Archive for February, 2012

On Manners

February 23, 2012

This week’s editorial by Kathleen Parker addresses the topic of manners and civility in today’s society.  As I read her words, I asked myself what is the root of what we call manners – where did this business begin?  I thought perhaps the Golden Rule, which I believe exists in some form in every major religion in the world, might be the ‘tap-root’ for all of our thinking about manners.  And, where did we learn proper behavior? So, I’d like to add some thoughts to what she’s advanced and solicit your opinions as well.  

Before I get to Parker’s words, let me share with you an observation by one of my favorite people Judith Martin (better known to many as Miss Manners) who tells us:  “You can deny all you want that there is etiquette, and a lot of people do in everyday life.  But if you behave in a way that offends the people you’re trying to deal with, they will stop dealing with you. . “. Do we all need to pay attention to this truism?  Do we need to teach our children – both with words and example – that Manners Matter?  

Parker starts by pointing out that in the ‘ . . general coarsening of culture amid the breakdown of traditional institutions, not to mention families, rules of decorum have suffered.’  “Rules of decorum?”  What are the rules of decorum?  Do you know?  I don’t think I’ve ever looked at nor studied the ‘rules of decorum’.  So, I looked into the ‘rules of decorum’ for the House of Representatives – I don’t think I’ve ever looked at them.  These rules were apparently put in place by Thomas Jefferson who believed that the House of Representatives should be a place where people debated issues without engaging in personal attacks.  Here they are:  

DECORUM

Rule 1.
1.1
All members shall conduct themselves at all times with dignity and with respect for others in a manner to ensure appropriate decorum in the deliberations of the House and to reflect the responsibilities incumbent upon a member of the House.
1.2 Members shall observe decency of speech and gentleness of behavior at all times in the House, the gallery and the lobbies, ante rooms and halls adjacent to the House.
1.3 No member in speaking shall be disrespectful to any other member and all members shall carefully avoid references to personalities when addressing the House.
1.4 Members shall, at all times, observe appropriate attire on the floor of the House, in the gallery, and in the lobbies, ante rooms and halls adjacent to the House. Appropriate attire for members shall be coat and tie for male members and dignified dress for female members.
1.5 Profane, obscene or indecent language is prohibited in the House and during the meeting of any standing or special committee of the House.
1.6 No member rising to debate, to give notice, to make a motion, or to present any paper of any kind shall proceed until the Speaker has recognized the member as entitled to the floor. While a member is speaking, no other member shall pass between the speaking member and the Speaker.
1.7 The reading of newspapers shall not be permitted on the floor of the House while the House is in session.
1.8 There shall be no smoking in the House of Representatives chamber or in the gallery or lobbies, anterooms, halls or restrooms adjacent to the House.
1.9 Placards, stickers or signs not approved by the Speaker are not permitted in the House Chamber.
1.10 When another member has the floor and is speaking, the members of the House shall refrain from private conversations with persons on the floor, or on cell phones, so as to preserve silence.

Could we adapt some version of these rules for a map for teaching our young ones proper behavior?  How might that map look?  Would it be something the kids could learn without facing a test on it?

1)Be nice and respect others!

2)Let all speech be proper and gentle!

3)Respect all others!

4)Dress properly!

5) Absolutely no profanity, no obscene or indecent language!

6)Speak when spoken to!

7)Pay attention!  When in the presence of others, put tech gadgets away!

8)Absolutely no smoking!

9)Keep all signs outside the house!

10) When others are speaking, pay attention!

Goodness sakes!  I think these rules would work in our homes, don’t you? I also think, for what it’s worth, that some adults need to review these Rules of Decorum, too.  However: Are these rules being followed anywhere that you know of?  Do House members follow these rules?  Are our talk radio and television commentators aware of the existence of any rules of conduct at all?  And, where should be begin to help our children know the importance of civility in all interactions?

Parker finishes her remarks with this challenge:  “The most media can do, meanwhile, is strive to be honest, accurate and fair, and reward the coarsest among us with scant attention.  The greatest threat to civility isn’t the random ‘You Lie!’ outburst.  More threatening is pandering to ignorance, elevation of nonsense, and distribution of false information.  In the main, the golden rule works pretty well.  Best taught in the home, it could use some burnishing.”

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Education Frees Us From Intellectual Bondage!

February 18, 2012

   I’m thinking of a time when people threw what we now call ‘popcorn’ on a fire, and the kernels exploded into an edible creation which tasted good (and after someone thought a little salt and butter would make it better, popcorn nearly became a staple).  Imagine each kernel having the power to ‘pop’ – to explode in his or her own way and to move into an individual space either with other popped corn or to land away off by itself – it could be free.  After a time, I’m thinking, someone thought it would be nice to control these errant popcorn pieces by ‘popping’ them in a relatively closed kettle and then enjoying this feast without having to gather the individual pieces.  

