On Humility

A short essay by Tao Gaede

In our time, we have much anxiety tied to the notion of humility, and this anxiety clouds our outlook and insight into it. I believe many of us base our daily conduct partially on an implicit value of humility that overly dampens our individual reflective functions. We all have eyes (senses) on the scene, yet we set aside much of what they see because we automatically, out of “humility,” assume that what we could interpret and say about the sense information is not important. The tragedy of this excessive humility is that it is precisely through such seemingly unimportant interpretation and speaking that we train ourselves to become competent observers, interpreters, and expansive individuals for the human project.

Humility today is therefore rather tragic, however it is also potentially a good thing because it is not false. Learning is only possible by the competing counterbalancing of truth and falseness accompanied with a good enough means of discerning truth from false. A tragic humility can be accompanied by such a discerning means, but it vastly undervalues truths from itself and overvalues truths from others. That is, oneself is thought to be excessively false while others are thought to be excessively true.

The error in tragic humility begins from the excessive trust in other’s discernment of truth, and from this, the undervaluing of one’s own discernment follows. False humility lacks discernment altogether, and only pretends to be tragic; but then false humility exploits the trust of those who actually hold tragic humility. The false humility only arrives at truth blindly, because false humility is without awareness. It is therefore impossible for false humility to become competent at reflective observation, interpretation, and facilitate one to become an expansive individual for the human project. The tragic humility is not entirely lost on this point however.

Tragic humility can become heroic when it discovers that being an individual with worthwhile interpretations is a trainable skill. Through this discovery, the estimation of truth of oneself and others becomes proportional to the assessed skill for individuality. I believe this skill should be valued to the utmost in our society, so we can realign humility correctly away from anxiety and self-doubt, and towards a skill within everyone’s grasp connected to awareness. Humility is regained through this dissolution of tragedy and rejection of falseness.