Good manners

Good manners are one of the primary supporting qualities for civilized behavior between people. Good manners provide attitudes and behavior that demonstrate personal respect for others, even those who are “different”. Good manners demonstrate a person’s respect for law and order between people and within groups of people, including neighborhoods, communities, and nations.

Good manners can seldom be consistently required by the force of laws. Parents or police departments cannot always require by the force of punishment that their children or the citizens of their communities treat each other with good manners. They can’t require others to say “please” and “thank you” when making personal exchanges of resources, doing business, or just trying to get along with each other. And they certainly can’t require people to say “I’m sorry” when they have been rude, disrespectful, or unkind to some one else.

Good manners are taught to children and reinforced with adults by lessons for good manners that are conducted by living day by day in families where good manners are consistently practiced. Individuals are not going to be taught such lessons in schools or in on-the-job-training workshops.

And lessons for good manners may not even be personally learned and put into practice if they come from the teachings of various religions and groups of their practitioners. Centuries of history have demonstrated how difficult it is for Christians and Jews to consistently live in close proximity to each other without them experiencing some incidents of prejudice or disrespectful behavior. And the examples of this difficulty become more evident when the groups represent Christians and Muslims or even Protestants and Catholics. It appears that many people, including many Christians and Jews, have not really learned the lesson that Jesus was trying to teach the crowd of people who followed him around that they should “do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12). And his summary of God’s laws, with the second summary commandment being to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) has not been easy to keep for any of his followers.

Failure to practice Good Manners

Two recent incidents in distant communities and cultures demonstrate the consequences of people’s failure to practice good manners in human civilized behavior in our world. The burning of a copy of the Quran by pastor Wayne Sapp, an associate of pastor Terry Jones, at the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, FL on March 20, 2011, was used by a group of Muslim in Mazar-e Sharif Afghanistan to stage a riot and to attack a group of innocent residents killing many, including some humanitarian workers from the U.N. Violent riots like these in Afghanistan and disrespectful protests like that of these pastors in Florida are common reminders of the consequences that we all face as we try to live with other people who are “different” from us without practicing good manners.

Good manners have a lot to do with respect for what people consider to be “holy” in their lives. They teach respect for “doors”, personal property, and borders. They serve as guides for good communication, even between people who may not agree with each other regarding the matter being considered or discussed.

Why is it so hard for individuals to learn and to consistently practice good manners with others? What needs to be done to more effectively teach the lessons regarding personal respect for others and law and order in our civil lives together that are represented by good manners? Let’s talk about this.

An invitation

This is an invitation to the viewers of this blog and my website to join in the discussion of the various issues and topics that I address in my posts. I know that some of you have listed my site and this blog among your “favorites” and set “bookmarks” to frequently open it, and I appreciate such sustained interest. I am going to continue to try to keep my posts and statements interesting and my site and its features easy to view and to use.

An invitation to express your opinions

In order to handle a large amount of spam that gets submitted to this blog, I am now making it necessary for anyone who wants to leave a comment on this blog to register with my blog and to follow the established procedures for leaving legitimate comments. These include the use of a personal password to confirm your membership as being registered and the passing of a simple test to demonstrate that you are a human being and not a spamming machine.

Although I like compliments about my blog and its posts, I’m really more interested in getting people to talk with me and others about the various issues that I address in my posts. Therefore I will be checking all comments to evaluate how they add to the discussion of these issues before they are accepted for publication. If anyone has other comments of a more personal nature or general nature regarding this blog and its material, they can send those to me in email messages from the tab for my “Contact Form”.

An invitation to contribute to the discussion

There are a lot of severe challenges and intense struggles facing many people around the world today. And in many cases the proclaimed “experts” don’t seem to be able to effectively handle them. The theme for this blog is “What is good?”, and that is what I want to discuss with you. Let’s talk about this. I look forward to your participation in the discussion of these matters. If you are really interested in these matters, please accept my invitation to become a registered commentator to my blog.

Disaster in Japan

People everywhere are very sympathetic to the millions of people who have been personally affected by the tremendous earth quake and tsunami that caused so much widespread death, destruction and disaster in Japan. Numerous videos continue to show the world the unbelievable power of the shaking earth and the high surge of the tsunami wave that swept villages away and piled houses, buildings, cars, trucks, boats, and debris in the streets and fields and harbors of many Japanese cities and towns. Reports continue to be made regarding aftershocks and the ongoing dangers of nuclear contamination from the three nuclear power plants that were damaged by the tsunami wave that slammed into them. Crews are seeking to find missing relatives or at least the bodies of the thousands of people who are believed to have been killed by this disaster. And just getting basic supplies of food and water and shelter to thousands of people who have lost everything is a huge task.

