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Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

02 JULY, 2013

How Relationships Refine Our Truths: Adrienne Rich on the Dignity of Love

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“We can count on so few people to go that hard way with us.”

From her soul-stirring poetry to her timeless wisdom on love, loss, and creativity, beloved reconstructionist Adrienne Rich (May 16, 1929–March 27, 2012) endures as one of the most celebrated poets of the twentieth century, a remarkable woman of equal parts literary flair and political conviction. In a monumental manifestation of both, when Rich was awarded prestigious National Medal of Arts in 1997, the highest honor bestowed upon an individual artist on behalf of the people of the United States, she famously became the first and only person yet to decline the honor in a protest against the monopoly of power and the government’s proposed plan to end funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.

But Rich was also a masterful writer of prose at the intersection of the philosophical, the political, and the deeply personal. In her essay titled “Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying,” originally read at the Hartwick Women Writers’ Workshop in June of 1975 and eventually included in the altogether fantastic anthology On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose 1966-1978 (public library), Rich adds to history’s finest definitions of love with eloquence that resonates with particularly poignant beauty in these days of historic change for the freedom and dignity of love:

An honorable human relationship — that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word “love” — is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.

It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation.

It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity.

It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us.

How beautifully this lends itself to paraphrasing Rich’s memorable words from two decades later — “I don’t think we can separate art from overall human dignity and hope.” — to “I don’t think we can separate love from overall human dignity and hope.”

On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose 1966-1978 is indispensable in its entirety.

Illustration by Lisa Congdon for The Reconstructionists project

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01 JULY, 2013

The Science of Beauty

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“Attitudes toward beauty are entwined with our deepest conflicts surrounding flesh and spirit.”

“That is the best part of beauty, which a picture cannot express,” Francis Bacon observed in his essay on the subject. And yet for as far back as humanity can peer into the past, we’ve attempted again and again to capture and define beauty. For Indian philosopher Tagore, beauty was the Truth of eternity. For Richard Feynman, it was the mesmerism of complexity. For E. B. White, it was the power of simplicity. For the influential early art theorist Denman Waldo Ross, it was a supreme instance of order. For legendary philosopher Denis Dutton, it was “a gift handed down from the intelligent skills and rich emotional lives of our most ancient ancestors.” But despite all these metaphysical explanations, we continue to strive for a concrete, tangible, material answer.

That’s precisely what Harvard’s Nancy Etcoff sets out to unearth in Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty (public library) — an inquiry into what we find beautiful and why that frames beauty as “the workings of a basic instinct” and explores such fascinating facets of the subject as our evolutionary wiring, the ubiquitous response to beauty across human cultures, and the universal qualities in people that evoke this response.

Etcoff begins by confronting our intellectual apologism for the cult of beauty:

Many intellectuals would have us believe that beauty is inconsequential. Since it explains nothing, solves nothing, and teaches us nothing, it should not have a place in intellectual discourse. And we are supposed to breathe a collective sigh of relief. After all, the concept of beauty has become an embarrassment.

But there is something wrong with this picture. Outside the realm of ideas, beauty rules. Nobody has stopped looking at it, and no one has stopped enjoying the sight. Turning a cold eye to beauty is as easy as quelling physical desire or responding with indifference to a baby’s cry. We can say that beauty is dead, but all that does is widen the chasm between the real world and our understanding of it.

Etcoff admonishes against confusing beauty with all the manufactured — and industriously exploited — stand-ins for it:

Madison Avenue cleverly exploits universal preferences but it does not create them, any more than Walt Disney created our fondness for creatures with big eyes and little limbs, or Coca-Cola or McDonald’s created our cravings for sweet or fatty foods. Advertisers and businessmen help to define what adornments we wear and find beautiful, but … this belongs to our sense of fashion, which is not the same thing as our sense of beauty.

“If everyone were cast in the same mould, there would be no such thing as beauty,” Darwin famously reflected, and Etcoff echoes his admonition in turning to the menacing domino effect of this proposition in action and what it robs us of:

The media channel desire and narrow the bandwidth of our preferences. A crowd-pleasing image becomes a mold, and a beauty is followed by her imitator, and then by the imitator of her imitator. Marilyn Monroe was such a crowd pleaser that she’s been imitated by everyone from Jayne Mansfield to Madonna. Racism and class snobbery are reflected in images of beauty, although beauty itself is indifferent to race and thrives on diversity.