   Over the years these popcorn poppers became more and more sophisticated – electric heat, a dome over the heat plate, a transparent dome so that people could watch each piece settle into it’s place in the popper.  And, all was well in popcorn land (Personally, I don’t think there is such a thing as ‘Bad Popcorn’!) 

Stick with me now!  Picture our kids as kernels of popcorn and the popping process symbolizes the children’s education.  Early on, I suspect, kids learned from their individual life conditions.   From: Notes on Mark Twain we learn that Mark Twain described Tom Sawyer’s education: “Anyone harboring false notions that ‘the good old days’ of 19th century education were times when students behaved themselves, respected their teachers, and worked diligently to better themselves need only read the passages excerpted here to be disabused of such misconceptions.  The students’ world in the book consists of recess, skylarking, looking for amusing diversions in the classroom, escaping punishment, and attempting to get revenge on the schoolmaster for the pain and suffering — more often physical than emotional — he heaps on them in the course of the school day.” (You can go to: <http://www.schooltales.net/tomsawyer/> chapter VII to get a vivid picture in Mark Twain’s words of this kernel, Tom Sawyer, in school.)  

By and by, the first formal schools established in Massachusetts were designed to teach kids to read, to write and to figure.  And, since those early days we have changed the education systems dramatically, added many more areas of instruction.  (Want to see what has been added to ‘education’s responsibility since 1900?  Go to:  <http://www.jamievollmer.com/list.html>) We have also used education as a kind of ‘sorting mechanism’ delivering some to college, some to the world of work, and, goodness knows, some to oblivion.  

   Today we have designed a testing program which relies heavily on multiple choices to answer questions about the content of education – a test which measures mostly memory functions – the very lowest of the human intelligences.  We’ve ‘turned up the heat’ on our kernels!!

So, today, we place those individual kernels of corn on a hot plate with some oil to provide additional moisture and we hope to ‘pop’ them into older – hopefully more mature – individuals.  The invisible dome of assessment and judgment determines the pathway and ultimate destination of our kids – the kernels.  Many kids just ‘blast’ into the dome and fall back onto the hot plate (heat is neither good nor bad, it’s just hot!) never to have a second chance to ‘pop’ into some more desirable condition.  

   Some kernels have learned that there is a hole about the size of a fifty-cent piece in the top of the dome, and if one of the corn pieces can make it through that small hole, it can be free to choose a lifestyle of growth, wealth, happiness, opportunity, achievement – all the advantages of leaping freely into one’s life.  Some of the kernels who manage to ‘fly out through that hole’ will tell us that they didn’t get much from the school’s dedication to all kinds of testing.  They will tell us that they were good at ‘school’ (whatever that means!!), but that this skill was not particularly valuable in the ‘real world’.   Some of these kernels will return to tell us that they were bored nearly to death in classrooms where lectures followed by tests which required regurgitation, and that the bulk of their learning came from events and tools outside the regular classrooms.  

   Now, the systems of education have seen that some of the kernels don’t seem to be taking these tests seriously, some have found ways to beat the system, some have learned in various ways what’s covered in those tests, so those in charge of such things have designed even more stringent measures to keep the kernels under that dome near the heat of life without freedom.  The hole, in some cases has been made smaller demanding more of individual kernels to reach their ultimate goals.  

It’s Your Choice!

February 9, 2012

For today’s blog, I’d like to begin by quoting one of my favorite writers, Max Lucado.  This is Lucado’s ‘blessing’ for 2/9/2012.  He called it “Oh Boy — My Favorite!

“Imagine with me, the diary of a dog. 

     8:00 a.m.–Oh boy!  Dog food–my favorite!

     9:40 a.m.–Oh boy! A walk–my favorite!

And, so it goes–Oh boy–my favorite.

On the other hand consider the cat!

Day 283 of my captivity.  While they dine lavishly on fresh meat, I’m forced to eat dry cereal.  I’m sustained by the mild satisfaction I derive from ruining a few pieces of furniture. 

One, grateful, the other grumpy.  Same house.  Same master. Yet two entirely different attitudes.

So which diary reads more like yours?

Gratitude!  It’s the first born child of grace, the appropriate response of the blessed.  Immerse yourself in the curriculum of grace!  It’s so easy to be distracted.  So easy to be ungrateful!

Oh boy!  My favorite!  It’s a day changer!  Choose to make every day a great day.

My guess is that many people don’t realize – or act as if – they have a choice.  Many have never taken the time to make a conscious decision to turn every day into a ‘Great Day’!  Well, starting today, you can decide what kind of day you’re going to have – and you can decide that in advance of the day’s beginning.  It’s a choice!  It’s based on how you choose to see things!  Are you surrounded by inconveniences?  You can work through those.  Are you surrounded with people who focus on the negatives?  You can respond positively to them.  Does it seem that your whole life is just a mess?  You’ll get through all of this.  Get your attitude in a place where you realize that 1) This is your life, and 2) You can live this life on your terms.

