anne herbert’s wise + teeny meditations

while-i-am-thinking-2

Kevin Kelly recently wrote about Anne Herbert, a writer he knew in the early ’80’s who edited CoEvolution Quarterly, the companion magazine to  Whole Earth Catalog. She is most known for coining the phrase, “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.”

Kelly hadn’t been in touch with her in all this time, but remembered her writing:

“…it was telegraphic, lyrical, abbreviated, evocative, extremely personal and mystical. She wrote in short bursts. Like proverbs from a secret bible…It was not like any writing I had encountered…

…She was decades ahead of her time…”

Kelly thought Herbert had disappeared, only to discover that she still writes – in her own blog,  ‘Peace and Love and Noticing the Details’.

Everything he says about Herbert’s writing is true. It is often like haiku (without the constraints):  tiny meditations that caste a unique light on everyday things. Here are some:do-less-have-less

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A different kind of solution is needed. To find it, I heal the part of the problem that is inside me.

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Sometimes the people who invent things and the people who find out what things are for are different people.

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Someone who has been deeply wounded must be deeply healed.

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I twist myself into a pretzel to believe the story, the official story of some group I like, to stay inside a “we” I want. Not much nutritional value.

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I might have to cry for a hundred thousand years. Or maybe an accurate laugh would do some of the same work.

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All that room inside a minute, all those seconds, hundredths of a second. All those nanoseconds, and here comes another minute, moving and spacious.

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If I lightly touch and silently thank several trees between where I live and public transportation, it’s a better day.
The texture of the tree bark against my skin implies there are many ways to be alive.

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What is the smallest event you’ve noticed today?

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Flawedness is the only option. I disagree, but there it is. I don’t know how to deal with flawedness in myself or others. Now, that’s a flaw.

***

Here is one of Herbert’s longer writings from a 1995 Whole Earth Review. It’s called “Handy Tips on How to Behave at the Death of the World”.

11 Responses to anne herbert’s wise + teeny meditations

  1. Peggy Markel 01.13.2010 at 8:47am #

    I love these. They remind me of the Tibetan Buddhist ‘Lojong’ mind training slogans
    for cultivating loving-kindness. They emphasize meeting the ordinary situations of
    life with intelligence and compassion under all circumstances. For instance, “Don’t be swayed by external circumstances”, “Be grateful to everyone” and “Always maintain only a joyful mind”.

  2. Jacqui Graham 06.25.2012 at 6:26pm #

    The phrase that Anne Hebert wrote on her napkin in a Sausalito restaurant in 1982 is “Practise random kindness and senseless acts of beauty”. Everyone gets it wrong. “Random acts of kindness” is an oxymoron. An act is a deliberate undertaking, so how can it be random? “Random kindness” is a spontaneous generous response to a situation.

  3. Sally 06.25.2012 at 7:08pm #

    Jacqui, Thank you so much for this clarification. It makes sense. We’ve made the correction.
    How do you know the story? Is there anything you can tell us about this mysterious and amazing woman?

  4. bf smoody 11.15.2012 at 2:12pm #

    I have been following Anne Herbert’s blog, but am concerned that no new posts have been made since June 2012. does anyone know how to let her know she is missed?

  5. Sally 11.15.2012 at 9:35pm #

    Wow. You’re right. That’s alarming. I’ve and others have tried to find/contact her in the past and had no luck. She seems to like to be off the grid. I do hope she’s okay. She’s a true light.

