Friday, 5 March 2010

Bowing and Respect

I was brought up from a very early age to believe that all people were equal and of value, and that therefore all people deserved respect. I learned this on my regular Sunday walks with my father, the highlight of my week. Being the kind of person I am, I took this to heart, and on more than one occasion it landed me in trouble. I remember my first day at school. The class were All told to stand to be introduced to our teacher, and we were told that when she entered the room first thing in the morning and afternoon we were to bow and say, “Good morning/afternoon Miss and then her name.” I had no objections at all to saying good morning but I had real problems with the bowing. If we were all equal why am I bowing to her I wondered? The teacher in her wisdom made no comment, but the head teacher on noticing my head upright took me aside and we had a “discussion.”

Later in life while taking part in the “crowning of the gala queen” event somebody noticed I did not bow to the gala queen and raised the issue in the local press. I have been introduced to real royalty on two occasions and on neither did I bow, but was aware that they did not take issue with its absence.

Age has made me do a rethink of many things and the more I see the diminution of respect the more  I now believe that the lesson of bowing, and what it signified is maybe a lesson we should not forget. Even if we set aside the physical action. It is said that respect has to be earned, that may be true. But if respect is offered then this could be the impetus to greater things from the one respect is shown to. At the end of all bouts in martial arts the combatants bow to one another as a mark of a shared respect. In Buddhist communities the master bows to his students to say to them, “I am merely the messenger of the teachings.” The students bow acknowledging his wisdom. From this shared respect grows even more worthy lessons.

I frequently take time out from the bustle of painting to pay my respect to the masters who have gone before. When visiting a gallery, if I come before a work that moves my inner being I stop, and though not physically, internally bow before the master. It says quietly and without fuss, “I respect you.”

No matter how great we may feel our art has become it is wise always to remember that there are those greater than ourselves. We are all equal and worthy of respect but there are those who have earned just that little bit more to which maybe a bow is appropriate. They have earned such respect.

I bow without show because this is the way of Tao.

1 comment:

  1. Well written, well read Ralph. The bowing bit is a little difficult for me to swallow. Respect of course is another issue and one I feel needs some revival but I won't discourse on these thoughts on your blog. Suffice to say, once again you have provided food for thought. Thanks Ralph