A great man is always willing to be little. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
A modest little person, with much to be modest about. – Winston Churchill
I want to stretch out my tentacles to tackle the idea of modesty. Sound the clarions, hoist the flags, this self-proclaimed writer marches in to lecture about a virtue that has been blemished by the stains of arrogance and self-righteousness from the beginning of text. That writer is anti-consumption, anti-capitalism, and if you don’t commit to end the destruction of the natural world, also anti-you, so he’ll probably offload his praise of Modesty as a vehicle to promote his vegan wonderland of post-consumerist nudist self-absorbed disciples of the Loving Unity and feel good about it. Before you know what has happened, he’d have moved on to his next sermon. His Vision is expanding circles or Truth, and Modesty if the Way to Salvation, to turn you into a blessed celestial elephantine Being of Grace and Glory.
But hold on for a second. Let’s strip off this layer of convenient anti-ideology, this dishonestly cynical modus essendi of lowest possible moral energy levels. It’s getting late, the serpent needs to get rid of his skin. You and I need to find a way again to write large virtues small.
Life is transient. We are guests on this prety blue planet. In fact, we consist of fickle molecules that will be recycled as part of our solar system, which is itself nothing but a speck of dust.
– O, please.
Modesty, being humble, is thinking of yourself – behind closed doors – as a triviality, as just not the thing the world is revolving around. But this is not possible unless we see ourselves as a functional part of something bigger, because as floating egos, cut off from the world around us, there is no way to escape the notion that we are in the center of everything.
The knowledge that we are part of something bigger inevitably makes us feel more important than we are. This feeling can be turned into boasting, a sense of entitlement, and generally the opposite of modesty. But it can also be “put in parentheses” through the application of living irony.
– O, please.
I feel that modesty is an impossible virtue if we follow this logic, a virtue that contradicts itself, a virtue that can not survive its own expression. This does not mean that the virtue is in itself a bad thing. The practice of approaching, circumventing, meandering around impossible virtues might be beneficial to the well-being of our species.
– O, please.
In the case of modesty, our mere intention to be modest can teach us about our innate immodesty, and lead us to live life lightly. Once we learn that we can sing in different registers than those ultra cynical ones that castrate our dear grammatically impossible virtues by portraying them as self-absorbing hypocricy, tainted with the same immoralities they claim to doubt the existence of, we might feel better.
– O, please;-
Drawing by ianbourgeot.com