1/24/2011

Etiquette


The People's Republic of China recently announced that Chinese schools will teach etiquette, including table manners, civil conversation, hospitality to foreigners, respect for parents and teachers.  LINK

The word "etiquette" was coined in the court of Louis XIV to describe signs in the palace garden admonishing guests to keep off the manicured grass.

Should our schools teach etiquette? Is etiquette Chinese? European? Old fashioned? Elitist? Or is etiquette part of a primordial human ethic that transcends class, politics, and culture?

Martin Luther King wrote, "Treat everyone, friend and foe alike, with the ordinary rules of courtesy." Do Americans agree on any "ordinary rules of courtesy"? Or has it become more important for us to be right than to be courteous?

Ecologist and poet Gary Snyder speaks of  "the etiquette of the wild." There is a fundamental harmony in the order of nature which we must respect, for we are part of it. We are guests of the earth.

Etiquette really begins in humanity’s earliest societies as the law of hospitality. The Epistle to the Hebrews 13:2, advises, "Be sure to show hospitality to strangers, for you may be entertaining angels unaware." In the Odyssey, Homer extols hospitality, for the stranger we entertain may be a god in disguise.

Perhaps there is only one rule of etiquette, containing all others: Wherever you are,
welcome each person you meet as an honored guest in the home of the present moment.

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