Kindness & the natural world

Le Quattro Volte (2010) Directed by Michaelangelo Frammartino

We’re launching an occasional series of film screenings at The Good Heart on Monday 16 September 8pm with Michaelangelo Frammartino’s extraordinary film Le Quatro Volte (The Four Times).

Set in Italy’s mountainous region of Calabria, it traces the path of a goat herder’s soul, as it passes from human to animal to vegetable to mineral, inspired by Pythagoras’ belief in “four-fold transmigration” of souls. It’s an exquisite mediation on the cycles of nature.

” This extraordinary movie is…an essay, a cinematic poem, a spiritual exploration of time and space, and it’s designed to make us think and feel about the world around us and our place in it.” Philip French – The Observer 29.5.2011

We present this film to promote reflection on our relationship to the natural world. There’ll be refreshments and an informal dialogue after the film

Year One

The Good Heart opened in July 2018 and was originally conceived as a ‘one year pop-up.’

During its the first year the café not only served an ever-increasing customer base of momo enthusiasts and others, but also offered hundreds of free meals to people in need. Questions are never asked, but we know these have included homeless people, families on low incomes and those struggling with Universal Credit delays, as well as anyone who may have simply been hungry and short of funds on that day. Some are referred by Fair Frome, the Frome Medical Practice, the Town Hall and other local organisations, while others find their own way to our door.

Pay it Forward is a simple but elegant system that enables everyone to eat together regardless of their financial circumstances. We rejoice in the way that it seems to happen almost effortlessly, sustained by the ongoing generosity of the many people who are willing and able to sponsor the meals of others. In the Spring of 2019 we were proud to be part of International Pay It Forward Day.

At evenings and weekends a range of other activities took place, all on a donation-only basis. It’s been a pleasure to host the monthly meetings of Sustainable Frome, as well as the creative gatherings of the children involved in the school strikes for climate change. Extinction Rebellion soon outgrew the space but continues to offer a weekly Extinction Café at 3pm on Tuesday afternoons, where people come together to deepen their understanding of the climate emergency and its effect on us all.  When Somerset Drugs and Alcohol Service closed down across the road, we offered to host a weekly art therapy group for their clients.

In the autumn of 2018, we hosted a six-week mindfulness course called Kinder Calmer Stronger designed to help people learn to meditate and shed their stress. We also began hosting meetings of alternative therapists, which has grown into a vibrant group called Wellbeing Frome which now offers a range of treatments by donation to local people who cannot otherwise afford them.

On 30th July 2019 The Good Heart hosted a small party to thank some of its key supporters. We never know what the future holds, but have to accept we are no longer a one-year pop up…

Alison Murdoch

Kindness as a radical value

Kindness is often seen is a rather fuzzy way, as a quasi-religious virtue of being “nice” to other people. “Kindness is like snow- It beautifies everything it covers.” as Kahlil Gibran puts it rather cutely.

I think kindness can be something more powerful, a potential tool of personal and social transformation. Here are three way of looking at it:

a) As a way of perceiving the world: kindness invites us to consider other people and the natural world not just as objects to use (for good or ill) but as subjects with which we already have a latent connection. Choosing to seek connection changes our understanding of the world and our place in it at a deep level.

b) As a stimulus for positive reciprocation: genuine kindness seeks no reward, but generous behaviour towards others usually prompts a positive response. There’s plenty of research to show that being kind correlates with life satisfaction, so provoking kindness in others may make them feel better.

c) As a way of nurturing affirmative community: the virtuous circle of seeking connection and reciprocating kindness generates pro-social behaviour throughout the network of relationships of those involved, and beyond. It creates healthy bonds of community by revealing the best in people.

I don’t think kindness is just a desire for sweetness and light. It goes beyond optimism and good-heartedness. Perhaps it’s a shrewd way of redefining how we create positive social relationships – kindness as a tactic to resist the anger and polarisation of our times?

What do you think?

Simon Keyes 2 August 2019