Lately, thanks to some new voices that have entered my life*, I have been spending inordinate amounts of time discerning my own emotions– at times they might constitute a thinly manufactured facade of self-absorbed ego stroking, and others a healthy, genuine pride in my own accomplishment. I am legitimately saddened by the largess of the former, as well as the abject shortage of the latter.
My default assumption is that I am the center of my own universe. That I am lord over this speck of a manor that my spirit inhabits. But, like all of my assumptions, this one is wrong too. Reality is, my rank doesn’t even crack the top three. A matter of fact, it turns out, is that the me of my world is the least significant of all. Especially considering how much of my own esteem is built up in the opinions that others have of this me. This is a bad.
But, here is a good: There’s an infinite possibility the moments of my life that I am most proud of, are those that you would never know about. I could tell you what they are, but a apprising you of their existence would cease to make them special.
You have moments like this too. So sweetly simple that they probably slipped past you the way a cloud’s shadow sprites virtually unnoticed over a meadow. And, if you’re like me, it didn’t even hit you, this subtle yet impactful act, until days later when you’re sitting in you car maybe thinking about such random events as the parcels mistakenly delivered to your house. And that once you discovered them you quickly hand delivered them down the street, to their intended recipient. And then, much later, maybe you thought that one of them might have contained check for badly needed food , a letter from a son or daughter serving in the military overseas or the final approval forms for an adoption a year in the making. Are these outcomes likely? No. But are they an impossibility? No again. Matters not, because these were alternatives never considered by you when you thoughtlessly did what it was you had done. You just delivered the mail because it was the right thing to do. Because this is the kind of world we live in. And because we, despite our own misgivings on the matter, are great people.
I am learning that this acknowledgement of good deeds done for the sake of simply doing them and not because others could ever know why or even if they were ever done is the essence of being humble. And that this solemn, unspoken regard for humility is of critical importance to our universal happiness. So much of our joy resides in our need to get these letters to strangers. Because we really do care. And, better still, we so often care without even thinking about it.
Humility, they say, is thing one you lose once you’ve claimed to have had it. But if you truly think need it, you probably don’t. I’m not sure where I stand, yet. But I know I admire with awe those who quietly possess it. And look forward to the day when I can claim it as my own default emotion.
*David Foster Wallace– brilliant man. Youtube his famous Kenyon commencement speech “This is Water.” It will change your life.