I see love, forgiveness, compassion, and kindness very deeply intertwined with each other.
The Astonishment of Kindness
I think that even a simple random act of kindness can activate a feeling of astonishment, which can potentially be transformative. One of the most beautiful examples of such idea comes from Pablo Neruda’s autobiography. When he was a kid, Neruda used to play in his backyard, and one day he discovered a hole in a fence board. All of a sudden a hand appeared from the hole, leaving behind a marvelous toy sheep. It was a beautiful and unexpected gift, delivered from an unknown and mysterious hand. And that was a magical moment for him! As Neruda himself explained it, when we receive something—be it a gift or an act of kindness—from people that we know and love, it’s indeed a beautiful thing. But to feel the affection that comes from those whom we do not know, or receive a gift from an unknown hand, that’s something still greater and more beautiful, because it widens out the boundaries of our being, and unites us with our extended family, the whole humankind. I found this story deeply enlightening.
The Daily Practice of Love and Forgiveness
I do “meditate” about love and forgiveness, and my meditation is a very concrete and practical one. My own way of meditating about love and forgiveness is practicing kindness. That’s my personal daily centering activity.
Once the Dalai Lama was asked to describe what his religion was all about. And he said “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” I don’t want to compare myself to the holy Dalai Lama, but I find this a perfect statement, so simple yet so profound. I totally subscribe to that.
Yes, trying to express heartfelt kindness to anyone you come in contact with, on a daily basis, no matter what, even when you are in a traffic jam and you're late for work, that's an uplifting and always rewarding game.
Ferdinando Buscema is a Magic Experience Designer, an updated incarnation of the archetype of the magician, who designs magical experiences to engage modern audiences, guiding them to explore uncharted realities and open up to new possibilities. Using the power of astonishment, he strives to expand our vision of reality in ways that awaken a basic truth: “There is more than meets the eye.” Ferdinando is magically in many places at once, but his home base is Milan, Italy.