Build a Longer Table: The Four Legs of the Table
Put Your Best Foot Forward
How Good Manners Enhance your professional and personal life.
“If you are more fortunate than others, it is better to build a longer table than a taller fence.”-Unknown
Happy May 2017.
May Day has always been a magical time of the year. As a child, we would fashion construction paper baskets (with a handle), then fill them with popcorn, assorted candies and a sprig of lilac plucked from the tree in front of the house. The spring weather would usually cooperate, covering us with warm sunshine as we delivered the baskets to the neighbor’s doorstep, then race back to our house in an effort not to get caught, and hence, kissed. It was all great fun.
This spring of 2017 is still wet and cool in the Midwestern United States. The farmers are trying their best to get fields planted, but soggy conditions are making it difficult.
Over the past five months, this blog has discussed information formulating the symbolic legs of the table.
The four legs of the table symbolize the four principles of good manners.
The four legs are Trust, Respect, Love and Honor. It takes all four legs of the table to live a principled, well-mannered life. If one of the “legs” is missing or lacking, then our persona will be off-balance, just as a four-legged table with only three legs would be unbalanced.
The surface of the table represents the one force driving all of human behavior: desire.
This powerful force called desire is a human trait that our brain constantly assimilates, no matter our position in life. We have a tendency to always desire more or better or different. The Four Parts of Desire: Acquisitiveness, Rivalry, Vanity and Love of Power.
The human condition is imperfect and complex.
This month, let us explore the Anatomy of Truth and How It Relates to Manners.
Social and Emotional Beings
The limbic brain is the part of the brain that controls our emotions. It may well be the most important part of the brain. Complex emotions from the limbic brain are the reason mammals rule the earth and reptiles don’t.
The three parts of our brain:
- The reptilian brain: this is the purely physical part of our brain. The reptilian brain has control centers for fear and aggression. It thrives on negative reinforcement. For individuals who commit violent acts against others, this serves as a powerful tool, for the more heinous an act, the more reptilian brain thrives on this.
- The limbic brain: known as the ‘emotional brain’, the limbic part of the brain invented love, joy and play in mammals. There are few things of greater joy than watching calves play in the field or kittens tumbling over each other during joyous play time. It is the limbic brain that allows us to feel love towards others as well as allowing us to work cooperatively in groups.
- The thinking brain: speaks the language of thoughts and words.
The three parts of our brain are intricately tied together in a complex and fascinating way.
Research shows that much of the time our emotions lead the way. This is especially true if we are weary or hungry or stressed, as our most basic instincts grow weary over the course of a given day. Good, solid sleep rejuvenates the body and the mind.
Emotions are stronger than thought. We tend to be social and emotional creatures in our interactions with others. And we are hard-wired to be connected to others. We all want and need to experience a sense of belonging. We all want to be a part of something. Because our sense of belonging is so strong, we sometimes will reach far to convince others that our point of view is the only point of view, whether this point of view is accurate in terms of a historical or factual vantage point matters not to us.
We have a tendency to want to be right, because we believe it convinces others to like us. This very quickly turns into self-righteousness, which tends to be polarizing.
The Honoring of Others
Clinical psychologist turned artist Anne Truitt explored our penchant for chronic self-righteousness.
“We doom each other by holding onto images of one another based on preconceptions that are in turn based on indifference to what is other than ourselves.”
Truitt explains, “…this same capacity of bodies to gather multiple perceptions together also lends itself to the illusion that we see from only one perspective. If an ethical perspective becomes reified into one position, it then becomes detached from reality, and the ethical potential is actually lost. At the same time…the real world does not exist in terms of static matter, but is instead a web of contextual relations and meanings. An ethics that does not take embodied relations into account—that allows for only one perspective—ultimately loses its capacity for flexibility, and for being part of a common and shared reality.”
Us vs. Them and Kindness
Carl Sagan (1934-1996) was an American astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, author and science communicator in astronomy and other sciences. In Sagan’s book The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, he explores the generosity of the human spirit. Sagan notes that all of us are deeply attached to our core beliefs, for they define our reality. Any challenge to our personal beliefs tends to feel like a personal attack on us.
This personal view of our reality is true for all of us, even those among us who may have opposing views.
All of us, however, are doing our best to figure out how the world works and what our role might be within the world.
Sagan: “if culture has not given them the tools they need to pursue this great quest, let us [at least] temper our criticism with kindness. No one comes fully equipped.”
The chief deficiency is in the notion of ‘Us vs. Them’. The sense that we have a monopoly on truth; that other people who believe in all these stupid doctrines are morons; that if you’re sensible, you’ll listen to us; and if not, you’re beyond redemption.”
Sagan: “if we offer too much silent assent…even when it seems to be doing a little good—we abet a general climate in which skepticism is considered impolite, science tiresome, and rigorous thinking somehow stuffy and inappropriate. Figuring out a prudent balance takes wisdom.”
Each and every one of us, despite the bravado face we put on for the world…is greatly bothered by fear, anxiety, uncertainty and everything we do not have control over. To cope, we latch onto to that which is comfortable and offers some sense of stability, though it may be irrational and illusory.
All of us are dealing with a difficult issue in life that others may not know about. Because of this, we all need to offer kindness when interacting with others. We are all living in a world that none of us completely understand.
Sagan writes: when we are asked to swear in American courts of law—to tell ‘the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth’—we are being asked to do the impossible. Our memories are not flawless. We tend to remember that which is most convenient or helpful to us.
We have so much to learn about the world in which we live. The herculean task of living a productive life begins with our personal understanding of truth and how it relates to the world. Exploratory power is a great thing. We need to temper our search with factual knowledge while at the same time, looking deeply within ourselves to make sense of an unpredictable world. And we need to be prepared that, sometimes, we might be wrong.
The well-mannered person will be open to new experiences, kind and thoughtful in their response and willing to learn new things. Feelings are an important part of living, and we need to be sensitive and willing to recognize our own feelings as well as the feelings of others.
The good news is that all of us are capable of fostering healthy emotions by creating positive environments. We need to honor others in a way that allows them to share with us the thrill of mutual discovery of life. After all, we are in this life together.
We are hardwired in a similar way. Our learning takes on different formats, but hopefully, respect, honor and kindness will rule the day, and we can all get along in a reasonably good and productive way.
Tell the truth and say please and thank you.
Remember: Share your goodness, far and wide, as much as you can, with as many people as you can, for as long as you can, with as much respect as you can.
Ready, Set…Time to Say Please and Thank You again.
COMING NEXT: How we Got “Please”.