Good manners

A home is where people who can't stop loving you live, where you always feel welcome; a place to share without expecting anything in exchange. It is not a college dorm, a camp or a shared apartment. It finds the deepest sense of the expression 'to go back home'. It is the English home or the French chez soi, even if is independent since years ago.
The home, with the Latin equivalents foyer, focolare, lar, lareira, has to do with fire, with heat and with light. It is the place where nobody will ask us, "What did you do?", but "What is happening to me?" instead (in your pain) when you come back home battered.
When Aeneas leaves, his friend wishes him that the winds blow in his favor "for you to take care of the half of my soul", for you to take care.
It is the sense of the Spanish expression "¡Vale!" (from the word valor, which means worthiness) that Spaniards wrongly use to express "I agree". A bad translation of the American OK that doesn't mean anything other than "Zero Killed" (O Killed) that the company's captain announced when he went back to his headquarters. From there to explain that things went well there was just one step.
But the "Vale" that Cicero wrote at the bottom of his letters was the expression of his firm wish that the addressee of the missive was fine. It is the imperative of the verb valeo, to be fine. He sometimes wrote: si vales, valeo, "if you are well, I am well." 
I remember that if my mother wanted to add a post data PD (after the date, which could be included at the end in the past) or a PS (post scriptum, after what has been written) she would not sign again and, instead, she would gracefully write Vale. Not in the sense of ratifying what had been written like it's done when one wants to save a correction in an act, but rather to express the wish that the addressee was fine. 'I need you to be well for me to feel well.'
Courtesy rules that showed good manners were not something contrived, but rather a code that people shared to set the rules of the game and to help other feel comfortable. It was a common expression to tell the recently arrived, "Make yourself comfortable." When my father was convinced of something and he perceived someone's uneasiness or discomfort, he would say, lowering his voice, "If someone is not comfortable, he should make himself comfortable." 
Good manners, courtesy (the used of the Court), education, respect, to place oneself in the position that belongs to oneself were forms of social justice, not absurd or arrogant impositions. There was a way to suggest, to indicate, to insinuate with a look, with a silence or with a gesture full of convincement that did not allow for controversy. We do not refer to abuses and extravagance that indicated decadence and insecurity announcing change.
Each period of time has had its customs, its uses and ways of behaving, but everyone knew what to expect without having to reach the apparently rude manners before morals of the Englishmen. It did not look for postponing the rules of universal ethics to some established manners, but to create a space of encounter in which respect to the other person, acceptance and a good atmosphere would guarantee concord, which was the highest expression of justice for the Greeks and even for the Romans given that it was an expression of universal harmony that has so-much fascinated and dominated the thinking of the Chinese, Hindis, Zen Buddhists and Greeks.
The desired 'morals', propped up in uneven ideologies could not be imposed in a way that they would alter the due respect to everyone and each one. Thus, the lived education was demonstrated at the table and in the game. That's why people did not talk about religion, politics or sex, issues that were left to share with the people with one's own political beliefs, with the comrades or with friends. The idea that we are all equal soon found the precision that some people are more equal than others. That is, amongst themselves. 
Education does not consist only of transferring knowledge. It comes from educare, educere, duco, to conduct, which leads us to let out the best of each person, to light, to flower until plenitude is reached, the teleios identified with the joy of being oneself. Even if life didn't make sense, it must make sense to live, which cannot consist in anything other tan to be happy, in being ourselves in order to do what we want. That is, to want and to love what we do.

José Carlos Gª Fajardo

Este artículo fue publicado en el Centro de Colaboraciones Solidarias (CCS) en 2006