Haltung bewahren … Worte mit Hut (englische Essenz)

velvet suited boy & felt hat

Commitment to Composure

(A non-native Approach)

The more uneasy inklings of systematic economic decline and mounting social discomfort take over globally,
the more violent acts of self-justice inspire more violence in more diffused shape, from terrorist acts to riots flaring up and displaying frustration and anger festered into something uncontrolled and uncontrollable,
all the more we feel overwhelmed by our own discomposure, displacement and possible helplessness on one hand – and by mounting levels of empathy, indignation and an urge to engage on the other hand.

Adrenalin rushes call us to action, impulses between alarm and thrill – fight or flight. One of these evolutionary key triggers. Only, evolution could not prepare us for our self-induced overloads, informational tsunamis rushing at us signalling urgency, the need of relief action now – even while we recline in our chairs far away from the scenes of human tragedies, massacres, terrorist acts, warfare and oppression – likewise natural catastrophes, quakes, volcanic eruptions, floods and resulting suffering, predictable or unpredictable famines – they all escape our sphere of direct influence, our personal reach.

Whenever we take in all the dramatic live scenes in the media from virtually every corner of the globe, we know we are feeding our sensationalist selves at the same time that we try to share grief or hope with fellow humans… Giving us the benefit of the doubt – yes, some of us do give money to relieve the suffering. Whatever we can spare – or maybe also, whatever we feel might suffice to relieve our uneasy conscience. Generally, emotional involvement seems to surpass our intellectual capacities to think constructively about conflict solutions or envision boldly, but also responsibly, how concerted action for a change toward a livable world might look like.

So now what – now I admit I know no better.

But I do admire it in people when they display a composure that speaks of thoroughly self-educated balance, foundations for controlled action, eventually even for effective indignation and engagement (indeed – in the sense that Stéphane Hessel has coined in his recent writings). Genuine self-knowledge, authenticity are essential qualities in cultivating this composure, a result of self-critical practice, not innate qualities. Which means – no one is born with it. But also – everyone can learn…

It’s not as easily done as self-proclaimed gurus would lead us to believe, so let’s not follow anyone promising effortlessness… It is not as hard as some politicians would lead us to believe, so let’s not believe that some people are beyond hope… It is not hopeless. Never. As long as there is life there is learning. That is the developmental truth in all principles of evolution.

Composure and commitment: Re-setting oneself and re-committing oneself over and again to life – hope – the search for the next word, the next step, for a hat that fits us… so that we may face each other and face ourselves in the mirror and recognize and live up to our responsibility as well as our capacity to make all those choices that change the world, the big ones as well as the tiniest.

Sources:

  • The Gallery of English Costume – Picture Book No. Seven – Children’s Costumes, Plate 16
    (published for the Art Galleries Committe of the Corporation of Manchester, 1959), description p. 30:
    „Suit of jacket and knickers, 1885-95, brown cotton velvet with white woolen vest; length (jacket) 22 incs.
    Velvet was often used for boys‘ suits throughout the second half of the century. The large square collar shows the influence of the sailor suit…“
  • The historic booklet of Costume Photographs in which I found the picture used for the above display of „Composure with Hat“ is long out of print, but I found – upon looking up the City of Manchester Art Galleries – the announcement that „the Gallery of Costume is open again to the public“ after major renovations lasting until 2010. Even more tantalizing for the future, the Getty Foundation has awarded the Gallery of Costume a generous grant toward a future accessibility online of the Gallery’s vast photographic portrait archive to support research and scholarship through web access“. There are glimpses even now. Looking forward to partaking in the (re-)discovering of such gems of historical photography and social (self-)definitions via portraiture.
  • Private photograph of a graphite-coloured Stetson fur felt hat – with friendly license & cooperation by the hat’s owner, to whom this display of composure is dedicated with all due respect.
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