Maybe these little hints will assist you in getting things turned from negative to positive beginning right now: 

*”The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best of everything, they just make the most of everything that comes their way!” 

*”I’ve learned that you can tell a l;ot about a man (woman) by the way he (she) handles these three things:  a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.”

*”An attitude of gratitude flavors everything you do.  Learning to be thankful is the golden thread woven through every truly successful life.”  -Charlie Tremendous Jones.

So, now the ‘ball’ is in your court.  What kind of day are you going to have?  You choose!

Life is hard

February 2, 2012

“When I hear somebody sigh, ‘Life is hard,’ I am always tempted to ask, ‘Compared to what?” – Sydney Harris.

As a society, we’ve been going through a rough patch for the last few years, haven’t we?  And, there are those who will throw up their hands and proclaim that the times are too tough, that they don’t have the strength to make it through, that they might as well give up.  And, then I think of the number of people – not the Polliannas who idealize solutions and make recovery sound like it’s nothing – who continue to help us all understand, in the words of Max Lucado:  ‘We’ll Get Through This’.  He continues, it won’t be easy; it won’t be quick; it won’t be painless, but we’ll get through this.  So, how do we take this ‘Life is hard’ thought into our control and begin the process of ‘getting through this’.  My suggestions are little more than a starting place, and we can work together to find a way for everyone to come out of this bleak time.  

*Become aware of what’s important to you!  A. Where do you want to live?  Living in an unacceptable place can undermine your ability to do well as much energy can be wasted getting comfortable with your surroundings. B.  What interests you?  I read a couple of writers who said that the way to discover what your interests are is to pretend for one moment that you have a million dollars in the bank, now what would you do with the time you have?  C. What do you value?  What’s important to you?  We all do better when we find our values are aligned with those around us.  D. What do you do well?  Most people find satisfaction in doing those things they do well and you’ll need to know what things you do well and then DO THOSE THINGS.  If you’re doing things you do well, in a place you want to be, with a comfortable support group around you, I believe you’ll be well down the road of ‘getting through this’.

*Become aware of the friends you have!  I found this quote in the ‘Livestyle Lounge’ and I’ve picked out some parts for particular emphasis:  “A friend is one who believes in you when you have ceased to believe in yourself.” A true friend will not leave your side, even in the rough patches of life and will understand you and respect you – even in your silences or your saddest moments.  We never need to hide from our true friends as they will walk with us through anything at all.  “A friend will never lie to you, just to please you and win your favor.”

*Maintain good health habits and act in ways that increase your confidence!  I’m guessing that everyone of us at some time in our lives has thought that this rough patch will never end and that there’s really nothing I can do to get out of it.  This attitude, in addition to damaging your self-confidence (a building block for a positive self-image), will eventually affect adversely your health, poor health leads to a conclusion that we can’t do anything about these conditions,  and this becomes a vicious circle.  Many articles – books – have been written to help each of us improve our health by incorporating healthy habits into our everyday lives.  And, in this short blog, I do not pretend to add much to the volumes available but rather to suggest that each of us adopt some new habit – a habit we know we can include into our lives thus building self-confidence and positioning you to find a healthy pathway out of this distress.  Speaking of stress, some experts have estimated that more than 90% of health problems are stress-related!  The distress, the worry, the doubts and fears that we bring into our lives contribute to the problem, not to the solution.  So, what can you do NOW to keep your good health habits in place and change in the direction of improvement so that you get through this.  1) Choose an area you want to improve carefully!  Adding something to which you’re not committed will only increase your sense of self-doubt;  2) Find a time in your schedule to build this new health habit; 3) Whenever possible, get someone you know and enjoy to participate with you; and 4) Do several mid-process corrections where you evaluate your progress and decide that you’ll continue or change direction.  DON’T LET THIS CHANGE BECOME A CHORE!!   An example of how this might work for you:  My wife and I recognize that exercise is essential to our continued blessing of good health, so we joined a ‘Family Fitness Center’, we have committed ourselves to going at least three times per week to work out, we work around her work schedule so that the work comes first and the exercise contributes to more success there, and we go together.  You can do this and this process will help you get through the rough patch with more confidence in your ability to take charge or your own life.

* Take control of your budget!  I am a firm believer now in managing this budget business in accordance with Dave Ramsey’s formula for proper money management.  I occasionally listen to this fella speak to people who have let their budgets get out of control and I really like the way he gently, but firmly, help them to get back on track.  One of the truly important things he tells his listeners is to ‘Name Every Dollar’ and if you don’t have the cash to buy something, you probably can’t afford it.  He advises that people immediately get rid of credit cards.  And, finally he advocates a ‘baby step’ approach to controlling your money instead of letting it run out of control.  He says ‘Pay your smallest debt first, move on to the next smallest, and so forth until you have taken control’.  This approach works.  You can do it!  

We can get through this rough patch!  And, won’t it be nice when we’re out on the other side feeling so much better about ourselves?  You can do this!