One of the most fascinating aspects of beauty, however, is how bound it is with judgment, and self-judgment in particular. One of the products of our narcissistic bias, Etcoff argues, is that we greatly exaggerate the minute fluctuations in our outward appearance:

To the outside world we vary in small ways from our best hours to our worst. In our mind’s eye, however, we undergo a kaleidoscope of changes, and a bad hair day, a blemish, or an added pound undermines our confidence in ways that equally minor fluctuations in our moods, our strength, or our mental agility usually do not.

Equally, we direct our real-time assessments of appearance towards others:

We are always sizing up other people’s looks: our beauty detectors never close up shop and call it a day. We notice the attractiveness of each face we see as automatically as we register whether or not they look familiar. Beauty detectors scan the environment like radar: we can see a face for a fraction of a second (150 msec. in one psychology experiment) and rate its beauty, even give it the same rating we would give it on longer inspection. Long after we forget many important details about a person, our initial response stays in our memory.

She traces the cross-cultural, age-old extremes to which people go for “beauty” — or, really, for control of those judgments, whether by self or others:

In Brazil there are more Avon ladies than members of the army. In the United States more money is spent on beauty than on education or social services. Tons of makeup—1,484 tubes of lipstick and 2,055 jars of skin care products—are sold every minute. During famines, Kalahari bushmen in Africa still use animal fats to moisturize their skin, and in 1715 riots broke out in France when the use of flour on the hair of aristocrats led to a food shortage. The hoarding of flour for beauty purposes was only quelled by the French Revolution.

But our fixation on beauty is so profound that it even permeates the most elevated of human spirits. Etcoff gives Eleanor Roosevelt, one of history’s most remarkable hearts and minds, and Leo Tolstoy, enduring sage of human wisdom, as tragic examples:

When Eleanor Roosevelt was asked if she had any regrets, her response was a poignant one: she wished she had been prettier. It is a sobering statement from one of the most revered and beloved of women, one who surely led a life with many satisfactions. She is not uttering just a woman’s lament. In Childhood, Boyhood, Youth, Leo Tolstoy wrote, “I was frequently subject to moments of despair. I imagined that there was no happiness on earth for a man with such a wide nose, such thick lips, and such tiny gray eyes as mine.… Nothing has such a striking impact on a man’s development as his appearance, and not so much his actual appearance as a conviction that it is either attractive or unattractive.”

(It is especially ironic and demonstrative of the oppressive power of such ideals that Roosevelt famously wrote, “When you adopt the standards and the values of someone else … you surrender your own integrity. You become, to the extent of your surrender, less of a human being.”)

Still, the mesmerism of beauty and its grip on us, Etcoff argues, is too deep-seated to be undone by its mere intellectual recognition:

Appearance is the most public part of the self. It is our sacrament, the visible self that the world assumes to be a mirror of the invisible, inner self. This assumption may not be fair, and not how the best of all moral worlds would conduct itself. But that does not make it any less true. Beauty has consequences that we cannot erase by denial. Beauty will continue to operate — outside jurisdiction, in the lawless world of human attraction. Academics may ban it from intelligent discourse and snobs may sniff that beauty is trivial and shallow but in the real world the beauty myth quickly collides with reality.

Framing beauty as a “basic pleasure,” Etcoff argues that our response to it is actually the sign of a healthy human mind. Conversely, the absence of such a response is one of the key symptoms of severe depression, one that goes hand-in-hand with anhedonia — the inability to take pleasure in things that once pleased us.

Although the object of beauty is debated, the experience of beauty is not. Beauty can stir up a snarl of emotions but pleasure must always be one (tortured longings and envy are not incompatible with pleasure). Our body responds to it viscerally and our names for beauty are synonymous with physical cataclysms and bodily obliteration — breathtaking, femme fatale, knockout, drop-dead gorgeous, bombshell, stunner, and ravishing. We experience beauty not as rational contemplation but as a response to physical urgency.

