Sticks Stones Scones

“Years from now when you talk about this—and you will—be kind,” Laura was saying, softly.
— from the movie, “Tea and Sympathy”, 1956.

Or: When you talk; be kind.

[NOTE: A shout out to Jay Heinrichs for prompting this dialog I’ve been having in my head and heart the past few weeks. I’ve been re-reading Jay’s book, “Thank You For Arguing”.]


DECORUM: There’s something you don’t hear much anymore. Maybe it’s because there isn’t much of it anymore—the thing, not the word. Let’s break it down a bit, and to do that, it’s probably better to start one step back and consider the word: decorus.

Decorous Got Its Start With Etiquette

The current meaning of decorous dates from the mid-17th century. One of the word's earliest recorded uses appears in a book titled The Rules of Civility (1673): "It is not decorous to look in the Glass, to comb, brush, or do any thing of that nature to ourselves, whilst the said person be in the Room." Decorous for a time had another meaning as well—"fitting or appropriate"—but that now-obsolete sense seems to have existed for only a few decades in the 17th century. Decorous derives from the Latin word decorus, an adjective created from the noun decor, meaning "beauty" or "grace." Decor is akin to the Latin verb decēre ("to be fitting"), which is the source of our adjective decent. It is only fitting, then, that decent can be a synonym of decorous. —Merriam-Webster Dictionary

So let’s go with that: to have decorum requires decency, a willingness to adjust, to fit in, understanding and being appropriate. Here’s an example of this kind of decorum: Audi alteram partem; which means, let the other side be heard.

This idea has been a part of ethical conduct since The Beginning: man, woman and Creator. Adam and Eve engage in original sin, and what does God do? Audi alteram partem. He gives them an opportunity to tell their side of the story.

GOD said, “Who told you you were naked? Did you eat from that tree I told you not to eat from?”

The Man said, “The Woman you gave me as a companion, she gave me fruit from the tree, and, yes, I ate it.”

GOD said to the Woman, “What is this that you’ve done?”

“The serpent seduced me,” she said, “and I ate.” —Genesis 3:11-13

The US Supreme Court gave the idea this endorsement:

"Audi alteram partem - hear the other side! - a demand made insistently through the centuries, is now a command, spoken with the voice of the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, against state governments, and every branch of them - executive, legislative, and judicial - whenever any individual, however lowly and unfortunate, asserts a legal claim.”

Why is it so hard to audi alteram partem? Why must we have the final word? Why are we so defensive? Why are we so offensive? Why are we so sure we are right and therefore ‘they’ are wrong?

Is it politics that has damaged civility; or are politics the result of damaged civility? Maybe it’s TV “news” and talk radio. Is there hope for decorum, for civil discourse, for conversation that doesn’t end up dividing?

The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know.
— Blaise Pascal

I’m not looking for tea and sympathy—i.e., pity, but rather an exchange of empathy along with a scone and a nice cup of tea, or better yet; a strong coffee and hearty discussion sounds good, or a pint and pizza and good honest conversation.

HOW ABOUT MEETING UP? Not for something all fancy like Afternoon Tea, although that is civilized, but something earthier; but decorus. ARE YOU IN? Let me know at and I’ll let you know the when and the where of the next get together.

Let's Be Honest

Several weeks ago in a post called “Finding The Knot”, I wrote about the value of having a group we are connected to; like what C.S. Lewis called “a little knot of friends who turn their backs to the World,” referring to his Knot, The Inklings. I continued to explore the idea: What are these groups like? Do I have a Knot of my own? Would anyone want me in their Knot? Who would I want in mine?

The Inklings

The Inklings

I promised in another post that I would identify some people I would love to have in the Knot, that I would interview them, and then report back. This has proven to be a real challenge. Not so much the identifying part, but the interviewing part and then reducing that down to a reasonable length for a post. So, I’ve cogitated, formulated and procrastinated, but have not yet articulated. Until now.

Doug Manning

Doug Manning

If I have a Knot, in the strictest sense of the definition, it would be My Amazing Missus and our friend Doug Manning. We meet fairly regularly, go out to eat, many times trying out new places. Then we usually go back to Doug’s place and talk. There is never a spoken agenda, but discussion is always lively, meaningful (to us) and occasionally spirited. We talk about family, current events, music, religion, faith, art, and Tulsa. You see the journey for the three of us began in Tulsa. We were newlyweds, and Doug became our mentor and sage and pastor.

[NOTE: You need to know that I am using the term “pastor” here in a very traditional sense of the latin word which means “to shepherd”, as in Jeremiah 3:15, “Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.” I am not using it in the more modern sense of an authoritarian, arrogant, fundamentalist, czar-like potentate-wanna-be.]

I’ve been very fortunate to have mentor/sage/pastor type people in my life: Doug, a man named Chalon Meadows, and my Dad. My Dad taught me by example to value spiritual disciplines, to be a lifetime learner, to pay close attention. What I didn’t learn from my Dad was just how mean and ugly “good christians” could be. You see as a pastor, my Dad lead humbly and joyfully. He didn’t sit around our house talking about how conniving and destructive powerbrokers in the church could be. So I learned it first hand.

I came out of the experience bitter and disillusioned and done with church. Weirdly enough, I had a conversation with a guy who was old enough to be my parent, in fact, he and my Mom had been high school classmates. His name was Floyd Craig. In this conversation I told Floyd about my newly-formed disdain for the church (at least my perception of it). He gave a knowing and understanding laugh, and said, “I have someone you need to meet.” That person was Doug Manning.

Not only did Doug help me find my way, but an enduring relationship began—not just for me, but for Arlene and I as a newlywed couple. As for Chalon Meadows, his grace and loving leadership along with a wonderful crustiness, allowed me a way back in to church. Chalon is gone now, but I count it one of the grandest blessings of my life to still have my Dad and Doug. All three of us are veterans of the “ministry” (they, much more decorated than I), and we are all navigating anew the transformation of “church”.

I hope that gives you a sense of why the Knot is so tight for Arlene, Doug and me. The nature of our little Knot gets me to the first key ingredient in Knotdom: it is a place of honesty and the freedom to be vulnerable.

[NOTE: When I speak of vulnerability here, I have in mind the amazing work of Brene Brown. “Thank you” to two more of my knot-mates, my muse, Kathleen, and our friend Trudy for introducing me to Ms. Brown. If you haven’t seen her Ted Talk, watch it here: BRENE BROWN ON VULNERABILITY  It’s 20 minutes long. Only click to watch if you can watch it in its entirety.]

In the next post, I will share the results of my interview with Doug and My Amazing-Missus.

P.S.: I hope I haven't sound too old, cranky and bitter in this post. While I am old and often cranky,  I'm really not bitter. So don't feel like you necessarily have to add me to your pray list; yet.