Tuesday, November 2, 2010


"May not a simple bow be compared to the Tao ("way")? That which is high is made low, and that which is low is raised up."

     If you think that courtesy doesn't necessarily have much to do with your personal security, you're right...for the most part. However, there's much more to courtesy than meets the eye.
     Some forty years ago, one of my (martial arts) teachers told me, "Only someone who possesses real spiritual strength can be truly courteous." Truer words were never spoken although the profundity of this statement was lost on me for many years. Real courtesy is more than just a verbal expression or a physical gesture; it has to come from the heart and spirit. False courtesy is like a doughnut; lots of sweetness around the edges but empty in the center.
     Genuine courtesy is a way of saying "I care", and it is felt by the one who gives as well as the one who receives. It is an expression of your consideration for (the feelings of) someone else.
     Sadly, today's modern society often deemphasizes the importance of courtesy and proper manners. Instead, it would seem that we are often encouraged to place our own desires, concerns, and egos before the consideration or welfare of others. The emphasis is on me instead of we.
     In my grandfather's day, a handshake was often accompanied by a slight bow. Nowadays, we tend to think of bowing as being peculiar to the cultures of the Orient but it used to be quite common in both Europe and America. No one ever left the dinner table without an "excuse me" and Captain Kangaroo taught us all to use the magic words of "please" and "thank you"; a lesson which has remained with me to this very day. In my years as a peace officer I was able to diffuse many volatile situations through the use of the Captain's magical words.
     But there's another side to courtesy that many people miss. A person's character can often be seen in the way he or she employs, fails to employ, or makes a special show of employing...manners and courtesy. A person whose spirit falters in the face of hardship or who places herself above everyone else cannot be truly courteous. In both cases, the individual is primarily concerned with herself and she has no room for consideration of others.
     Take the handshake, for example. A person's character may be detected in his or her handshake. Some handshakes may be compared to wringing out a pickled herring. Others are akin to grasping the cold, metal, lifeless hands of one of the bronze statues on our campus. There are those handshakes which are devoid of spirit and those which are aggressive and overbearing. And then, of course, there are those that are firm and sincere; gestures of courtesy that are presented by people who, because they possess real spiritual strength, have no fear of being honest and open .
     Next time you're out and about, take note of the way people treat each other. If you look closely, you can see into their hearts.

1 comment:

  1. This is a point of enlightenment.
    If this was true within our societies then the the need to defend, protect, and secure would not be necessary.

    The truth is the only security is within ones grasp but never obtainable unless you hide under a rock, and there is no guarantee that you will be at peace for this is the meaning and the symbol of yin/yang and many other emblems or symbols representing movement and balance of to polarities. We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities in high places.

    That is why martial arts of all systems are practiced. To achieve it for a moment is not an achievement but a tease or rather a mental view of what can be if we all were on the same rhythm. Keep practicing. There was a statement made in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon of my understanding, yet I have long since accepted the fact that war and suffering are unavoidable as a living organism meaning our societies.

    It is within us to compete.

    So we may always find a peace for the storm. That is why we fear our walk, and defend our boundaries.

    No one is ever sincere to whom it is they fear.