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Ethics chapter 5
Introduction

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

 

 

The degradation of love and the fallacy of reason.

Chapter 5

It seems appropriate, from the preceding chapter, to now discuss humility. 

I was in a church group meeting some years ago and I made the statement, ‘When I get to heaven…’ to which someone responded, ‘that’s a very arrogant assumption’. Let me just clarify my statement in the light of that response, I was not making an assumption. From my perspective, and faith, I was making a statement of fact. 

There are some social conventions around self-opinion and self worth that are invidious and disempowering. Humility falls under this yoke. There is a tendency to view humility as something that can be ascribed to an individual by others but it is not considered acceptable to call oneself humble. 

In addressing our essential humanity and in saying we are not defined by what we do, but who we are, then it needs to be possible to know ones self. In order to function as a person in life, I need to be able to maintain a reasonable and rational internal assessment of who I am. That assessment of myself will inform my actions and how I express myself to others. Without such an essential knowledge of who I am, everything I do will be suspect and subject to the assessment of others as to my worth and intention. Much distress in society today is experienced precisely for that reason. Clearly, opinions will differ amongst others regarding my motives and intentions and indeed my value as a human being. 

In learning to know myself I must consider all of myself, my strengths and weaknesses, my skills and failings, my morality and immorality, and so on. In so doing I find that I am, in fact, a mish-mash of all that is noble and ignoble in varying degrees. I am selfish, self centred, sensitive and aware, I lie at times to save myself embarrassment, I am passionate and caring, I have my bitterness’s and jealousies and petty rages. In fact I have some measure of all that is good and all that is bad in human kind. I have done things in life that I am proud of and other things that I am deeply ashamed of. 

To come to an understanding of myself, to acknowledge all that goes to make up the person I am, requires a large helping of humility. It is much easier to blow my own trumpet about what a fine human being I am, than to hold my hands up to my weaknesses, but until I am able to acknowledge and accept my weaknesses in humility, without self-castigation or swingeing judgement and shame, I am a very incomplete human being. 

We are wholesome and healthy human beings only in so much as we know ourselves. The monk who carried the woman across the puddle could only have found liberation from his sexuality by acknowledging it, not by denying it. Had he merely observed the vow of celibacy as a rule and not embraced wholesomely both his desire to be a monk and his own sexual needs, then he too would have found himself still carrying the woman many long and burdensome miles down the road. He overcame his sexuality by a humble acknowledgement of it. Denying his sexuality would have merely meant he was obeying the form, but never being, a monk. 

If I embrace the fundamental tenets of Christianity, to the fullest extent of my understanding and faith, then it is entirely reasonable to state that I am indeed going to heaven. Whether the person next to me believes that, for them or for me, is entirely irrelevant. 

Humility is not about being self effacing or considerate or the servant or slave of all; it is in fact a powerful, indeed ferocious, and often painful life skill towards understanding and knowledge, ethics and morality.

© 2000 Keith Lindsay-Cameron. All rights reserved.