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Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Thus Quoteth the Humble Misanthrope

Reality - Dreams = Animal Being
Reality + Dreams = A Heart-Ache (usually called Idealism)
Reality + Humor = Realism (also called Conservatism)
Dreams - Humor = Fanaticism
Dreams + Humor = Fantasy
Reality + Dreams + Humor = Wisdom
-Lin Yutang

Heh, here I am trying to write a journal when I'm not feeling exceptionally melancholy, and nothing worth saying comes to mind. To whatever degree I have long-term mood swings, I wonder if I could plot them by the density of my journal postings? I am reminded of my aunt telling me she can't write good music the way she used to, because she's just not depressed enough any more. Also reminds me of Troy* noting that those melancholy songs can be really great if you just speed them up, perhaps better than anything you could write when you're in the mood to write an upbeat song. There's something magical about the broad searching and exploring that happens within the swirling mists of discontent.

How unhappy I would be to lose my discontent.

Isn't it interesting how carefully we all sculpt our own image, each of us with a different audience in mind. How much do we trust the world to understand us? We know what the world at large wants us to be, and we could so easily portray ourselves as such, but do we want a world that is so easily fooled, that is so superficial, that is so afraid of all the other corners of the human condition? Or do we wear our heart on our sleeves and hope that they see it looks more like their own hearts than perhaps they care to admit? I continue to be surprised and disappointed by the efficacy of many people's obvious facades.

Why is confidence so ubiquitously considered good? And humility? Such a funny, paradoxical dance those two make, and how differently that dance is perceived by each onlooker. Someone once introduced a "humble young researcher" to a renowned scientist and the scientist replied "he hasn't done anything great yet -- how can he be humble?" Is humility about not overstating one's importance? Or is it about understating it? Or is it about being unaware of it? Is humility context insensitive? Can one be humble before one audience and arrogant before another in the same way? Could someone emerge from the Infinite Perspective Vortex perfectly accepting of his own complete insignificance with respect to the universe at large, and yet still fail to be humble? Is humility about seeing the value in everything and everyone? Is it about being non-judgmental? Can a misanthrope be humble?

The only way to escape the corruption of praise is to go on working... -Albert Einstein

Is humility about never thinking to compare yourself to others? Even the most humble man must choose who he spends his time with, and in so choosing, he must think about what he values in others, and in what others might value in him. An in choosing amongst others, he is implicitly judgmental, no matter how deeply he buries that fact.

Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose the former and have seen no reason to change -Frank Lloyd Wright

The man of ultimate humility is interested in you, not in himself. He is unimportant, and yet ideally brings great insight to your cause. (When two humble men get together, do you suppose they talk about sports and the weather?)

[The non-humble man] asserts exactly the part he ought not to assert - himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt - the Divine Reason. (some religious site)

Most religious/spiritual teachings will tell you that humility lies in accepting that your virtues are gifts from god, or luck, and that anyone else given the same gifts would wear them just as well. And yet, the same philosophies would tell you to always work to better yourself, to be kinder, more honest, more ethical, more altruistic, more humble.

Humility is an open acknowledgement that we don't have it all figured out, that we're all doing the best we can, that none of us are better than the rest of us, and that ours is not a better way, ours is merely another way.

Humility is asking for help, and giving it when it is asked. Humility is sharing all that we have, knowing that it was not ours to begin with, but has merely been given to us to distribute to others. This goes for money, possessions, knowledge, and... love. (another religious site)

Yeah, whatever.

But the real paradox is in the dance with confidence, that the most truly self-assured appear to be the most humble.

Humble-mindedness is possible only for those who feel okay about themselves. Insecure people cannot be humble. Arrogance is the product of a low self-image, not a high one. People who don't have a good self-image put on airs. People who feel okay about themselves do not need to put on airs. -Glenn Hinson

Or are these pillars of apparent humility and confidence actually the most subtly but deeply arrogant of the lot? Is good self-image a definitively good thing, or is an accurate self-image better? And can one possibly have an accurate self-image without self-doubt, or without exploring one's vices and virtues? And can one do that openly while still appearing both confident and humble?

Speak less than thou knowest.-William Shakespeare

I offer a misanthrope's definition, Humility according to Simon's dictionary:

Humility is accepting that no matter how true something is, a "jury of your peers" probably believes something else entirely. Humility is accepting that most people are intimidated by success, not inspired by it, with the unfortunate exception of spectator sports. Humility is knowing that most people don't care about most of the things you do. Humility is knowing that nothing is worth more than you can get for it on the open market, including yourself. Humility is accepting that what people love or hate about you might well be something you find completely irrelevant. Humility is knowing that even if you conquer the world, you're still going to die. Humility is knowing that no matter who you are or what you do, somebody somewhere is going to hate you for it. Humility is accepting that even though all of the above are true, people will think you more humble if you speak none of it.

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Simon Funk / simonfunk@gmail.com