Courtesy is one of those elements of life that requires reciprocation to confer its meaning upon actions. Where courtesy is not understood as reciprocal, or not understood as a practice at all, it ceases to be perceived as it is intended, but is seen, rather, as a form of weakness. But who among us practices courtesy with the attendant thought that it is deference, or submission?

No, it is in fact a strength, and an abundance of spirit. I give you this, I allow you this, I hold this for you, I restrict myself in your favour. Where this is not actually subservience, is this not a sign of a plenary nature, a nature that is overfull of its surety in giving to others, in scattering its gifts without fear of diminution?

And yet, and yet… How strong must the spirit be to be weather being forever misunderstood, to have one’s carefree lavishness to be seen as craven, to suffer that most galling of inversions? Does this not make one stray from the abundant nature, to rail against those too blind or indifferent to acknowledge it, to inevitably sink back into the feeble medium?

The norms and specifics of courtesy will change. They must. A wise man said it is immoral to wish that what is good or right for one must be good or right for another. Yet the form remains. It is no contradiction, yet it speaks against reason: here the weak wreck the strong.


One response to “Inversions

  1. I agree. Manners, as you describe them, are held by the side who has more to give. The parent-child relationship is the same sort of thing – giving from a position of strength.
    If someone has held the door open for me or offered to help carry something, for example – I usually feel grateful. Manners as a gift? Nice idea!

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