Greetings Dear Friends,
I am honored to have this opportunity to share a few words on the subject of civility, a subject I believe from time to time requires some consideration. Indeed, among my friends and neighbors on The Farm any mention of the matter (often during the course of more vigorous conversations) raises a few proverbial eyebrows. But what exactly does the word civility mean? The words courtesy, dignity, and respect all convey a similar notion. Civility conditions our words and actions. Perhaps for some civility is a fine veneer, a mere coating on the surface of speech or manner, and perhaps only this and nothing more, the abiding by a convention and leaving it at that. To provoke some reflection, this idea of civility as a simple veneer I shall call the passive form. Smile, share a few pleasantries, and continue on with the expected course of things. Given this passive notion of civility we may also anticipate the existence of an active form, with this form embodying the notion it is one’s duty to actively embolden the hallmarks of what has historically been called civilization. By embolden I mean undertaking the active effort to be always kind, caring, and helpful. Active civility means to go beyond mere politeness or courtesy to go out of one’s way, to put in extra effort, or even to make sacrifices regarding one’s own preferences to help another. Such a task can be difficult when circumstances are challenging or not what we wish.
But in our own small way most of us here on The Farm do what we can to undertake this active notion of civility. Even so, I believe it useful to further consider the active form, and to do so I will refer to the actions of a hypothetical person who is in a position of influence, as we are all whenever we chance upon one another. Under the active notion of civility as a guiding principle, our hypothetical person thus uses any endowments of knowledge, skill, influence or talent to help or to serve others. Indeed, the active notion requires us to do our best to further those fundamental elements of civilization: kindness, dignity, tolerance, openness.
So again, I ask the question, what is civility? I do not claim to have discovered a definitive answer or even claim such an answer exists, but I do wish to provide an opportunity for the more philosophically inclined to reflect upon the topic. What does it mean to you? What example do you wish to offer? To embrace active civility as I have presented it may not be an easy road to choose. It takes effort. And as I have found, such a road may come with resistance and occasionally, doubt, along with a fair number of mistakes along the way. Even so, as with many things difficult and requiring of effort, the rewards are always the greater.