Posted by Frederic Brussat on December 23, 2014

This article on contains a survey of American airline passengers conducted by the travel engine Expedia. They asked 1,000 people to rank the most annoying on-board habits of fellow-flyers.

It is getting more and more difficult to be civil and courteous when the airlines are jamming us into smaller spaces and giving us fewer amenities. There are still occasional examples of selflessness and kindness as one person helps another hoist her bag into the overhead bin or someone volunteers to switch his seat so a middle-aged woman can sit next to her mother.

But generally you can feel . . .

Posted by Frederic Brussat on December 11, 2014

In an article for the, Dennis Merritt Jones (Your (Re)Defining Moments) uses this quotation from Rumi: "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there." The insightful Sufi poet has identified the source of so much pain, separation, and hatred in the world: the "us" versus "them" mentality that can lead to wars and skirmishes of all types.

Jones points out that this dualistic perspective lies behind the political deadlock in Washington, D.C., not just recently but for many years. He notes that our political leaders have fallen into the "I'm right, you're wrong" blame game which inhibits compromise and collaboration; the result is gridlock.

Jones does not eschew differences . . .

Posted by Frederic Brussat on November 26, 2014

We don't fly very often but when we do we are extremely aware of the many and varied chances to do spiritual practices before and during a flight. Here are a few of them, which we recommend to you for your holiday travels.

  • It seems that many passengers get impatient and even angry and aggressive when lining up to board the plane. We use this transition period to ask for God's blessing on all those who will be flying with us today. May they all know happiness and peace.
  • We try to think positive thoughts about our journey as we pass through the walkway to the airplane. This use of intention enables us to push away any anxiety that might crop up about the flight.

Expectations bring us trouble . . .

Posted by Frederic Brussat on October 15, 2014

In his blog on, Miles Kimball advocates that we take care of children other than our own. This, we think, is what civility is about. It is a natural impulse to do all we can for our own kids but to stop there is to steal the future from other vulnerable children all over the world.

Kimball describes what economists call "altruistic links," which happen when we help others. They result in people working to make the world a fairer and more benevolent place. He challenges us to find ways to get involved and suggests that one place is your favorite charity or non-profit.

Selfishness and me-first-itis permeates all aspects of our private and public culture. Finding ways to curb and tame the possessive ego – that prioritizes my child or a child you know over everyone else's child, is something we all need to work on regularly through the spiritual practices of love and kindness. We need to be making and holding sacred spaces to nurture and support this generation of children.

Posted by Frederic Brussat on August 25, 2014

More than half the people on Earth now live in cities and are becoming more tuned in with the need to share housing, transit, and knowledge. Creative urban leaders are calling for collaboration on some of the problems of our times. For example, there's Carl Luna, a professor of political science at San Diego Mesa College and director of the Institute for Civil Civic Engagement at the University of San Diego. In this speech reprinted at, he recalls that schools used to teach the skills that make for dramatic and fulfilling engagement with the community. But now, it is a different ballgame:

"Our students leave school able to digitally communicate with thumb and index finger on a phone or tablet but not in face-to-face dialogue with their follow corporeal citizens."

Luna laments the mass media's failure . . .

Posted by Frederic Brussat on June 9, 2014

Talk Radio (1988) is a firecracker of a film about the shock-jock star of a popular late-night call-in radio show in Dallas, Texas. He's a verbal spritzer in love with his ability to handle the loneliness, anger, and exhibitionism of those who talk to him over the airwaves. The callers are filled with rage about their pain, their powerlessness, and their disappointments in life.

Such shows are still on . . .

Posted by Frederic Brussat on March 13, 2014

I've already written in this blog about how two religious traditions can help us deal with the incivility of our times. The Sufi practice of adab is an antidote to the lack of courtesy in our society, and the Confucian virtue of Jen or human-heartedness is based on a respect for the dignity of human life which leads to social harmony.

Another civility resource . . .

Posted by Frederic Brussat on January 23, 2014

You have purposely gone out of your way to find a quiet spot in the airport where you can read your book. But before you can blink, a man strolls up talking very loudly on his cell phone. He talks on and on and you are unable to regain your concentration. The man is totally oblivious to your presence or your attempt to read. He is wrapped up in his own world.

This is a simple albeit frustrating example . . .

Posted by Frederic Brussat on January 22, 2014

You probably have a relative or friend who is chronically late. Some psychological studies claim that not being on time for a social engagement or business meeting is typical of a narcissistic person who thinks only of him- or herself and is indifferent to the effects of making others wait. In other words, this behavior reveals an inability to put oneself in another's shoes, i.e. a lack of empathy. You've probably also heard the excuses: they just had to answer that email, or take that call, or the traffic was bad.

Others have explained chronic lateness . . .

Posted by Frederic Brussat on January 16, 2014

There seems to be no end to the incivility of our times. Reality television continues to emphasize the humiliation of people, drivers on the freeway are still aggressive and bad tempered, politicians shout each other down, cell-phone users act in public as if the whole world revolves around them, and online bullying shows the nasty behavior of youth. A while back, we presented the Sufi spiritual practice of adab as an antidote to the lack of respect and courtesy in society.

Another spiritual path . . .


About This Blog

Relationships are the central web of our lives. The strands connect us to family, intimates, partners, friends, as well as communities, natural places, and the Divine. Strong relationships emerge from and support civility — respect, courtesy, consideration of others, politeness, good manners, basic kindness. More