She offers some exquisite examples of beauty’s contemplation from the annals of literary history:

The most lyrical description of an encounter with beauty — solitary, spontaneous, with an unknown other—comes in James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man when Stephen Dedalus sees a young woman standing by the shore with “long, slender bare legs,” and a face “touched with the wonder of mortal beauty.” Her beauty is transformative and gives form to his sensual and spiritual longings. “Her image had passed into his soul for ever and no word had broken the holy silence of his ecstasy.… A wild angel had appeared to him, the angel of mortal youth and beauty, an envoy from the fair courts of life, to throw open before him in an instant of ecstasy the gates of all the ways of error and glory. On and on and on and on!”

Ezra Pound had a moment of recognition that inspired him to write a two-line poem “In a station at the Métro,” which comprised these brief sentences: “The apparition of these faces in the crowd: Petals, on a wet, black bough.” Later, Pound described how he came to write it. “Three years ago in Paris I got out of a Métro train at La Concorde, and saw suddenly a beautiful face, and then another and another, and then a beautiful child’s face, and then another beautiful woman, and I tried all day to find words for what this had meant to me, and I could not find any words that seemed to me worthy or as lovely as that sudden emotion.… In a poem of this sort one is trying to record the precise instant when a thing outward and objective transforms itself or darts into a thing inward and subjective.”

Etcoff argues that we each possess an intrinsic beauty “template” that we intuit, against which we measure everything we observe:

People judge appearances as though somewhere in their minds an ideal beauty of the human form exists, a form they would recognize if they saw it, though they do not expect they ever will. It exists in the imagination.

[…]

The human image has been subjected to all manner of manipulation in an attempt to create an ideal that does not seem to have a human incarnation. When Zeuxis painted Helen of Troy he gathered five of the most beautiful living women and represented features of each in the hope of capturing and depicting her beauty. There are no actual descriptions of Helen, nor of other legendary beauties such as Dante’s Beatrice. Their faces are blank slates, Rorschach inkblot tests of our imaginings of the features of perfect beauty.

But as unique as we would like to think we are, these inner templates turn out to be far more uniform. Etcoff cites the work of anthropometrist Leslie Farkas, who measured the facial proportions of 200 women, including 50 models, as well as young males and kids, and asked a large sample of participants to rate their appearance, then compared the results with the conventions of the classical beauty canon. The surprising findings, Etcoff argues, illustrates how measurement systems have failed at producing a formula for beauty and instead reveal something profound about the brokenness of the prescriptive canon:

The canon did not fare well. Many of the measures did not turn out to be important, such as the relative angles of the ear and nose. Some seemed pure idealizations: none of the faces and heads in profile corresponded to equal halves or thirds or fourths. Some were inaccurate—the distance between the eyes of the beauties was greater than that suggested by the canon (the width of the nose). Farkas’s results do not mean that a beautiful face will never match the Renaissance and classical ideals. But they do suggest that classical artists might have been wrong about the fundamental nature of human beauty. Perhaps they thought there was a mathematical ideal because this fit in a general way with platonic or religious ideas about the origin of the world.

And yet beauty is a very real piece of the human experience and bespeaks some of our greatest existential tensions, such as the mortality paradox. Etcoff writes:

Attitudes toward beauty are entwined with our deepest conflicts surrounding flesh and spirit. We view the body as a temple, a prison, a dwelling for the immortal soul, a tormentor, a garden of earthly delights, a biological envelope, a machine, a home. We cannot talk about our response to our body’s beauty without understanding all that we project onto our flesh.

Though at first glance borderline reductionist in its excessive reliance on evolutionary explanations, the rest of Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty goes on demonstrate why science and philosophy need each other and how the social sciences fit into the intellectual debate on beauty. Complement it with Etcoff’s compelling TED talk on the surprising science of happiness — a fine addition to these essential reads on the art and science of happiness — in which she explores the evolutionary explanations of beauty:

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27 JUNE, 2013

14-Year-Old George Washington’s 110 Commandments for Cultivating Character

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“Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”

“The list is the origin of culture,” Umberto Eco proclaimed. “I perceive value, I confer value, I create value, I even create — or guarantee — existence. Hence, my compulsion to make ‘lists,'” Susan Sontag reflected. But one of modern history’s greatest list-lovers was none other than America’s first President. In 1745, coming up on his fifteenth year, young George Washington penned a list of 110 commandments for cultivating character, titled Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation and digitally preserved by the University of Virginia Archives.