It is understood that the Japanese people will recover from this disaster, but it will probably take years. In the meantime many of their basic services, including that of their currency, have been seriously hampered. Money and basic resources and relief workers are being brought into the cities, but the extent of the disaster is unbelievable. The whole earth has been affected!

Did engineering play a part in the disaster in Japan?

Apparently Japanese engineers and experts in dealing with earthquakes had done an excellent job of designing the buildings for their cities and even the nuclear reactors to withstand severe earthquakes, but this one along with the tsunami wave overpowered many of their safe guards.

So there is a lot of talk taking place now among the “experts” and the national and international leaders of highly developed countries, like Japan, that face the potential of similar natural disasters. The questions that they are all discussing have to do with how they can provide for the safety of their citizens, as well as how they can help,  in the face of such powerful natural forces.

I would hope that this disaster in Japan has caused many people around the world to reconsider what they really see as being “stable” and of lasting value in their lives. So many of us in the well developed countries of the world are surrounded by attractive homes and offices. In our daily lives we are made very comfortable by many things. We can get around in nice comfortable cars and easily communicate with our friends and relatives with various hand-held devices, so it is natural to begin to take such resources for granted as a part of one’s rights to daily life.

Lessons learned from the disaster in Japan

But such daily comforts and resources are not guaranteed as “stable” always present commodities for one’s daily life. In this blog I’m trying to get people to talk with me and others about “What is good?” in their lives.  See these posts for related issues of concern: balancing budgets or lessons from the oil spill or this statement on my website at economic security . What good can come from this disaster in Japan? What is there in your life that is really stable and dependable? What has ultimate value in your life? What is there in your life that can’t be piled up in a mound of broken “stuff” or swept away by a huge wave or destroyed in a flood or a fire? Has the disaster in Japan helped you reconsider anything in your personal life? Let’s talk about this.

Balancing budgets

Before we jump first-hand into the topic of balancing budgets, here is a good analogy for the scene that many people in the world today are seeing as they look around them. You are in a very high class restaurant on the top floor of a tall public building in the center of a big city. It is evening, and you and your lover are enjoying the beautiful view of the dazzling city stretched out below. You have ordered a full course meal of delicious entrees from the highly rated menu. You have already enjoyed your appetizers and are now waiting for the waitress to bring you the specially prepared entrees that you have been hungering for since you left home.

Just as you see your waitress emerge from the kitchen area with the tray of your food balanced on one hand above her right shoulder and the folding stand for the tray in her left hand, you feel the floor quiver beneath your feet. The water in your glasses begins to stir. The table begins to bounce and slide around. The beautiful chandeliers of dimly lit lights throughout the restaurant begin to sway, and you realize that the city is undergoing an earthquake. You catch a glimpse of your waitress as she tries to maintain her balance as everything is shaking beneath her feet. For a moment you wonder if she is going to be able to serve you the delicious entrees for which you have been waiting. Your ears are filled with the sounds of falling dishes, shattering windows, the screams of other guests, and the cries of frightened rioting children who are wondering what is going to happen to them and whether or not they are ever going to get the great desserts for which they have been waiting. You look to your lover as together you wonder when is the shaking going to stop and where you should  go to be safe.

This analogy is not that different from the reality of the scene that now confronts many people in the world. The foundations of much that they assumed were solid are shaking. Many of the pleasures and the comforts that they anticipated receiving are now in jeopardy of being destroyed. They don’t know where to turn for help or where to go for safety. They don’t know how to calm the screaming crying rioting people around them. They don’t know when the shaking is going to stop.  Those individuals who are in charge and on hand don’t seem to know exactly what to do or they can’t agree on a reasonable course of action. And you and those you love and many of the other “guests”  may be really wondering about their ability to personally survive the chaos and the crisis that you all see unfolding before your eyes.

Balancing Budgets of Nations

The economic structures of some of the major nations of the world are shaky, including that of the United States,  and even the economy of China is reported to be quivering. The budgets for many states within the United States are in serious danger of collapsing.  The budgets for some major cities and areas in the United States have been damaged almost to the point of being unworkable, and many residents have left for safer more stable “ground”. Riots are breaking out in unexpected places around the world. “Experts” and responsible civic administrators and even some dictators are scurrying around in their bunkers,  various school districts, town hall meetings, and union halls to try to negotiate some reasonable acceptable solutions with those “in charge” and the “guests” in the “restaurant” to the economic crisis that fills their fields of vision. And the value of currencies and the supply of its “notes” in the various economic systems of the world that must be used to  pay for all of the damages and to rebuild the “restaurants” have been drastically changed by all of the “shaking” that has taken place and the various financial adjustments that have been quickly made to try to prevent a disaster.

