I’m very tired of living in a city where many people are too scared to look you in the eye. They are too scared to engage with you even in the simplest ways. I’m not sure what they are scared of. But my experience has been that when you engage with other people, they turn out to be other human beings. I’ve not met any monsters or aliens by making eye contact with other people as I’ve walked down the street.
This inability to engage comes over to me as rudeness. It costs so little, in the way of effort, to be polite. It makes a huge difference to everyone involved to when that effort has been made. It can change a really difficult experience into a pleasant one. It can change a pleasant experience into a really lovely one. It is almost always worth the effort to be polite.
People will tell you that manners are to do with respecting other people, but this is only part of the story. Manners are also to do with self-respect. Actually, manners are more to do with self-respect than they are to do other people at all.
How you, or I, feel about ourselves impacts on everyone we come into contact with. People who don’t like themselves can be really difficult to be around. But I’m not looking to allocate blame. The blame game is unproductive and self-defeating. It hooks everyone into staying in the same place, calculating and allocating blame.
Negative ways of thinking seem to be being reinforced by the trash in the media. Blame, fear, bad manners, selfishness, are common place in all aspects of the mainstream media. This is because these negative ways of thinking stop us from realising how unhealthy our culture is, how much we have become lost, where the real problems are.
The real problems are not other people, most other people are just like us, struggling to survive and make sense of this mad world we find ourselves in. The real problems are how the wrong things have become important. Do you know someone who has, at some point in time, lost all their worldly goods and status? Have you ever talked to them about it?
If you get the chance, do listen to them.
I had a student many years ago. A nice man, lovely wife, interested and interesting. One day he told me about how he had lost everything, money, status, his family. He didn’t regret any of it. He said it had made him realise what was important. He had rebuilt his connections with his family, and made a new life that he found fulfilling.
He’s not the only one, I have met many people over the years who have rejected what they were told was important, they built their lives around what they knew to be right. Not because they are selfish, quite the reverse, because they are generous and caring people. These people are the true heroes of our time. They are trying to spread love and understanding. They are trying to live by values that make sense of the world as we should all understand it.