Even though in his 1890 book George Washington’s Rules of Civility Traced to Their Sources and Restored Moncure Daniel Conway notes that Washington generously “borrowed” the bulk of his rules from a 1595 French Jesuit book — a testament to the fact that everything builds on what came before — they remain fascinating in their own right as an ideological predecessor to the foundation of America’s democratic and moral ideals.

Some, at the intersection of the dated and the timeless, expose the parallel progress of cultural conventions and technology: For instance, Washington admonishes against reading “letters, books, or papers in company” — the then-equivalent of looking at your iPhone during a dinner party. Some speak to the enduring importance of critical thinking: “Be not hasty to beleive flying Reports to the Disparag[e]ment of any.” Some advocate for the humanizing effect of compassion: “When you see a Crime punished, you may be inwardly Pleased; but always shew Pity to the Suffering Offender.” Some remind us of how our personal micro-culture shapes us: “Associate yourself with Men of good Quality if you Esteem your own Reputation; for ’tis better to be alone than in bad Company.”

Transcript below, with teenage George’s original typos (long before “typing” as we know it, of course) preserved.

  1. Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.
  2. When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usualy Discovered.
  3. Shew Nothing to your Freind that may affright him.
  4. In the Presence of Others Sing not to yourself with a humming Noise, nor Drum with your Fingers or Feet.
  5. If You Cough, Sneeze, Sigh, or Yawn, do it not Loud but Privately; and Speak not in your Yawning, but put Your handkercheif or Hand before your face and turn aside.
  6. Sleep not when others Speak, Sit not when others stand, Speak not when you Should hold your Peace, walk not on when others Stop.
  7. Put not off your Cloths in the presence of Others, nor go out your Chamber half Drest.
  8. At Play and at Fire its Good manners to Give Place to the last Commer, and affect not to Speak Louder than Ordinary.
  9. Spit not in the Fire, nor Stoop low before it neither Put your Hands into the Flames to warm them, nor Set your Feet upon the Fire especially if there be meat before it.
  10. When you Sit down, Keep your Feet firm and Even, without putting one on the other or Crossing them.
  11. Shift not yourself in the Sight of others nor Gnaw your nails.
  12. Shake not the head, Feet, or Legs rowl not the Eys lift not one eyebrow higher than the other wry not the mouth, and bedew no mans face with your Spittle, by appr[oaching too nea]r him [when] you Speak.
  13. Kill no Vermin as Fleas, lice ticks &c in the Sight of Others, if you See any filth or thick Spittle put your foot Dexteriously upon it if it be upon the Cloths of your Companions, Put it off privately, and if it be upon your own Cloths return Thanks to him who puts it off.
  14. Turn not your Back to others especially in Speaking, Jog not the Table or Desk on which Another reads or writes, lean not upon any one.
  15. Keep your Nails clean and Short, also your Hands and Teeth Clean yet without Shewing any great Concern for them.
  16. Do not Puff up the Cheeks, Loll not out the tongue rub the Hands, or beard, thrust out the lips, or bite them or keep the Lips too open or too Close.
  17. Be no Flatterer, neither Play with any that delights not to be Play’d Withal.
  18. Read no Letters, Books, or Papers in Company but when there is a Necessity for the doing of it you must ask leave: come not near the Books or Writings of Another so as to read them unless desired or give your opinion of them unask’d also look not nigh when another is writing a Letter.
  19. let your Countenance be pleasant but in Serious Matters Somewhat grave.
  20. The Gestures of the Body must be Suited to the discourse you are upon.
  21. Reproach none for the Infirmaties of Nature, nor Delight to Put them that have in mind thereof.
  22. Shew not yourself glad at the Misfortune of another though he were your enemy.
  23. When you see a Crime punished, you may be inwardly Pleased; but always shew Pity to the Suffering Offender.
  24. [Do not laugh too loud or] too much at any Publick [Spectacle].
  25. Superfluous Complements and all Affectation of Ceremonie are to be avoided, yet where due they are not to be Neglected.
  26. In Pulling off your Hat to Persons of Distinction, as Noblemen, Justices, Churchmen &c make a Reverence, bowing more or less according to the Custom of the Better Bred, and Quality of the Person. Amongst your equals expect not always that they Should begin with you first, but to Pull off the Hat when there is no need is Affectation, in the Manner of Saluting and resaluting in words keep to the most usual Custom.
  27. Tis ill manners to bid one more eminent than yourself be covered as well as not to do it to whom it’s due Likewise he that makes too much haste to Put on his hat does not well, yet he ought to Put it on at the first, or at most the Second time of being ask’d; now what is herein Spoken, of Qualification in behaviour in Saluting, ought also to be observed in taking of Place, and Sitting down for ceremonies without Bounds is troublesome.
