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Posts Tagged ‘Gracious manners are a matter of respect!’

Hymnbook

All of the arts in some way reflect human culture, but perhaps the mirror of music is outstanding.  Most every person on earth is aware of some kind of music, either as a participator, an appreciator, or simply an unthinking “bystander” who takes the current state of the musical art for granted.

Centuries of music are layered into the human experience, and the layers I love are often those which represent memories—times of life I delight in recalling and preserving over the decades.  Such is the case of the Gospel hymns which my Grandfather Longenecker played nearly every day on his violin.

And Chopin!  I grew up in a gracious home where Chopin’s Nocturnes and Waltzes resounded from room to room, thanks to my beautiful mother who was a classical pianist.  Today I play some of these.  Although I lack Mom’s highly trained skill, my passion and determination to play Chopin’s music is boundless and he is the composer whom I love the most.

Recently I met a new-to-me composer, Erik Satie—a contemporary of another of my favorites, Debussy.  I don’t know why I’d never met Satie before—except that my parents disliked discord of any sort.  I had to discover and fall in love with composers such as Stravinsky, Shostakovich, and Mahler on my own.  Satie has some uniquely discordant moments, so Mom might have considered him to be a bit off.

But Mom would have loved Erik Satie’s waltzes.  These poignantly exquisite melodies speak volumes to me of the era in which I grew up, a world which some individuals today may never even know existed—that tea-garden world of formal dances and gentility.  That time in history when boys and men still rose attentively when girls or women entered a room—a time of family dinners with cloth napkins and gracious apparel and behavior, formally set dinner tables where girls and women were carefully seated at the dinner table by boys and men.

In my home of origin, the grace and manners prevailed not only at the dinner table but throughout the days and years.  People respected other people enough to dress and look their best, with more slipshod attire appropriate only for fishing, gardening, and heavy or messy work projects.  People respected other people enough to really listen to them, rather than sit on the edge of their chairs waiting for a chance to barge back in and seize control of the conversation.

Along with Chopin, ongoing considerate conversation and a lot of laughter were the sounds of my childhood.  I was rather shocked when, as an young adult, I came to realize that some humans frequently yelled at occasions other than sporting events—and that I, myself, was unfortunately very capable of a yell.

In fact, I’d heard in-home yelling only one time in all my growing-up years:  when my UW-Madison student older sister, Ardis, brought home a Communist boyfriend named Benny.  Benny told my father that there would be a revolution in the USA, and that he—Benny—would have to assassinate his industrialist father if said father opposed the revolution.

My father YELLED!  (As a 9 year-old who regularly fed on mystery stories and spy movies, I found the yelling to be quite exciting!)

Human nature has not changed over the centuries; we are born flawed and in need of Christ’s redemption.  But outward human behavior—certainly in the USA—has changed in my lifetime of only 83 years!  And I truly believe that music heard and absorbed again and again does make inroads—whether benign or malignant—into the human psyche.  How grateful I am, for Gospel hymns, Chopin, and Eric Satie!  And the power of music, to mirror our memories and human values.

Margaret L. Been  —  June 20th, 2017

Note:  Sixty-four years ago today, I married the most precious husband on earth; and my love for Joe Been will never stop growing.  🙂

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Yesterday my friend, Karen, and I had our annual Christmas tea and gift exchange, at my home.  It was a special treat, as last year at this time Joe was in the hospital—and Karen and I met at the hospital cafeteria for the festive occasion.  What a joy to gather with friends anywhere, but especially at home! 

I have always loved setting a table, as this was my job as a child.  I was free to arrange the settings and decorate the table however I wished.  My mother imbued me with her passion for quiet elegance—candlelight, pretty dishes, attractively presented food—and best of all, the joy of sharing leisure time with family members and friends.  My parents entertained frequently, and even when it was “just family” we valued slow paced ambience at our table.  Nearly every evening meal was a lovely occasion.

At our tea party, Karen and I observed that gracious entertaining is not so common among people today as it once was.  How unfortunate!  The rapid pace of 21st century lifestyles may play into this dearth of ambience.  Yet our mothers were far “busier” than many women today—even some of the “working women”.  Our mothers worked hard and diligently at home, without a plethora of the time and labor saving appliances so common in contemporary homes. 

Now technology has largely replaced elbow grease.  In many instances, an attitude of “Let’s get the jobs done as fast, mindlessly, and mechanically as possible” has replaced that wonderful sense of creative accomplishment and pride in the home arts which motivated women in the past—the same wholesome pride that my friend and I continue to experience today. 

I do not believe the current disregard for loveliness can be traced to economic factors.  My mother entertained during the Great Depression, sharing whatever she had—as elegantly as if she were a queen.  (Indeed she was a queen, in our home!)  A lovely table is not a matter of “what we have” so much as how “what we have” is arranged!  Pine cones in a humble wooden bowl are as beautiful as glass fruit in a crystal compote.  Mismatched tea cups and plates, culled from rummage sales and resale shops, can be as charming as a set of matching bone china dishes when arranged with an innate love for beauty.  Most certainly, it is not the “What“; it’s the “How“!

Some women may be deterred from entertaining due to a concern for “What will people think?”  That pointless, ridiculous question has no place in my life.  It cannot even be imagined when we focus on creating a pleasant setting for people we love!  I’m thankful to have lived many decades without ever worrying about what someone else might think of my home activities! 

Apparently leisurely entertaining and elegant family meals are simply non-priorities in a number of homes today.  The lack of ambience has created a glaring deficit in our culture.  A vicious circle twirls in perpetual motion:  when people fail to create a slow lane atmosphere at home, that failure adds to the frenetic tempo of the fast lane. 

A dearth of gracious dignity and decorum is evident in many other areas as well as homes:  in the careless attire, loud public behavior, and rude manners which prevail.  A case in point is the sloppy attire seen everywhere (even in fine restaurants and in churches!)  Dining out has been rendered pedestrian by the ringing of cell phones.  Somehow, an entire culture has forgotten a basic fact of civilization:  that most forms of gracious behavior are ultimately a matter of respect for other individuals.  In this “Me” generation, respect seems to be a dying virtue—no longer regarded as essential!   

Meanwhile, a little ambience would go a long way toward restoring the soul of our nation!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

Note:  The ruby footed goblets on the luncheon plates await servings of trifle.  Easy, attractive, and so-o-o yummy!

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