The Peace Police

What does it take to make us civil? A good upbringing helps, but it’s not enough. The law contributes its part, but that’s a pretty small piece of the puzzle–those who are unlikely to be civil are unlikely to care all that much about the law either. Education and experience are necessary to making us capable of civility, let alone willing to exercise it.photo collageThe flip side of this is the darker compulsion within that drags us into rudeness, insults, argumentative attacks and other such ugliness. Sometimes the wonders of the cyber-world convince us that we live in a moral vacuum where anything goes and we can think, speak and live completely unfiltered realities as we invent them, but it’s no more (and perhaps far less) true in the ether, where we don’t even know the people with whom we interact long-distance, that it’s permissible to tread heavily like that.

One Good Thing by Jillee is the marvelous namesake blog of a woman who is exceedingly creative and thoughtful and consistently gives us readers masses of useful ideas that we can use every day in the operation of our homes and lives. Want to consider making your own detergents and skin treatments? Find out how to do DIY projects to make and fix things all around the house and garden? Learn a new recipe or two? Our Ms. Jill is here to help. More than anything, her posts always get me thinking up further ways to make, do and use all of the delightful things she’s introducing, and how to tweak the things that I like but can’t use as-is–say, one of the lovely creams and potions she likes to make with lavender essence, which I agree smells nice, but I’m sensitive to it and can’t be around it for long. Even though this excellent blogger rightly touts the various medicinal qualities, aromatherapeutic uses and topical applications the fabled lavender blossom can offer, none of it’s right for me when I can’t tolerate any kind of significant presence of the stuff, so I have to use these posts as inspiration, a jumping-off point, rather than as carved in stone. I know when I arrive to read her posts that I may or may not find what she presents entirely applicable to my situation or taste every time even if it were practically infallible, nor does she ever claim such a thing.

So I was more than a little taken aback to see the comments that came in response to her recent post about reducing the calorie load in various recipes and foods by substituting alternate fats, sweeteners and the like. My own preference in my eating is to try to eat less processed foods rather than lower calorie foods, so if I wish to use any of the suggestions from this particular post, it will be because I think they’ll make the foods taste better rather than that I expect them to improve my health. But when I came to the comments made by other readers, there were a number of those correspondents who not only criticized her suggestions as though she were publishing them in a medical journal but, in some cases, got rather mean-spirited and began verbal fisticuffs amongst themselves. It struck me as not only exceedingly ill-mannered but was about as far from germane as possible, given the forum of that blog. All quite uncivil, if you ask me.photo collageBut of course, you didn’t ask me, so it’s not only not incumbent upon me to express my opinion in this matter, it might in fact be just a little bit uncivilized to take any other readers to task. Tricky business, this etiquette stuff. It’s certainly not up to me to ‘fix’ what I think is not ideal in others. I am not the law or the arbiter of good taste for anyone else, to be sure. I just hope that I don’t forget myself how to be at least as civil as my parents, teachers and betters have worked so hard to help me grow to be. I’ve got enough to keep me busy just remembering how to write a semi-civilized daily blog of my own and mind my own life’s business. But I don’t mind sending you over to the Good Thing blog so you can also have the benefit of its excellence–and perhaps skew the tenor of the comments back to more fittingly responsive–since I happen to know my readers have such gracious manners!

Rainmakers

Now that super storm Sandy is mostly past, those in the wake of the destruction are left to dig out from under all of the mayhem. As all natural disasters do, Sandy left behind not only massive damage brought on by the high winds, flooding, snow, fire and explosions that were part of the storm and its immediate effects but a whole swath of financial, social, political, logistical and definitely not least of all, emotional and personal damages that will take years to be mitigated, let alone resolved. Besides the losses of life and health that are such obvious costs of a massive storm ripping through, we all know–those who have been through this grinder before, anywhere in the world most especially–that there are innumerable other things once held dear that have been slashed away in a few hours’ time and many of them will never be recovered.digital painting from a photo

The homes blown down, stripped away by violent waters, or burned were filled with people and lives and the Stuff of those lives–in many cases, all gone. The businesses closed for a few days, often in crucial periods of their peak season, are eclipsed by those whose doors, if they still physically exist, will close forever and by the many owners and employees and customers who will have to find other resources for making a living or acquiring the services and goods they count on to shape their ordinary lives. They will all find, as my spouse said very quietly to me when I came down the stairs to find him waiting palely on the 11th of September in 2001, that ‘the world as we know it has changed.’digital painting from a photo

But we also know from long experience that disasters, whether natural or human-made, can bring unexpected goodness trailing in their wake. The immediate selflessness and generosity and heroism shown by those who rush into the maelstrom to save others and who pull the stricken into their waiting arms of safety and warmth and shelter and healing are, when we others take a lesson from their shining examples, only the first wave of light and hope to follow the darkness and despair. If we all, whether by the nebulous but potent means of offering support in our hearts, minds, prayers, and invention or by the more concrete ways of donating, digging, driving; of building stronger buildings to replace those lost, remembering those who have died with forward-looking perpetuation of their virtues, and taking up whatever tools we have to recreate a more closely knit community that can expand exponentially to bring in every person with every need and every gift that can fill that need–then every storm is not an irremediable horror and every battle is not the one that will end safety and sanity forever. We are bigger than the storms. We can be the rainmakers who rise up out of ordinariness and even destruction to build something real and new and extraordinary.