  28. If any one come to Speak to you while you are are Sitting Stand up tho he be your Inferiour, and when you Present Seats let it be to every one according to his Degree.
  29. When you meet with one of Greater Quality than yourself, Stop, and retire especially if it be at a Door or any Straight place to give way for him to Pass.
  30. In walking the highest Place in most Countrys Seems to be on the right hand therefore Place yourself on the left of him whom you desire to Honour: but if three walk together the mid[dest] Place is the most Honourable the wall is usually given to the most worthy if two walk together.
  31. If any one far Surpassess others, either in age, Estate, or Merit [yet] would give Place to a meaner than hims[elf in his own lodging or elsewhere] the one ought not to except it, S[o he on the other part should not use much earnestness nor offer] it above once or twice.
  32. To one that is your equal, or not much inferior you are to give the cheif Place in your Lodging and he to who ’tis offered ought at the first to refuse it but at the Second to accept though not without acknowledging his own unworthiness.
  33. They that are in Dignity or in office have in all places Preceedency but whilst they are Young they ought to respect those that are their equals in Birth or other Qualitys, though they have no Publick charge.
  34. It is good Manners to prefer them to whom we Speak befo[re] ourselves especially if they be above us with whom in no Sort we ought to begin.
  35. Let your Discourse with Men of Business be Short and Comprehensive.
  36. Artificers & Persons of low Degree ought not to use many ceremonies to Lords, or Others of high Degree but Respect and high[ly] Honour them, and those of high Degree ought to treat them with affibility & Courtesie, without Arrogancy.
  37. In Speaking to men of Quality do not lean nor Look them full in the Face, nor approach too near them at lest Keep a full Pace from them.
  38. In visiting the Sick, do not Presently play the Physicion if you be not Knowing therein.
  39. In writing or Speaking, give to every Person his due Title According to his Degree & the Custom of the Place.
  40. Strive not with your Superiers in argument, but always Submit your Judgment to others with Modesty.
  41. Undertake not to Teach your equal in the art himself Proffesses; it Savours of arrogancy.
  42. [Let thy ceremonies in] Courtesie be proper to the Dignity of his place [with whom thou conversest for it is absurd to ac]t the same with a Clown and a Prince.
  43. Do not express Joy before one sick or in pain for that contrary Passion will aggravate his Misery.
  44. When a man does all he can though it Succeeds not well blame not him that did it.
  45. Being to advise or reprehend any one, consider whether it ought to be in publick or in Private; presently, or at Some other time in what terms to do it & in reproving Shew no Sign of Cholar but do it with all Sweetness and Mildness.
  46. Take all Admonitions thankfully in what Time or Place Soever given but afterwards not being culpable take a Time [&] Place convenient to let him him know it that gave them.
  47. Mock not nor Jest at any thing of Importance break [n]o Jest that are Sharp Biting and if you Deliver any thing witty and Pleasent abtain from Laughing thereat yourself.
  48. Wherein wherein you reprove Another be unblameable yourself; for example is more prevalent than Precepts.
  49. Use no Reproachfull Language against any one neither Curse nor Revile.
  50. Be not hasty to beleive flying Reports to the Disparag[e]ment of any.
  51. Wear not your Cloths, foul, unript or Dusty but See they be Brush’d once every day at least and take heed tha[t] you approach not to any Uncleaness.
  52. In your Apparel be Modest and endeavour to accomodate Nature, rather than to procure Admiration keep to the Fashio[n] of your equals Such as are Civil and orderly with respect to Times and Places.
  53. Run not in the Streets, neither go t[oo s]lowly nor wit[h] Mouth open go not Shaking yr Arms [kick not the earth with yr feet, go] not upon the Toes, nor in a Dancing [fashion].
  54. Play not the Peacock, looking every where about you, to See if you be well Deck’t, if your Shoes fit well if your Stokings sit neatly, and Cloths handsomely.
  55. Eat not in the Streets, nor in the House, out of Season.
  56. Associate yourself with Men of good Quality if you Esteem your own Reputation; for ’tis better to be alone than in bad Company.
  57. In walking up and Down in a House, only with One in Compan[y] if he be Greater than yourself, at the first give him the Right hand and Stop not till he does and be not the first that turns, and when you do turn let it be with your face towards him, if he be a Man of Great Quality, walk not with him Cheek by Joul but Somewhat behind him; but yet in Such a Manner that he may easily Speak to you.
  58. Let your Conversation be without Malice or Envy, for ’tis a Sig[n o]f a Tractable and Commendable Nature: And in all Causes of Passion [ad]mit Reason to Govern.
  59. Never express anything unbecoming, nor Act agst the Rules Mora[l] before your inferiours.
  60. Be not immodest in urging your Freinds to Discover a Secret.
  61. Utter not base and frivilous things amongst grave and Learn’d Men nor very Difficult Questians or Subjects, among the Ignorant or things hard to be believed, Stuff not your Discourse with Sentences amongst your Betters nor Equals.
