Kindness as a Staple


Just about everything has been said about the coronavirus that can be said with knowledge, feeling, or both. One of the biggest challenges is the uncertainty surrounding the virus; that too has been said many times.

But one thing hasn’t been said enough, or I haven’t seen it enough. Part of the stress lies in not knowing whether people around us have it, whether anyone we know is dying of it, whether anyone we know has died. I worry that I will find out months, maybe years, later that someone I know died from it. I worry also that many with the virus are afraid to say anything at all.

The virus carries stigma. Those who admit to having it–or to knowing someone who has it–risk ostracism, blame, and other loss. For their own protection, people keep medical matters to themselves; doctors protect the information too.

So if we want to know what’s going on, we first have to pledge to treat others with staunch kindness, to treat kindness itself as a staple. That requires not just sweetness, but daring too. Those with the virus are not the enemies of the rest; any of us could be one of them one day, and they’re suffering alone.

At this point, as far as I know, no one I know personally has the virus. A friend’s daughter–who lives in London–has it. It’s possible there are others. I am in good health; to my knowledge, my family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and students are well, here, in the U.S., and elsewhere. But I know my knowledge is limited.

I don’t mean in any way that people should start compulsively posting their health status on Facebook, that doctors should start revealing personal information, or that individuals should face pressure to state how they are. No, these would do more harm than good! But maybe it will become possible–or simply necessary–for people to speak without trepidation. Maybe there could be guarantees of job security, housing security, basic services for the ill. Maybe those receiving the news could treat the messengers with honor. That will help us all.

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  • “To know that you can do better next time, unrecognizably better, and that there is no next time, and that it is a blessing there is not, there is a thought to be going on with.”

    —Samuel Beckett, Malone Dies

  • Always Different



    Diana Senechal is the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture and the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Her second book, Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in October 2018. In February 2022, Deep Vellum will publish her translation of Gyula Jenei's 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más.

    Since November 2017, she has been teaching English, American civilization, and British civilization at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok, Hungary. From 2011 to 2016, she helped shape and teach the philosophy program at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in New York City. In 2014, she and her students founded the philosophy journal CONTRARIWISE, which now has international participation and readership. In 2020, at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium, she and her students released the first issue of the online literary journal Folyosó.


    On April 26, 2016, Diana Senechal delivered her talk "Take Away the Takeaway (Including This One)" at TEDx Upper West Side.

    Here is a video from the Dallas Institute's 2015 Education Forum.  Also see the video "Hiett Prize Winners Discuss the Future of the Humanities." 

    On April 19–21, 2014, Diana Senechal took part in a discussion of solitude on BBC World Service's programme The Forum.  

    On February 22, 2013, Diana Senechal was interviewed by Leah Wescott, editor-in-chief of The Cronk of Higher Education. Here is the podcast.


    All blog contents are copyright © Diana Senechal. Anything on this blog may be quoted with proper attribution. Comments are welcome.

    On this blog, Take Away the Takeaway, I discuss literature, music, education, and other things. Some of the pieces are satirical and assigned (for clarity) to the satire category.

    When I revise a piece substantially after posting it, I note this at the end. Minor corrections (e.g., of punctuation and spelling) may go unannounced.

    Speaking of imperfection, my other blog, Megfogalmazások, abounds with imperfect Hungarian.

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