I don’t think that there are any quick ways to stop the shaking or glib speeches that can silent the screams and cries of those who are frightened or stop their riots. There aren’t any familiar stable fixtures that staggering “waitresses” can use to regain their balance as they try to finish their immediate tasks or running guests can use to keep their feet beneath them as they try to find a safe refuge, and there are no ways to recover many of the joys and comforts that have been lost when our luxurious surroundings have been shaken apart. There isn’t enough money to pay for the damage and the losses that have been experienced.

For an additional commentary on this matter see my statement on economic security .

What do you think of the “scene” that lies before you? What are you experiencing in your personal situation? How are you going to maintain some balance in the midst of the current chaos? Have you heard the term balancing budgets before? What can we do to restore some order to the “restaurant” in which we all live? Let’s talk about this.

A good story

Everyone likes a good story, especially children but also adults. A good story gets a person involved in dramatic activity. It stirs one’s emotions. A good story attracts one’s attention, but it also holds that attention over the course of time. And a good story is repeatable. Its benefits don’t wear out,  and its drama never really becomes old.

I’m sure that most of you can remember such stories that you have enjoyed. I’m fairly old, but I still remember some stories that I read as a child, “Wolf” by Jack London, “Lassie Come Home” before it was made into a movie, “My Friend Flicka”, “The Secret Garden”, “The Last of the Mohicans”,  and others. I can remember my wife and I reading “bed time” stories to our children each night before they went to sleep. And it was obvious that these young children were learning from these stories. If we tried to skip a few lines to finish quickly, they would stop us and insist that we repeat the story line for line and word by word. They knew the stories, and they didn’t want to miss any part of them.

A good story for children

I believe that children learn language and how to read from stories, probably before they begin to read English grammars in school classrooms. And I believe that youth learn some valuable lessons about growing up from stories like “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, and adults learn about history from stories about George Washington, Lewis and Clark, Daniel Boone, and other famous figures from our past. So stories have many important benefits for all of us beside those of just being interesting entertainment.

I think that the particular format for a story has some important effect on its benefits. I think that it makes a difference whether the story was one that we heard read to us, or one that we read from a book ourselves, or one that we saw depicted in a movie or video like the movie “The Passion of  The Christ” or “Saving Private Ryan”. Some TV dramas, like “Star Trek”,  have taken on the aura of great stories with an almost timeless appeal.

A good story in tradition

And I think that often times embellishments that are added to stories from other stories and cultural traditions hamper or destroy the value of the initial stories. I think that this is what has happened with the initial stories of God’s incarnation in human flesh through the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem and the resurrection of Jesus from his tomb in Jerusalem thirty-three years later. These stories have been initially recorded by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Bible.

There is a very interesting and dramatic story about an earlier revolution in Egypt that had some significant consequences on the world. It is the story of God’s deliverance of about two million foreigners after 430 years of service under the dictatorial rule of various Egyptian kings.  The actual exodus of these people occurred with the leadership of Moses who delivered them with God’s help from their positions as slaves under the control of Pharaoh, and the story even includes an account of the destruction of some of the Egyptian army without any of these Israelites even throwing one stone or a spear at their oppressors. It is an amazing story that is found in the Bible in the book of Exodus, chapters 1 through 14, and it really happened although the exact date is uncertain.

And CNN recently reported that the comic book version of ” Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story”, which was published in Arabic and distributed in Cairo in 2008 may have had some influence on the young adults who led a non-violent revolution in January and February of 2011 in the streets of Egypt and in Tahrir Square in Cairo.

So what good stories do you remember? What stories have made a real impression on you and why? What recently popular stories do you feel may have some really good lasting qualities about them? What are those qualities? Do you know a good story you’d like to share? Let’s talk about this.

Good memories

Everyone needs to have some good memories. They can give a person a boast on a gloomy day or when you are caught in a depressing mood. And I think that a person must have some good memories in order to form a good self image.  Parts of  various good memories will be used to form your perception of who you are and how you fit into your world.

You don’t have to spend a long time in a reflective thought in order to benefit from a good memory.  Sometimes just the flash of it across your mind will be enough. But it helps if the good memories are vivid enough and strong enough to be easily available when needed.

I assume that good memories are generated by good experiences…

…Which would be experiences in which you received some positive benefit. And good memories probably come out of relationships, so they probably focus on some positive experience that you had with another person. Although I’m sure that it is possible to have a good memory of a time or place or situation when you were alone, and you had a particularly good experience being there by yourself.

Of course good memories are personal treasures. They are absolutely private. No one can invade them, steal them, manipulate them, or even know about them without your permission. Some drugs or psychological techniques can uncover them to others to some extent, but the memories will always be yours.

Photographs and diaries and journals and scrap books and things like those can help to preserve some good memories, but please note that the permanence of such things is never guaranteed. People have lost generations of family photos and personal records in fires and floods and divorces and other personal tragedies. But memories that are stored in one’s mind cannot be destroyed by such circumstances. Dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease or a stroke or an injury to one’s brain can affect a person’s memories, which often adds a heavy psychological burden to the otherwise physical discomforts of such diseases or injuries. But such personal afflictions are not regular traumas for most people.