  62. Speak not of doleful Things in a Time of Mirth or at the Table; Speak not of Melancholy Things as Death and Wounds, and if others Mention them Change if you can the Discourse tell not your Dreams, but to your intimate Friend.
  63. A Man o[ug]ht not to value himself of his Atchievements, or rare Qua[lities of wit; much less of his rich]es Virtue or Kindred.
  64. Break not a Jest where none take pleasure in mirth Laugh not aloud, nor at all without Occasion, deride no mans Misfortune, tho’ there Seem to be Some cause.
  65. Speak not injurious Words neither in Jest nor Earnest Scoff at none although they give Occasion.
  66. Be not froward but friendly and Courteous; the first to Salute hear and answer & be not Pensive when it’s a time to Converse.
  67. Detract not from others neither be excessive in Commanding.
  68. Go not thither, where you know not, whether you Shall be Welcome or not. Give not Advice with[out] being Ask’d & when desired [d]o it briefly.
  69. If two contend together take not the part of either unconstrain[ed]; and be not obstinate in your own Opinion, in Things indiferent be of the Major Side.
  70. Reprehend not the imperfections of others for that belong[s] to Parents Masters and Superiours.
  71. Gaze not on the marks or blemishes of Others and ask not how they came. What you may Speak in Secret to your Friend deliver not before others.
  72. Speak not in an unknown Tongue in Company but in your own Language and that as those of Quality do and not as the Vulgar; Sublime matters treat Seriously.
  73. Think before you Speak pronounce not imperfectly nor bring ou[t] your Words too hastily but orderly & distinctly.
  74. When Another Speaks be attentive your Self and disturb not the Audience if any hesitate in his Words help him not nor Prompt him without desired, Interrupt him not, nor Answer him till his Speec[h] be ended.
  75. In the midst of Discourse ask [not of what one treateth] but if you Perceive any Stop because of [your coming you may well intreat him gently] to Proceed: If a Person of Quality comes in while your Conversing it’s handsome to Repeat what was said before.
  76. While you are talking, Point not with your Finger at him of Whom you Discourse nor Approach too near him to whom you talk especially to his face.
  77. Treat with men at fit Times about Business & Whisper not in the Company of Others.
  78. Make no Comparisons and if any of the Company be Commended for any brave act of Vertue, commend not another for the Same.
  79. Be not apt to relate News if you know not the truth thereof. In Discoursing of things you Have heard Name not your Author always A [Se]cret Discover not.
  80. Be not Tedious in Discourse or in reading unless you find the Company pleased therewith.
  81. Be not Curious to Know the Affairs of Others neither approach those that Speak in Private.
  82. Undertake not what you cannot Perform but be Carefull to keep your Promise.
  83. When you deliver a matter do it without Passion & with Discretion, howev[er] mean the Person be you do it too.
  84. When your Superiours talk to any Body hearken not neither Speak nor Laugh.
  85. In Company of these of Higher Quality than yourself Speak not ti[l] you are ask’d a Question then Stand upright put of your Hat & Answer in few words.
  86. In Disputes, be not So Desireous to Overcome as not to give Liberty to each one to deliver his Opinion and Submit to the Judgment of the Major Part especially if they are Judges of the Dispute.
  87. [Let thy carriage be such] as becomes a Man Grave Settled and attentive [to that which is spoken. Contra]dict not at every turn what others Say.
  88. Be not tedious in Discourse, make not many Digressigns, nor rep[eat] often the Same manner of Discourse.
  89. Speak not Evil of the absent for it is unjust.
  90. Being Set at meat Scratch not neither Spit Cough or blow your Nose except there’s a Necessity for it.
  91. Make no Shew of taking great Delight in your Victuals, Feed no[t] with Greediness; cut your Bread with a Knife, lean not on the Table neither find fault with what you Eat.
  92. Take no Salt or cut Bread with your Knife Greasy.
  93. Entertaining any one at table it is decent to present him wt. meat, Undertake not to help others undesired by the Master.
  94. If you Soak bread in the Sauce let it be no more than what you [pu]t in your Mouth at a time and blow not your broth at Table [bu]t Stay till Cools of it Self.
  95. Put not your meat to your Mouth with your Knife in your ha[nd ne]ither Spit forth the Stones of any fruit Pye upon a Dish nor Cas[t an]ything under the table.
  96. It’s unbecoming to Stoop much to ones Meat Keep your Fingers clea[n &] when foul wipe them on a Corner of your Table Napkin.
  97. Put not another bit into your Mouth til the former be Swallowed [l]et not your Morsels be too big for the Gowls.
  98. Drink not nor talk with your mouth full neither Gaze about you while you are a Drinking.
  99. Drink not too leisurely nor yet too hastily.Before and after Drinking wipe your Lips breath not then or Ever with too Great a Noise, for its uncivil.
  100. Cleanse not your teeth with the Table Cloth Napkin Fork or Knife but if Others do it let it be done wt.
  101. a Pick Tooth.

