On Kindness

“On Kindness”
An Interview with Brock Tully

By Katja De Bock
Photos: Noriko Nasu-Tidball
After cycling 50,000 kilometres through North America and organizing 12 major concerts, Brock Tully’s journey to his spiritual self is ongoing.

The Vancouver peace activist and public speaker with the landmark moustache sat down with Kerrisdale Playbook editor-in-chief Keiko Honda and reporter Katja De Bock to speak about the world’s need for affection and his new book The Great Gift, a collection of reflections from the heart. The book launch was celebrated on October 28 with a Kindness Sings concert at Unity Theatre. The concert featured remarkable Canadian artists like Métis singer Andrea Menard and 14-year old Cole Armour, who both evoked standing ovations.

“It’s unselfish to be selfish”

Though he is keen on getting the word out about his books, Tully seems to be free from striving for material success.

“My only goal, really, is to be connected to my heart,” Tully says. “That’s a full time job, because I lose connection all the time . . . What it means is to be selfish about doing what makes me happy.”

His upbringing in a well-off, but emotionally cold West Vancouver family almost brought him down, before it enlightened him. As a young man, Tully struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts. However, he managed to fight his demons by cycling through North America three times, the first time in 1970, spreading the message of kindness.

“Depression is really positive to me, because it is a signal to me that something is going on in my life that I need to look at,” Tully says, adding this applies to anger, too. “We avoid it, and become time bombs. Whereas I think anger is the connection to my deeper spiritual self.”

“I don’t say hi to get a hi back. I say hi because it feels good to say hi and I feel this is what the world needs.”

Altruism and trying to connect with others are his key messages to Vancouverites, who have the sorry reputation of being lonely, isolated people.

“We are looking for connections all the time, but we are so afraid to reach out to others,” Tully says and gives an example. “We will never say hi to anybody in a city, but when we go camping, we say hi to everybody, even though we go camping to get away from people.”

“I may not like what someone does, but I may love the person who does it.”

Tully, who has been together with his lover Wilma, a marine naturalist, for two decades, has no children of his own, yet is concerned about the future generation and often speaks in schools about bullying.

In a nutshell, his message to youth is there is no such thing as a born bully, there’s people that bully, and there’s people that are getting bullied. “There is not that person that came to earth and is a bully. The bully is not a bad person, it’s just someone that has lost touch with his or her heart,” says Tully. “I believe in the essence of all people, but I think we become sick very quickly and we become followers of that.”

“I’d rather become well known because of the things I do, than do things to become well known.”

Though his words of wisdom are reminiscent of the messages of Jezus Christ, Tully says he has never really read the Bible and does not consider himself a spiritual leader. He is, instead, inspired by people such as Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Dalai Lama.

“One of the things I’ve always stayed away from is being a guru or having followers, because I falter too much,” he says. “I haven’t read the Bible, but I believe it’s probably the most beautiful book of all the books ever written. But there are things I’ve heard from the Bible that don’t sit well with me, e.g. that we’re going to hell if we don’t give our life to Christ. I am inspired by God or a higher power. I believe we created hell on earth and we are all going to somewhere beautiful, that is my deep belief, not to be right or wrong.”

However, it’s not that hard to make a difference right here on earth, Tully says. You don’t need to cycle across the Americas, as he did three times. Help somebody across the street, volunteer, be kind to others and reach out. It’s doing little acts of kindness, every moment, every day, that might turn people’s lives around for the good.

Tully says his biggest challenges are talking about feelings, as a guy, which scares him. Shame about things he’s done in the past. And eating healthy. Food to him is much more challenging than alcohol or drugs, says Tully, who eats mainly vegetarian and sugar free.

“When we seek happiness for ourselves, we’ll never find it, but when we seek happiness for others, we will.”

His famous World Kindness Concerts concluded in 2012 after 12 years, partly for lack of funding and because the organization became too intense.

Tully looks forward to doing smaller-scale concerts, speaking at schools and conferences and spreading the word about his books all over the world.

One thing he regrets as a regular keynote speaker is that he feels he can no longer wear his hair long like he used to, because he needs to dress to the occasion.  However, the moustache is there to stay!

Contact Brock Tully