Thursday, February 18, 2010

Day 135: Civil Society

Being civilized has taken on a whole new meaning for me since moving to this country last June. In daily life, it means many subtle things that I'm beginning to appreciate. I mentioned last blog that it results in a better standard of living for those with demanding jobs. It means more standard vacation (four weeks rather than two), and taking time for things. Like tea, long meals, and walks. It doesn't mean people are any less busy here. They just take the time. It might actually make them more busy inbetween times they are not taking time. For instance, I was planning to read scriptures the other morning with a friend, and was surprised and pleased when she said that she didn't want to rush our reading, and therefore wanted to reschedule.

I've also noticed that when academics or lecturers are presenting, people pay attention. They are not on their blackberries or computers doing other things as is so often the case in the U.S. Perhaps this is more an attribute of academia than England, but I find it enjoyable and tedious at the same time.

Other implications of this high sense of politeness or civility I think is found in meetings, such as seminars, etc., starting just a few minutes late, so as not to embarrass anyone for coming in late.

And then there is the case of "let me know if this is too personal, but..." The English are ever curious about religion, but don't want to pry beyond the comfort level of the person being questioned. When directed at me, these questions are invariably about my faith. I spent perhaps the better part of an hour and half last night answering such questions from two Oxford co-eds. Of course, I love talking about my faith--even the controversial bits--so these questions never bother me. Neither had any faith at all, or even a belief. But there may have been desire, and that is always a starting basis. Because of this, as we delved into doctrine, I wished for an opportunity to really testify to them so they could feel the Spirit. Given the noisy environment and the way in which we were seated, it wasn't possible, but I do hope what I shared is something they remember. I certainly will.

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