There is a common proverb in my mother tongue “the more the rice bear grains, the lower it bends.” It refers to rice stalks looking like it is bowing deeper as it becomes more yielding. And because in our culture the act of bowing is an expression of humility, the proverb teaches us to be more humble as we grow richer in knowledge and experience.
The depth of a bow is also a measurement of sincerity. The deeper the bow, the more heartfelt the feeling, be it of gratitude, apology, or greeting. So, although the proverb implies nothing about sincerity, I personally took it to also mean that if the feelings are full of genuineness we would naturally want to bow.
Hence, I have been very choosy about my bows, in two ways. One, obviously, is that I want to make sure I am truly humble and sincere when I bow. The other, and more thought-consuming, is that I want to make sure I do not put myself in situations to bow when I am not truly humble and sincere.
Sadly, this had made my life much more difficult.
Maybe I am less humble and sincere because I bow less frequently than others?
Maybe I am being indecisive and slow to act because I contemplate over the consequences of my conduct more than others who bow more easily?
Maybe I am disobedient and non-conforming because I will not bow against my will like others?
Seeing my state of being, my parents even told me their understanding of the act of bowing – by lowering your head, there is so much you can hide and dodge. No one can see your face so no one will know how you truly feel, and all conflicts and harsh words will fly over your head without hitting you in the face. Well, I suppose this will allow me to get around better.
But does it not undermine the whole concept of bowing? If I start bowing to hide and dodge, I would have to doubt others’ humility and sincerity in their bows. And that would take a much heavier toll on my mind than just doubting myself.
Maybe it is best I choose to stay choosy about my bows, to keep my hopes that others are too.