The thing I find myself believing in most is that which seems to be fading from my East Coast, hustle-bustle-tussle environs the fastest. Like the panda my belief is loved-by-all, yet seemingly a breath away from extinction because it simply finds it too difficult in this world to reproduce. I’m speaking of class.
Not the kind of class that kept people locked in the lower decks of the Titanic, though it may drown in the briny waters of The Rush just the same. This is the kind of class my class-less digital dictionary describes as “elegance of style, taste, and manner” and my tragically classy Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate mentions only as “high quality.”
Yet class as a human trait is little more than high quality. But, sadly, the people where I live value quality in human behavior much the same as they do in their kitchen utensils. Translation: anything shaped like a spoon is good enough to be a spoon, and any behavior that gets you what you want is good enough as well.
Now, I don’t know exactly when the pursuit of class took hold in me, and I really have no idea how well I’m doing. Class, it seems, is one of those things that only congeals when others speak about you and, humorously, is usually only appreciated when you are long gone. Thus, there’s no immediate payback for being classy…another trait that is in friction with the world in which I live.
As I grew and began to make my own choices about how to behave, I realized that class is attainable for all, and generally for free. Role models, once I started looking for them, have come few and far between but, I have witnessed class in action and it is like grease on the wheels of civilization.
Looking back, it is what these role models have not had in common that is surprising. Not all of the people were wealthy, though some were. Not all of the people were conventionally beautiful, though ultimately I realized there is an inherent beauty in class not always evident to the eyes. And not all of them were outwardly talented; talented, that is, beyond the ability to make a man write essays about them some ten years past.
No, what they all had in common were modesties that spoke volumes: economy of words, the skill to listen, prescient advice, smiles, wit, hygiene, humility, confidence, courtesy, patience, and above all, an effortless ability to actually think about their actions before they take them. There’s no denying that each of these traits are immediately available and absolutely free to any and all. Yet, they are deemed to be of such little value to today’s existence.com, the vast majority finds them not worth picking up.
Ironically, though, it is precisely the value of these free traits, and the kind of person they fashion, that makes my belief in the idea of class so strong. Class is solving problems and defusing conflict. Class means not over-consuming or under-appreciating. Class is moving forward.
Simply put, class is reaching the social potential of the uniquely large brains inside our uniquely thick heads.
And the rub of all of this is that it is decidedly classless to complain about and draw attention to the behavior of others. So, it is clear that while I believe in class, wish more of it from others, and am disappointed that I find it in so few places, I have much learning in front of me as well.
Nevertheless, even though, like the panda, it is slipping through our fingers, I still believe with all my soul in class. Also, as with the panda, every attempt to save it makes us better people.
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