So it is well to protect good memories, but what can a person do who may not have many in the first place?

A lot of good memories are created by a happy childhood, but not everyone may have had  that blessing.  And sometimes the youth years are full of new tribulations, and the glorious of young adult independence and graduations and weddings and the fulfillment of career ambitions may not be sustained by many good strong memories. What can a person do when the supply of good memories is very scarce?

As long as a person has the mental capacity to make choices, he or she can be selective in what features or experiences in one’s past one wants to dwell upon. If most of your experiences have been negative or not particularly beneficial, don’t go back there very often or stay there very long. Use your present moment for something that is positive. And a good memory may just be buried under a bunch of “garbage” or some “trash” that should have been discarded a long time ago.  Dig through the “garbage” or the “trash” to find that small “gem” of fleeting friendship or personal victory or a moment of laughter that can provide you with a good memory. For some such small “gems”, I invite you to check out some very brief statements that I have written regarding “good news”. You can read them here: good news.

What do you think is the best source of good memories? What are some of the good memories that bless you? How can a person protect them? What can a person do when he or she only has a very few in his or her “treasure” chest. Let’s talk about this.

A good revolution

The people of Egypt are engaged in a revolution to make some major changes in their government, that is in how the business of their civic lives is managed. But is it a good revolution?It is a noble cause to seek to be free from oppressive forms of government. We here in the United States understand that perfectly well. We engaged in a violent war to secure our independence from the colonial empire of Great Britain, so we understand the value of such freedom.

But we also understand that the benefits of such freedom are not easy to achieve or to maintain. Rules of law and order, even those written into a Constitution and established in a republican or representative form of government, are not always perfect or effective in meeting the changing needs of citizens. We know about this challenge, because our people got engaged in another war to remove the oppression of slavery from our society, but even then there were later riots in our streets with people being killed and property being destroyed to remove some of the causes and effects of prejudice from our society. And these problems are still not completely solved. So we are currently engaged in a “war” of words and political strategies to determine how to make our freely established form of government more responsive to the needs of our citizens and their role in the world.

Personal freedom is nice, but its real value is determined by how well free individuals get along with other free individuals, how they manage their corporate processes when they all have to work together, and how well they are able to get along with their neighbors.  And many individuals in the “free” world are concerned about the end  results of this revolution in Egypt, and others like it, because it is not always clear what form of government is going to be in “power” after the change is made and how effective it will be in enabling the citizens of Egypt to meet their personal needs and to live in peace with their neighbors in the other nations of the world. These concerns are always important, because our world is composed of a lot of “different” people who have a lot of different needs and wants and levels of personal and corporate resources to meet those needs and wants .

There is a very interesting conversation reported in the gospel of John (chapter 3:1-21) in the Bible that touches on this matter of “kingdoms” and civic “saviors”. The conversation took place between Nicodemus, a legal expert from the ruling body of the Jews in ancient Jerusalem, and Jesus whom he recognized as “a teacher” who had “come from God”. So Jesus was someone whom Nicodemus would respect as being wiser than some other consultant or expert in such matters. Jesus makes it clear to Nicodemus in this conversation that Nicodemus is really not able to recognize who it is who comes from “heaven”;  and he really can’t mentally grasp the difference between what is “true” and what is “evil”, that is between what is “light” or illuminating and what is a matter of “darkness” or worldly, in accord with the “heavenly” system of operating a “kingdom”. Jesus tells Nicodemus that in order to understand these matters he would have to be “born again”, which means that he would have to start all over with a basic change in the way he thinks. Jesus was telling Nicodemus that in order to understand the nature of a good “kingdom” or who might establish such a one on earth he would have to have his life and the disposition of his mind changed by “the Spirit” that is from “heaven”, that is from God.

The path to a good revolution

I really think that these revolutions and political discussions,  like those in which the people of Egypt are engaged and even those in which we citizens of the United States are currently having,  are going to be basically futile and ineffective until people are basically changed into individuals who can recognize wise leaders who can lead them away from what is “evil” and help them to establish civic forms of government that are basically loving.

One of the basic difficulties in achieving such basic changes is that they can’t be accomplished through laws, that is through legislative political processes. There is no law that has ever been written or even conceived that can make free individuals love others or love those who “rule” over their civic businesses. In religious terminology we don’t need more revolutions, we need a good revival of human transformation in order to become “children” of our “Father” who is in “heaven” who know how to live in peace with their “brothers” and “sisters” in this world.

What do you think of these revolutions that are taking place around the world and the current discussions that are taking place among the citizens and politicians in the United States? What do you really expect them to accomplish? What constitutes a good revolution? Let’s talk about this.