the origins of ‘random kindness and senseless acts of beauty’

Random Kindness and Senseless acts

Three years ago, we posted about Anne Herbert, the mysterious writer of  Peace and Love and Noticing the Details, a blog that presented haiku-like shifts of view of the the most ordinary things. Herbert is also known for having come up with the brilliant, radical philosophy: ‘Practice Random Kindness & Senseless Acts of Beauty, which eventually became a book.

Although we quoted Herbert frequently, often making signs of her spare wisdom (‘Simpler ‘is a favorite), we were unable to find out anything about her since her work in the early ’80′s at CoEvolution Quarterly, the companion magazine to  Whole Earth Catalog. Then in June of 2012, she abruptly stopped posting.

Recently, Paloma Pavel of Earth House Center wrote us also looking to connect with Anne. She told us the process behind the creation of ‘random kindness and senseless acts of beauty’:

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. 

We just ordered Random Kindness & Senseless Acts of Beauty, hoping to explore the roots of this transformative statement.


For more of Anne Herbert’s unique view, check out:

anne herbert’s wise + teeny meditations
anne herbert: unaccumulate
fling and be flung (jackson pollock)
going from “can’t” to “can”
healing worry (via anne herbert)
a reminder, via anne herbert (open doors!)

insoluble Anne Herbert

5 Responses to the origins of ‘random kindness and senseless acts of beauty’

  1. diary of a tomato 06.11.2013 at 6:56am #

    Thank-you for the pointer to Anne Herbert! I recently ordered through inter-library loan their one existing copy of the Whole Earth Catalog. I had it on my mind, and wondered if it would live up to my fond memories of it. It arrived tattered, the pages falling out and held together by a rubber band, and included a note from the lending librarian to not worry about the condition. It turned out to be a later edition than I was looking for, and led me to find that all of them, plus the CoEvolution Quarterly are available to view online — what a trove!

  2. Katharine Bossmann 06.11.2013 at 3:27pm #

    Did you find out what happened to Anne Herbert? I miss getting new “gems”! Thank you for this!

  3. Sally 06.11.2013 at 3:28pm #

    Sadly, no one seems to know where she is or why she stopped posting on her blog. We hope she is all right.

  4. Katharine Bossmann 06.11.2013 at 4:41pm #

    Me too. I hope she knows how much joy she brought to so many of us!

  5. Ted Greene 07.17.2019 at 11:25am #

    I was wondering who came up with this idiotic saying, and now I know who’s to blame. Anyone with any kind of Christian background understands what pure baloney this is.

    First of all, kindness is something very real-it is a virtue. A virtue, to be a virtue, has to be practiced consistently. It can’t be practiced randomly. And practiced is a verb which means to be done over and over on a regular schedule.

    If we take this Herbert woman at her word, she’d have us walking down the road and the first guy we meet, we kick him, and as we continue along the second guy we come across we give that guy a $100!!! This is not kindness but insanity and should not be considered brilliant–RIGHT!

    Beauty is something very real too. Now, if a woman is beautiful, she has a certain order and symmetry to her looks. If she has one very large eye and one tiny eye she is not beautiful-RIGHT! At the same time she has to have a certain order to her looks. If she has one eye on top of her head and another eye under her chin, she is not beautiful- She’d be a monster- RIGHT!


    This Herbert woman has no idea what the hell beauty or kindness is. If you want to know someone who does, read GK Chesterton’s books.

    Ted Greene

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