Published: 05th March 2021
Kindness was my path out of the pit of addiction: Tim Disney says at the Int'l Kindness Festival
The virtual International Kindness Festival started with the Founder of The Kindness Foundation sharing her thoughts followed by philanthropist Tim Disney's no-holds-barred session
Kindness is often exalted as a must-have virtue. While this is true, at the same time, "There is a whole underbelly to it that involves science, politics, ethics and a dark side too," stated Mahima Poddar, Founder of The Kindness Foundation. Hence, the first-of-its-kind virtual International Kindness Festival attempts to explore the whole spectrum when it comes to this humane characteristic. These were the thoughts that Poddar conveyed during her Founder's Note where she gave us an idea of how the action-packed three-day festival was going to pan out.
Apart from sessions delivered by actor, producer and co-owner of Chennaiyin FC Abhishek Bachchan, former tennis professional Mahesh Bhupathi and the longest-held Al-Qaeda Captive Stephen McGowan and several other speakers who are skilled at making the most of the "proverbial lemons" that life gives each and every one of us, as Poddar put it, there are workshops, networking, art, music and more — all delivered via a seamless customised platform, complete with an interactive help desk too. This is as close to a festival experience as you will be able to indulge in during this pandemic.
The keynote address was delivered by an unabashedly candid Tim Disney, the artist, tech investor and philanthropist, who shared that, "My experience of recovering from addiction forced me into a relationship with kindness that I wouldn't have experienced otherwise." The great-grand nephew of Walt Disney drew parallels with his German Shepard who was "allergic to himself" and stated that he was suffering from the human condition of soul sickness and "drugs and alcohol become my coping strategy," he said. "When I reached a point where the fear of change was outweighed by the discomfort remaining the same, something changed," noted Disney, who was joining the festival from Los Angeles.
"I am trying to treat people with kindness, not because I am a nice guy. I want to because I worry that if I behave in a way that will fill me with shame and act in ways that are at odds with my own values, that would put me at risk of falling into addiction again," says Disney and added, "If I am being kind to you, I am not just being nice, I am affiliating myself with you. We are two-of-a-kind and I am giving you the respect and dignity that I expect from you." Hence he suggested that rather than using nice as a synonym for kindness, we use love or humility. "Kindness was my path out of the pit of addiction," concluded Disney.
During the Q&A session, when Disney was fielded with a question about being born with a famous surname and the pressure that came with it, he answered truthfully, "It has been a stressor in my life as it is a brand name of immense size. I have a lot of resentments about that, but I did get a lot of privileges because of it, for which I am grateful. But I would have liked to be a little more anonymous. On the whole, it is something to be proud of and I am grateful for it."
In the evening, Mahima Poddar caught up with multiple Grand Slam winner Mahesh Bhupathi for a chat on The Role of Empathy in Sporting Friendships. When Poddar asked the retired professional tennis player if empathy does play a role in the field of competitive sport, he pointed out the incident where Roger Federer cried on the shoulder of competitor Rafael Nadal after losing the Australian Open and said, "If it is part of your DNA, whether on the court or off the court, it shines through."
It's common knowledge that it was Bhupathi's parents who egged him on to the path of Tennis. So Poddar proceeded to ask him if that's what he does with his daughter, Saira, and if that's the right approach in general, especially when, as a parent, you know you are doing the right thing. "I am surely not forcing her to play, but when in a couple of years it clicks, I am assuming everyone will thank me," he said and added, "Today parents say let children choose their profession, but if you want to be a professional athlete, you have no shot at making it if you don't start early."