  102. Rince not your Mouth in the Presence of Others.
  103. It is out of use to call upon the Company often to Eat nor need you Drink to others every Time you Drink.
  104. In Company of your Betters be no[t longer in eating] than they are lay not your Arm but o[nly your hand upon the table].
  105. It belongs to the Chiefest in Company to unfold his Napkin and fall to Meat first, But he ought then to Begin in time & to Dispatch [w]ith Dexterity that the Slowest may have time allowed him.
  106. Be not Angry at Table whatever happens & if you have reason to be so, Shew it not but on a Chearfull Countenance especially if there be Strangers for Good Humour makes one Dish of Meat a Feas[t].
  107. Set not yourself at the upper of the Table but if it Be your Due or that the Master of the house will have it So, Contend not, least you Should Trouble the Company.
  108. If others talk at Table be attentive but talk not with Meat in your Mouth.
  109. When you Speak of God or his Atributes, let it be Seriously & [wt.] Reverence.
  110. Honour & Obey your Natural Parents altho they be Poor.

  111. Let your Recreations be Manfull not Sinfull.
  112. Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Ce[les]tial fire Called Conscience.

Finis

Complement Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation with this timeless 1866 guide to the art of conversation.

Thanks, Cojourneo

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27 JUNE, 2013

Legendary Optimist Helen Keller on Her Greatest Regret

By:

“Out of this sorrowful experience I understand more fully all human strivings, thwarted ambitions, and the infinite capacity of hope.”

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement; nothing can be done without hope,” Helen Keller (June 27, 1880–June 1, 1968) wrote in her timeless essay on optimism. But though Keller may endure as a pinnacle of achievement driven by a superhuman spirit, she was also profoundly human — even she was not immune to the vulnerability of insecurity and insufficiency. In this short segment from a vintage documentary, at once heartening and heartbreaking, Keller shares her greatest regret and how she uses it as a springboard for emapthy:

It is not blindness or deafness that bring me my darkest hours — it is the acute disappointment in not being able to speak normally. Longingly, I think how much more good I might have done if I had only acquired natural speech. But out of this sorrowful experience I understand more fully all human strivings, thwarted ambitions, and the infinite capacity of hope.

Complement this with an annotated reading of Keller’s indispensable Optimism and her stirring first experience of dance.

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