Friday, October 09, 2009

"Impoliteness requires tailoring one's responses to each person in his own way"

--- Gabriela Pessin, in a Home Forum column "Brusquely kind" in the the weekly print edition of the Christian Science Monitor, October 4, 2009 (not available on-line at time of posting).

Pessin tells of the tribulations with Israili civil servants as she struggled against a deadline to get her passport renewed. Here are the closing paragraphs:
   During the long hours of the return flight I couln't help but reflect on what an odd place Israel is, located on that fuzzy border between the first and third worlds. In the United States, people typically aren't so rude to you, but then they also don't steer you to their friends in the bowels of the Central Post Office [to retrieve a mailed new passport hours before a flight departs].
   But maybe the indifference to civility is part of a more genral indiference to bureaucracy, to the nameless, faceless rules of a system; after all, politeness means treating people all the same, while impoliteness requires tailoring one's responses to each person in his own way. And so maybe incivility is what it actually takes to respect you as an individual. And so maybe, just maybe, that's what it realy means to be polite.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

"Solitude can wreck you, if you desire it only for your own sake"

--- Thomas Merton, entry for February 26, in A Vow of Conversation: Journals 1964-65, in Thomas Merton: Spiritual Master, Lawrence S. Cunningham (ed.), Paulist Press: 1992, p. 193

In context:
    I see more and more that solitude is not something to play with. It is deadly serious, and much as I have wanted it, I have not been serious enough about it. It is not enough just to "like solitude" or love it even. Even if you like it, solitude can wreck you, I believe, if you desire it only for your own sake.
    So I go forward, and I don't believe I could ever go back (even interiorly I have reached a point of no return), but I go on in fear and trembling and often with a sense of lostness, trying to be careful what I do because I am beginning to see that every false step is paid for dearly.
   Hence, I fall back on prayer or try to. Yet no matter; there is great beauty and peace in the life of silence and emptiness. But to merely fool around with it brings awful desolation. When one is trifling, even the beauty of the life suddenly becomes implacable. Solitude is a stern mother who brooks no nonsense. And the question arises -- am I so full of nonsense that she will cast me out? I pray that she will not and I suppose that is going to take much prayer.