  6. Paul Metsä 04.12.2013 at 12:43pm #

    the last comment here is from november of 2012 and a little sad to read/hear of…. I was about to write here to ask if someone could help me contact Anne Herbert for a little question I had. But now… in light of the last comment, perhaps a little fruitless to ask. So if it’s ok, I would like to ask my question here and perhaps someone else could help me anyway…..
    So, this famous quote ( “Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.”) of hers is well known. But the one I remember and can ALMOST quote, but not quite and that’s why I’m asking,—- goes something along the lines of—

    “Imagine that the stars only shone for one night every 100 years,…. so you KNOW where everyone is going to be that night….. libraries are that kind of holy to me.”
    Well that was the gist of it but I’ve said it clumsily and wanted to know what that original one was that I read. It was from back in the times of CQ or maybe even before. Does anyone else remember this? When I try to google this area/subject, I get a whole lot of Asimovs Nightfall but nothing about this quote of Ms. Herberts……

  7. Paloma Pavel, EarthHouseCenter.org 05.31.2013 at 9:18am #

    Anne and I coauthored the book “Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty” with illustrations by Mayumi Oda. It is Anne’s birthday may 29, and we want to find her. Hello Anne, happy birthday. We have good news. Mayumi has found a very fine Japanese poet , translating our book into Japanese. Across the miles and years. We would like to dedicate this work to the Fukushima survivors and climate refugees in many places. We want to connect with you about this and many things. Reaching across the miles and years,hoping to find you, and to link with others about this work. Sending love from my heart and the tribe at earth house center and the breakthrough communities project in Oakland. Word is good. [email protected]

  8. paloma pavel 05.31.2013 at 9:52am #

    I wrote a response but do not see it listed, perhaps there is a time lag or review process before comments are made official. On the other hand, my computer went out of battery as I pressed send. Please let me know if I need to re-send. [email protected] 510 652 2425. I wanted to respond to the folks who mentioned Anne Herbert’s work (Anne and I co-authored the book Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty- illustrated by Mayumi Oda) Also, gratitude for your care and the beauty of your blog.

  9. paloma pavel 05.31.2013 at 10:26am #

    Second try – It is so heartening to link with others who have read and loved Anne’s work. Would love to make direct connection with you. Also, I miss Anne, May 29 is her birthday and I am writing in hope of finding her, and sharing good news in person! Mayumi Oda has found a treasured poet in Japan who has been translating Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty (our co-authored book) into Japanese, and we are considering dedicating this as part of a community resilience project to the Fukushima survivors and refugees. Do you like and bless this idea? Happy Birthday Anne – across the miles and years. Word can be good – Anne, you taught us. Also, you can reach us by phone 510 6522425, email [email protected]. From the center of my heart to yours, Paloma
    PS Immense Gratitude to anyone who can help me to connect directly with Anne in person. Practice Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty: “we’re all making the soup we’re all eating, we’re all weaving the cloth we are all wearing…. We are all in the Circle together. “

  10. Paloma Pavel, EarthHouseCenter.org 06.01.2013 at 9:56am #

    Dear moderator, please help make a correction to my message 5/31. The phrase “this work ” needs to substitute for the typo “his work”. Hmmm, i am referring to “our work” the work of two women, anne and myself, and also acknowledging (with delight and gratitude) that this spark has been joined by so many over the years. “Going viral” sounds like a disease and does not convey the amazement of creating a “we space” phenemenon that two women working in collaboration did not imagine. Some may not know the origins of random kindness and senseless acts of beauty and the creative process and find it interesting. Anne herbert and I were responding to our despair at accelerating systemic violence, specifically domestic Rodney king incident of racial violence and police brutality and the international drum beat to war in the Persian gulf that was engulfing the nighttime news. We wanted to stop the wars… To create a spell that would shatter the trance . So we took the phrase “random violence and senseless acts of cruelty” and created a “reversal”(to use feminist philosopher mary daly’s strategy). It was not too tough to find kindness for violence. Not wimpy kindness but tough Dalai Lama never give up kindness.” Beauty” for “cruelty ” was the radical innovation. Profound fun to recall this her-story over 20 years ago. And an expression of life improvisation between two activists. Thanks again for this blog space .

  11. Sally 06.07.2013 at 2:36pm #

    The typo has been corrected. I am thrilled to hear the story of how Random Acts of Kindness came into the world and will publish it as a post. Perhaps it will help to find out where the brilliant Anne Herbert has gone. We miss her too. Thank you so much for your comments.

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