What defines decency, some of you might be asking? This in an era when many people, at least not many of us here, have become so obnoxious and downright rude. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m no little old lady who tends to be a bit of a prude even on her best days.
I like to believe that I have values which, admittedly, are not easy to live by. I’m not offering this up as an excuse for my own shortcomings at this time, I’m simply saying that, given what we’re all up against these days, it’s not easy to be the woman you want to be and believe you should be.
My excuse is having too many distractions, and many of them don’t necessarily mean that there are even people around me at the time. These preoccupations occur more than often enough while I’m on my own in my apartment. And for purely business reasons for at least the last week or so, I’ve not been able to indulge in one of my favorite rituals. It happens around early evening and doesn’t last longer than a couple of hours. It’s not entirely the most appropriate ritual to center thoughts and bring peace to the heart, body, soul and mind, but it works for me up to a point.
It’s a bit of a multitasking ritual, really. I never really told you much about my work either did I? Part of that, you could say, is actually ritualistic. On weekends when I’m free, I make a turn at some of the many galleries in the city. This keeps me on my toes about new developments in the art world. I peruse, gather my thoughts, hear what others have to say, evaluate the art, and then head off back home to start working on my review or next piece for the New York Times’ arts pages. But before arriving back at home, I spend time around the corner at my favorite bistro and take down a few notes on what I saw and experienced that evening.
Back to my quirky ritual here at home. I channel my thoughts for the evening news. If it’s remotely related to anything to do with Trump or Sanders, or worse still, Cruz, I turn the volume down on my remote, and go through a few pages of any of the books I’m working my way through. It doesn’t have to be directly related to art. Usually it’s a novel or two, a biographical work or non-fiction book on something of interest to me at this time. At the moment, it’s the environment and the need to live sustainably. I did some field work with my own family back in Brooklyn and proved myself right in thinking that there are many decent people who are trying their best to live as sustainably as possible.
These are the good habits of decent people. My father, for instance, has prepared an organic garden on the roof of his apartment block. Fortunately, the landlord does not mind. And he’s getting a small share of the produce as well. Then there’s the old lady’s fondness for plants. So, she’s managed to decorate each room of their large apartment with mostly green-leaved plants which don’t flower too much and stay green during the winter months. She’s a sustainable cooker too. She does not waste a shred of her leftovers. And when she’s feeling up to it, she’s doing her turn at the night shelters downtown.
But what really informs the good habits and rituals of deep down and decent people? We could begin by stating that family values have an important part to play here. What the matriarch and patriarch do by way of example and educating their children, I’d like to believe, gets passed on from generation to generation. I’ve said this tentatively. Remember what I was saying at the beginning of the post, how people in general seem to have changed for the worse? As the sands of time pass from one generation to the next, old habits, all good rituals well-worth practicing, fall by the wayside, only to be replaced by questionable alternatives which use the need to adapt to modern living and socio-economic paradigms as their main excuse.
Old habits, they say, always die hard. But in this case, there are many good old fashioned habits well worth keeping. And what informs the ritualistic habits of good, decent people? Well, an easy clue to hand down to you here starts in the dining room. For one thing, no-one is watching TV. That thing is shut off for the duration of the family dinner which is never rushed. For good, decent families who all eat together at mealtimes, this is the highlight of the day. While the ritualistic and healthy meal is being shared, not just eaten and enjoyed, everyone is sharing his and hers stories of the day. But before the meal commences, no matter what religion anyone belongs to, the ritual of prayer and thanksgiving is given, usually by the father. Although, it is quite alright for the mother to lead the family in prayer from time to time.
And while I may not have any kids of my own, I see no reason why children should have their turn at sharing with the rest the family their gracious thoughts with their Maker. And from this family ritual, you go all the way back to the temples, shrines, churches, Mosques, you name it, every single religious institution and center of worship which informs and inspires the values of every decent, hard-working citizen of the world, young and old. Spare a thought, though, for those who have absolutely nothing.
Their only ritual for the day is to eke out a living where they can, if they’re lucky. And those that aren’t are waiting on the dry dust bowls, waiting for the next UN Aid plane to drop bags of grain for them to collect.