I had a short peculiar dream just before waking up this morning. The setting was the shower room at the YMCA. Two former coworkers and I were the actors in a video-taped commercial for a local bank. During the first two takes, all three of us flubbed our lines and felt goofy afterwards. Then the other two actors spoke their lines perfectly.
The video camera zoomed in for a head-shot. (In the dream I could see both perspectives simultaneously.) I delivered a perfect reading of the script with the bass voice of actor, Morgan Freeman. There were high-fives all around from the production crew and all three of the commercial’s players. I told everyone that it’s important to screw up and act stupid first, but then act dignified on the final take.
After awakening this morning, I chuckled about the dream, then decided to use the content as a prompt for today’s blog post.
“Lurch’s quietness is a result of personal dignity. He appreciates things of quality. His greatest joy is playing Bach on the harpsichord, and he recognizes the music as the result of ‘a great human effort to express’.”–Ted Cassidy (Lurch the butler on the TV sitcom “The Addams Family”)
Dignity is a quality we often discover in unexpected or awkward scenarios. This might entail being unflappable in an embarrassing situation like being filmed taking a shower, someone trying to humiliate you, or while engaged in introspection about one’s life. We think of dignified people as possessing the qualities of calm strength, a serious peaceful nature, someone who is positively proud of her/his station in life, innately respectable, along with possessing poise and self-respect.
Dignity is a quality we learn when we develop self-confidence and self-respect. There is the matter of discipline that enables us to adopt the skills and knowledge about when to say “no” and when to say “yes”, to others and ourselves.
Shortly after moving to Norfolk, Nebraska, many years ago, a new friend invited me to attend a meeting of “DignityUSA”, an advocacy and support organization of LGBTQ Roman Catholics. I told the friend that I appreciated the invitation but I have never been a member of the Catholic Church. He said my spiritual affiliation didn’t matter for the particular meeting I was invited to. The gathering was an outreach celebration for all gay men in the city regardless of religion.
I accepted the invitation while also being wary of the possibility of proselytizing to join the church. The meeting took place in a double-wide mobile home at a trailer park in Norfolk. I was greeted by perhaps two-dozen men. I was offered a soft drink and canapes. There was plenty of small-talk and friendly banter.
Eventually, the formal meeting came to order with guests and new members being asked to introduce and say something short about themselves. During my turn, I asked why the group was named “Dignity”. One of the members stated that the group was one chapter of a nationwide organization of gay Roman Catholics whose viewpoints differed from the Vatican’s stance about LGBT people. Dignity had been formed to counter the shaming and scapegoating that the Church had been instigating at the time. The name “DignityUSA” was chosen because it represented the dignity of all human beings and that everyone deserved it. The organization believed that all people, regardless of orientation, are worthy of esteem and respect.
The members reminded me about the two types of pride. There is the usual religious definition of “bad pride”, which includes self-righteousness, the attitude of superiority, arrogance, and conceit. Then there is “good pride”, which consists of such values as self-respect and dignity. It is “good pride” that is the foundation of “gay pride”. This explanation was a moment of epiphany and revelation. The gathering provided a much needed boost of morale. I felt thankful about the entire meeting experience.
I don’t recall much else about the formal meeting. I do remember leaving with a new-found feeling of empowerment and connection to others. Although I did not join the organization, the local chapter of DignityUSA did form the basis of one of my friends networks. It was sort of a “Welcome Wagon” that introduced me to the wider community. I increasingly learned more about the concept of dignity through those new friends.
The quality of dignity is not restricted to any particular or special category of people. Promoting acceptance, tolerance, and human dignity are humankind’s ongoing, unfinished business.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes aphorist, essayist, mathematical statistician, option trader, and risk analysist, Nassim Nicholas Taleb. “If you take risks and face your fate with dignity, there is nothing you can do that makes you small; if you don’t take risks, there is nothing you can do that makes you grand, nothing.”
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Agree – there should be that dignity afforded to all of humanity. I’ve never heard of this organization, but it sounds fascinating.
Your dream was very amusing!
It was started in 1969, but I didn’t find out about DignityUSA until 1978.