It is possible that some readers of the Inner Call ‘swiped left,’ as the saying is, when they saw the recently posted lecture from Hazrat Inayat Khan on conventionality. Many regard conventions as meaningless and outdated bits of behaviour that do nothing more than put us under tedious, irritating obligations. Furthermore, one might ask, what could conventionality have to do with spirituality? If one reads the lecture thoughtfully, though, one might discover a ray of wisdom.
‘Convention’ in this context means some socially accepted, at times expected, behaviour, but a specific convention is seldom universal. The South American manner of greeting, for example, which often involves kissing total strangers not once but two or three times, horrifies some socially reserved Norwegians. And while in some parts of the world the date of one’s birth is simply not known, in the Netherlands birthdays are taken quite seriously, and to fail to congratulate someone on their special day (and before noon, if possible) can cast a long shadow.
As we grope our way towards global awareness, this variability can make us doubt that conventions have any real meaning. What is more, there is now a tendency to value whatever seems new and different, so it is assumed that old customs must be thrown away just to show we are up to date. But that dismissal of convention is itself a convention; like it or not, we will always find ourselves embedded in ‘that which is acceptable.’ The real question is, what is the purpose of our convention? For the convention is not the goal; it is a bridge to something, and when we recognise that, it becomes possible to observe a form or custom with real sincerity. Then, as Hazrat Inayat Khan says, it has a virtue, and serves as a bridge to refinement.
The wise person can see that a convention is a way to find harmony with others, to share beauty with them and make them feel at ease, and in that consideration for others we discover the spiritual relevance of this topic. As it says in Gayan Suras, Verily the man who considers human feelings is spiritual.