Monday, December 13, 2010

Etiquette of the Past

Perhaps I had the cart before the horse in last week's musings on etiquette of the future, but as a follow up I am going to discuss briefly etiquette about the past. I went south this week to visit my family and friends which I always enjoy doing. While going through some old boxes from my grandmother, my mother and I discovered some 'treasures'. It always amazes me what people decide to hold onto and what to discard. In this case there was a poem I had written when I was 11 and other notes and letters which were important to a lady who was so influential in my youth. I had to wrack my brain to remember writing the poem and in so doing my mind was flooded with many happy memories. Here is my short poem from 1962:

The Tiny Creche

Simplicity of the tiny creation,
The darkness of the shelter;
Leads me into meditation,
And takes me from my welter.

The stillness of the tiny creche,
It is so good, quiet, and fresh;
The shelter dark, and the figures light,
Gives me the feeling of a mid-winter's night.

There is an angel inside the roof;
I think he is praying, though I have no proof,
And in the manger, Baby Jesus is laying,
With Mary and Joseph beside him praying.

But the small light figures,
Inside the tiny creche
Has made my mind clean and fresh.

This short time which we spent together reminiscing about olden days was an opportunity to remember the values which were instilled in me, namely respect for others, not taking anything too seriously, and valuing your heritage. As we leafed through a photo album which I had never before seen, my ancestors sprang to life and instantaneously revealed the roots from which my whole life philosophy evolved.

Connecting with our past and honoring it in some way can have a very positive effect on our lives. It removes from us our feelings of isolation. It helps to explain and to validate why and how we do the things we have chosen to do. Such opportunities also allow us to connect past and future generations and to share new discoveries with others. Without even realizing what is happening, we place ourselves in the back seat and, if only for a short while, we have a chance to put those who came before us in the forefront of our minds.

Many people today are finding great satisfaction in discovering their roots.Genealogy is as popular as scrap-booking, both of which transport us into another world. These departures are adventures into worlds beyond present time, opportunities to escape the hustle and bustle of our busy lives and to appreciate the people and events that gave us so much pleasure. These searches into our past evolve quickly into passions, even obsessions. When I was a young man I found great joy and fascination by studying my family tree and occasionally filling in missing leaf. Thankfully today, other family members have become equally interested.

This glimpse is a window into the importance we place on our past is also a reflection of traditions we choose to pass onto our children (or others' children should we not have our own). Finding comfort in continuity is a human condition which transcends political fads and foolishness.

Perhaps during this holiday season we will find some time to reflect on the many blessings those who have come before us have given us. Reflecting on the joy in our lives and how we are connected with our past can be very relaxing and peaceful. For those of us who feel loneliness or stress over the holidays can experience some relief by making such connections. We can rediscover why we do the things we do and who shaped our approaches to life. For those of us who get into the full swing of the holiday season, taking the time to really connect with others will help to ground us and make the time we spend with friends and family even more enjoyable. By connecting with our roots, we can find compassion for ourselves and for those around us.

As we unwrap gifts from loved ones we can reminisce about the times we spent together and take the time to appreciate our friendships. We can use this time to show our children how important others are in our lives and in our ability to be happy. Demonstrating by example the positive influence our friends and family have on us today helps those around us see how to be appreciative of how short life is, to be thankful for even the smallest blessing, and most importantly to put the needs of others ahead of our own.