Everybody wants to feel special. A lot of the time though we don’t feel very special. Things happen and we get disappointed. We may try, in response, to attach our specialness project to our pain. I might, for example, compare my frustrations with those of historical leaders. A painful and uncertain choice made in reaction to anguish becomes ‘crossing the Rubicon’ like Julius Caesar did.
My suffering is ennobled, it has meaning and I am a man of destiny.This, however, immediately encounters difficulties. The allegories are absurd. The disproportion between the metaphor and the experience serving only to underscore the banality of my own experience. Even were this not the case the metaphors themselves always seem to smuggle in nasty reversals. In the case of ‘crossing the Rubicon’ it is the ‘Ides of March’ when Julius Caesar is betrayed and horribly stabbed to death.
The absurdity of these metaphors was clear even when they were first conceived. So why use them at all? Well sublimating experience through humour and hyperbole is as good a defence as any. Isn’t it? Well maybe not. Jokingly inventing my own boring score for Les Miserables with my central problem of not getting shifts in the call centre is funny for about one minute.
I looked at the concept of humility after being told that that was what I needed. I started to read a book about humility but the book was boring and I was advised that these were the sorts of things you had to feel and could not be intellectualized. Through my personal associations humility had a bad rap. It was a sort of version of learned helplessness or at best an ability to tolerate suffering. Not in a good way. For me it was,(and still is?), difficult to experience humility.
There are two other experiences that I can approach with much more ease. The first is secret grandiose notions of the self. This is the part where narcissism, resentment and projection reside. The other experience is at the other end of the continuum. This second experience is the home of surrender and self-annihilating discourse. Now I know that humility is neither of these and that there are people who reside somewhere on the middle of this continuum. But what does the middle feel like? How does one get ‘real’ modesty without self-abnegation. The modesty that I read about is the kind of closely studied and affected behaviour of the politician. The modesty in those cases is a false modesty. (Like old modest Abe or should I say burning ambition Abe – http://www.nhinet.org/beran.htm)
Talking about the concept though I got some satisfaction. I was told that humility involved a reassessment of priorities. Now this discourse was something that I could relate to. It reminded me of reading the consolations of philosophy by Alain de Botton and watching his TV series Status Anxiety. It reminded me of the idea that nobody ever wishes on their deathbed that they spent more hours in the office.
So what then? What’s the answer? The best I have come up with is something like this reprioritization I mentioned above. This leads to a focus on the little things. Things like trying to find out something interesting each day. Maybe something like why is the bumblebee interesting symbolically or what Picasso and Braque took from artistically from the beginning of cinema.