Wednesday, 11 January 2012

I wonder if you know this book

 The online community is heaving with geeks, and not an insignificant number of us (though by no means all) find it easy to hang out here because we experience socialising in real life as both hard and alarming.

Many the occasion when I stride home from some gathering muttering to myself, apologising to God for my inept and graceless conduct, resolving to say less and do better next time.  But God has heard it all before, and though I understand He has not given up on me, I don’t think He’s holding His breath either (I hope not, because if God holds His breath we all die, if my reading of the Psalm is correct).

People of limited understanding and experience frequently mock the Royal Family for their seemingly stilted social responses – “It is nice to meet you,” etc.  Such derision exhibits a failure to grasp the function in a formal setting of ritualised phrases and interactions.  A larking about style of Queen high-fiving her subjects and greeting them with “Yo, dude, how’s it hanging?” would not only make herself unseemly, she would also be forever placing her subjects in the awkward position of having no rehearsed response or clear set of social guidelines for successful, respectful, dignified formal conversation.

Where a meeting is merely empty ritual, it feels distinctly chilly of course.  Ideally one’s meetings and conversations should feel warm and affirming.

I am a natural geek.  Nerd to the nth degree.  Look no further for an example of tactlessness.  I think the nadir of my social gracelessness was the occasion when despite my repeated attempts to make things better (each effort simply digging me in deeper) I finally received a letter from an enraged clergyman telling me I was psychotic, sick, destructive and a number of other things (he went on for a couple of pages but I no longer have the letter) now long forgotten.  I do try hard to avoid inadvertently upsetting people to quite that degree, but I certainly make as many enemies as friends.

So I keep near me this wonderful Book of Courtesy by Sister Mary Mercedes, a Dominican nun, who explains, teaches, guides, instructs, in the mysteries of how to be nice to people.  She tells me what I have to say and do, to avoid making a complete twit of myself and driving normally dignified people into a state of teeth-gnashing fury at my inherently objectionable personality.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough, especially if you, like me, generally feel safer in the company of animals and computers than your fellow human beings.


365 Day 11 (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, see here)

Paper covered bindwire.  Another casualty of the flower rota débacle.   The original flower lady (God be thanked) decided to stay on, for a while at least.  


Ganeida said...

Pen, I have never found you anything but sweet ~ & far more forgiving of other's foilbles than I am. I suffer severly from foot in mouth & every effort to rectify things is merely an exchange of one foot for the other.

Someone has to provide the counter~balance to all those rampant extroverts like my Star. ☺

Ember said...

Ah - what you describe - the exchange of one foot for the other - how familiar is that territory!! x

Daisyanon said...

I shall certainly get this Ember. You describe me exactly in this post.

I do not understand how effortlessly most people glide through social encounters. I try so hard to be like them and fail so miserably.

I have recently been on a holiday which involved travelling for several days in the company of a small group of strangers. What agony! The holiday was wonderful and could only be done in that sort of organised group. But the requirement to socialise exhausted me. I think I succeeded in not being rude or too upsetting, (progress for me!)but I think they thought I was a bit weird, although they were very kind and did their best with me. But perhaps that is just my paranoia and in truth they did not think about me at all.

My efforts to explain myself just seem to lead to deeper and deeper upsets and misunderstandings.

I comfort myself with the thought that many of the saints were prickly characters. Bridget of Sweden was recorded as being hated as much as she was loved.

And I read an obituary recently for a nun who arranged her life so as to be absent from her community for considerable stretches of time. With the unspoken blessing of her sisters! She was described as finding it easier to get on with animals than human beings.

I believe Thomas Merton was quite a difficult character with regard to community life.

I'm not comparing myself to these people of course. I think I have all the defects with none of the compensatory gifts! But it is comforting to know that I am not alone in my social gracelessness.

Ember said...

:o) I know the feeling well!