I’ve been reading and absorbing a lot of information lately on the idea of the gentleman, grace, and nobility. Most of the thoughts here are a mixture of many luminaries, who I cite below with some of the quotes that have influenced me the most. There have been many, many bottoms in my life - both emotionally and economically - where I’ve been stripped to nothing in both regards. In those instances, I was often left only with myself and my thoughts, along with the time on my hands to think about those situations and circumstances. The more I read and observe on these topics, the more I’m able to reflect and process the past. Hopefully this will be helpful in you doing the same.
The idea of the gentleman is that beyond fine clothes and expensive things. It is the thought of a refined man in himself. To be stripped of all his material things, he would still be a gentle man, a refined man, a noble man. Not noble in the sense of an aristocrat who merely has a title, and is therefor thought to be infallible even though he be may be a thug, dunce, or buffoon; but in the sense of a truly noble man in nature. This nature being that of someone who is kind, cares for his fellow humans, takes pride in the way he acts, talks, and associates—this is a man of discernment.
A discerning man uses his time on this earth wisely. He enjoys the finer things because he knows that there is more value in an investment into something that will last. He knows how to eat food that will nourish and full-fill him rather than just masking a passing hunger. He knows how to talk his way though a confrontation by finding common ground by finding a win-win for all parties involved, and in doing this, he creates harmony.
It is said that it is easier to act your way into right thinking, than think your way into right acting. If you are in a fine suit rather than rags, you are more likely to stand up tall, and believe in yourself. If you are around a beautiful environment, you are likely to be in a better mood, and be more productive. If you are surrounded by others with good manners, intelligence, and kindness; you too will be more likely to reflect these traits in your actions, or at least start acting your way towards these virtues. This is the idea of discernment by osmosis. It is also said that you are the byproduct of the 5 people you spend the most time around. If you are discerning, you might want to spend your time around those more discerning than yourself, as you might learn something. This might be something that you choose, rather live in default next to the people in your immediate proximity. You may choose to do this no matter what your station in life, or the balance of your bank account. It doesn’t take any money to talk well, or act kindly, or enjoy the beauty of the nature around you—these are all things that just are, and are choices that you can choose to make.
I think about this often.
I think of how can I be a better human? How can I be noble? How can I have more grace?
I reflect on my actions and try to have an awareness of what I will do today, and at the end of the day I review the actions and situations and look at how I dealt with things. Many days while doing this, I start to notice things I can improve upon. Other days I am content with the passing of the day and my actions in it. This is my own awareness, and I also try to be kind to myself, and only strive to be better and not be perfect, though I do strive to be an example.
For much of my life I’ve wanted to sit in the back and hide, to do my work in solitude and later show it as finished. I didn’t want to lead or even be noticed, in fear that I might be a target of ridicule, conflict, or envy. I wanted to be small. This is quite amusing as I think of it, as I’m 6 foot 5 inches tall, and for me to disappear into the background of a room is very difficult.
The older I get the more I’ve had to lead and speak up, had to be an example and the one to make decisions. It’s gotten easier with practice, but it’s not something I’ve naturally had, at least in my own perspective of the matter. But for some reason people believe in me more than I believe in myself, and they want to follow me. They want me to make a decision, and be the guide.
It’s also true with my parents as they are getting older. I often say you know when you are an adult when you start worrying about your parents as much as they worry about you. This has been true for me for some years now, though my mother might protest that she worries more, as I tend to be a bit of an optimist by nature.
In all of this, from being who I need to be to lead, to being who I need to be for myself and others, I often hope that I can be better than I was before this moment or the last, and that with or without possessions, or a title, or status, I can still be noble. I can still be kind, and just, and discerning. I can look for the grace in situations and myself. I can take pride in my clothes, home, and surround in a way that I respect them and the harmony they create around me and in my own projection onto this world. I can stand up and be seen and lead knowing that I’m doing what I think is right in my heart and head, without the worry of either being chopped off.
I can be noble, no matter what.
Venice Beach, CA
Quotes and Inspirations:
Viktor E. Frankl, From Man’s Search for Meaning
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, from Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism
“If you pour a cup of tea, you are aware of extending your arm and touching your hand to the teapot, lifting it and pouring the water. Finally the water touches your teacup and fills it, and you stop pouring and put the teapot down precisely, as in the Japanese tea ceremony. You become aware that each precise movement has dignity. We have long forgotten that activities can be simple and precise. Every act of our lives can contain simplicity and precision and can thus have tremendous beauty and dignity.”
Bill Wilson, from Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How Many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism: The Australian Experience, Commemorat
“You can’t think your way into right action, but you can act your way into right thinking.”
“The purpose of life is to watch and experience living. To enjoy living every moment of it. And to live in environments, which are calm, quiet, slow, sophisticated, elegant. Just to be. Whether you are naked or you have a golden robe on you, that doesn’t make any difference. The ideal purpose of your life is that you are grateful - great and full - that you are alive, and you enjoy it.”
Photo: Adam Secore