Monday, January 7, 2008

How to Be Humble (And Why That Matters)

Admit you don't know everything. Hell, admit you don't know most things. Admit that you have a lot to learn. Admit that you can learn a lot from listening (really, truly listening) to what others (and others who may be very unlike you) are saying.

Say it again: You don't know everything. You couldn't possibly. The whole of the world and the universe is too large for you to know it. Admit that you need other people. Admit that you need their help.

It's fine to have confidence. It's fine to believe in things, and firmly. It's fine to argue for your beliefs or opinions or for your way of life.

But just when you think you've got everything figured out, realize that you're probably missing something, and it's OK to keep learning.

What does this matter as you try to find your bliss? Well, have you ever met the person who never, ever changes his mind? Or the person who won't listen to what you have to say? Or the person who believes that she knows better than everyone else?

I once had a friend of mine say this: "If I ran the world, everything would be better." To which I replied: "Absolute power corrupts, absolutely, you know." To which she said, "Yes, but I would use my power for good, obviously."

As they say, the road to hell... (is paved with good intentions, in case you don't know what "they" have to say about it.)

Anyway, my point is this: Along your journey, you will find yourself facing great unknowns. In fact, if you don't, you are not going about it the right way. If you feel 100 percent confident that you know what to do, when to do it, and why you're doing it at all times, chances are pretty good that you are not on the path to experiencing bliss.

You must admit some humility into your life. And I use the word "admit" quite intentionally. Its root words had the meaning "allow to enter." Humility is not something unnatural; it is there, ready to enter your life. It is there, pre-existent, waiting for you to acknowledge it, because the very nature of the world we live in is one of great mystery and adventure.

It is ego that tells us we know enough to rule the world, that we know how everything will turn out. That we know all the rational reasons for our behaviors and choices. Ego is important and useful, but it is only healthy when it is checked, balanced with that sense of I-don't-know.

You can't rule the world alone, just as I can't. You can't survive alone, just as I can't. You don't have the entire knowledge of our world, just as I don't.

But think of what you might learn, what you might experience, what mystery can awe you, if only you admit it.


erzsebet said...

I'm in complete agreement: creativity cannot exist in a vacuum indefinitely. There must be an interplay of ideas, both via the 'great conversation' of history and through interaction with contemporaries embarking on their own creative adventures. None of us knows everything and, quite often, it's exposure to different viewpoints that catalyzes unique thought and creativity.

However, one should always be careful to not confuse humble humility with self-doubt. Both start with, "I can't do this...". In the case of a positive, humble attitude, the formulation completes with, "I can't do this alone." Self-doubt begins and ends with "I can't do this." Pernicious little fabricator that self-doubt is, it will try and gussy itself up with, "I can't do this until ..." or "I can't do this without {some set of things far outside of my control}." It looks rather obvious to spot, but I've found it's not always the obvious trap one might expect.

You've told us what "they" say about the road to hell. I believe it's in The Sun Also Rises a character says, "The road to hell is paved with unbought stuffed dogs." I can never recall inspirational, beautiful quotes... just odd ramblings of drunken Hemingway men!

- erzsebet

Anonymous said...

Great Article. It again Remembers me What I lack,Humility. It has the power to open our mind. Above all it has the power to kill, EGO.
If there is no humility, our mind will be closed and there ll be no more learning. THanks for sharing your ideas.