The Dalai Lama, the Pope, and Jennifer Lawrence.

The moment we choose to love we begin to move against domination, against oppression. The moment we choose to love we begin to move towards freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others. That action is the testimony of love as the practice of freedom.
- bell hooks

Natural, spontaneous acts of kindness are impossible to deny.

The Dalai Lama has long been known for his reaching out, literally, to take the hands of those he is visiting. The effect is almost always heartwarming and, sometimes, a bit comedic in its awkwardness.

 Last week Pope Francis was widely applauded for his open embrace of a man with a rare disfiguring disorder.

And just a day or so ago here in England, Jennifer Lawrence disrupted her walk down the red carpet to comfort a fan she saw crying:

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Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness and compassion.

- Dalai Lama

Acts like these are rare, which is in part why they are so powerful. Our human impulse is to turn away from the commotion, from the disfigured, from any potential breaching of social barriers. One might argue that this is increasingly true in our ever more individualistic world. Of course there have always been the exceptions to the rule, Mother Theresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. But how far down do their examples go? In the tangled hierarchies of contemporary humanity, where so many of us are simply trying to hold on or reaching for that next rung in the ladder, how many of us take the time to reach out to others?

Think about it. Because while some people like to trivialize such encounters, there should be no doubt that these actions matter. In China, for instance, leaders have recognized that a simple meeting with the Dalai Lama can have serious effects on a nation’s economic ties to China to the tune of 8.1%. They call it, ‘The Dalai Lama Effect‘. It is no wonder, then, that they have continued to fight so hard to isolate him from world leaders.

Recently the Pope spoke out against the mafia, yet another courageous step in his time as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church. Critics of the Catholic Church can give long lists of complaints and no doubt many issues have not been addressed and perhaps won’t any time soon. But while Pope Francis’ leadership may not turn the ship instantly, it can act as a powerful rudder, slowly, but hopefully lastingly, turning the millions of faithful (including and especially those in places of power) toward greater goodness.

Jennifer Lawrence isn’t quite in the same position as the Pope or Dalai Lama, but her warmth and candor -and this act in particular- still deserve praise. Hollywood, to me, is mostly a big mess. To be able to get in, work, succeed, and keep your wits about you as she has is pretty amazing. So next time you see a Hollywood star(let) do something horrible or idiotic and you jump onto your nearest social media to rant about it, perhaps you should first ask yourself “WWJD” (What Would Jennifer Do?).

“Why am I here?” – a post-event interview with veteran journalist and university teacher, Eileen Flynn
Actor Bill Murray’s Dharma talk: “What’s it like to be you?” [Audio]
The Karmapa is coming to America
Responding to Pat Robertson’s comment that a Christian could ‘get infected by’ Buddhism [Video]
  • Sammi De La Cruz

    What would Jennifer do? I would instead ask what would Jesus do. If you want to be like anyone it should be Jesus. Yes what Jennifer did is awesome and those who do not believe in Jesus should use her for the way you should act. We should always try to be loving, honest, caring each day as we interact with people we meet as we go about our lives.

  • Jayarava

    Have you looked at that JL video lately? The account was suspended and the video removed for “multiple third party notifications of copyright infringement”.


    • justinwhitaker

      thanks – I’ve updated it with hopefully a more legit and *nitya* link!

      • Jayarava

        Every day acts of human kindness seem to be magnified when performed by people we project our greatness onto. I think maybe most of us still have poor self-esteem so we don’t see ourselves in a good light. There’s a lot of propaganda around that people are mean and selfish, but mostly they aren’t. And even when they are it’s usually out of confusion or fear rather than inherent meanness of selfishness.

        • justinwhitaker

          Agreed! I see a lot of magnification of people’s mistakes too though. I think we all need to find balance, realizing these people can be rather amazingly wonderful at times and having flaws nonetheless – just like us. On the other hand those projections you mention are probably what make some people so angry -or smugly self-contented- when any of these people do make a mistake (or you or me or anyone for that matter)…