Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Washington's Birthday

On two occasions my dad has given copies of a book to all three of his offspring. Once: The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White, and the other time, George Washington's Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation. These two books, taken to heart, can do a lot to help one live a decent life.

Washington's book is a list of 110 rules, beginning with
(1) Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect to those that are present,
and ending with
(110) Labour to keep alive in your breast that little celestial fire called conscience.

Many of Washington's rules are just as relevant to the current day as they were in his. The ones that are not relevant serve to remind us of how much better the world is than it was 250 years ago. Many of the rules concern how to act toward your "superiors" or "inferiors." I take equality for granted and it's good to be reminded how lucky we are in that regard. We also forget about how much more uncomfortable life was in a time when it was a matter of etiquette to decide how to deal with the insect life inhabiting your person and clothing, or the problem of one fireplace serving as a source of warmth and a cooking stove (you want to put your feet near the fire because they are cold, but there's meat cooking for dinner and it's not polite to put your feet near it).

Happy Birthday to George Washington, the Father of our Country.

1 comment:

TBG said...

A zillion years ago, when I commuted into DC by bus, the hub for most of the suburban Virginia buses was the Pentagon (it might still be, but I doubt it). As I looked at the uniforms all around me, I had no idea what the ribbons and medals and stars meant--I do not know what "rank" looks like on a uniform.

I also marveled at the fact that I owe a 5-star general in this country no more respect than I owe anyone. I don't have to fear him, or cowtow to him--just treat him (or her) like any other citizen of my country. I just love that.