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Humble Aspiration

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There is certainly an endless variety of choices when a person decides what his or her most heartfelt aspirations will be or at least what they feel they should be. When referring to aspirations, I think I’m talking more about long term as opposed to short term mostly because I’m referring to something that might have an almost legacy feel to it. It is something that is attached to some deep part of ourselves that we associate as a very real component of our identification. How would I be remembered should an unforeseen tragedy take me sooner than expected? I’ve thought about this question in recent years. And I mean to say that I really thought about it and eventually asked myself - who do I truly admire? What truly makes me say “wow” when my admiration for someone is sparked and what are the character traits that seem inherent in that person? And after much thought, I think I nailed something down. I would like to learn true humility. We’ve all heard the adage “don’t throw stones in glass houses” and the basic significance of this very old maxim is well known though may have various personal meanings. For me, it essentially speaks to ones vulnerability. The proverb dates back to the fourteenth century and attributed to Geoffrey Chaucer, the English author, poet and philosopher who is probably best know for authoring “The Canterbury Tales”.

With regards to my quest for aspiration, who first wrote this saying is unimportant in comparison with its content. To me this is a reminder that few of us (if any) are completely innocent of any wrong-doing, crime, misdeed or otherwise un-saintly type deed.  Free of guilt, if you will.  And so we should be mindful not blame, judge, ridicule, humiliate or otherwise debase another.  I do believe that each and every one of us is tainted with guilt in some way.  Most of us have experienced regret at some point in our lives.  God knows I have and for good measure I should add shame, lust, resentment, greed, rage and probably a few others for which words have not yet been invented.  

In my looking at those whom I admire the one human attribute that I marvel at above all others is humility. I want to be very precise when I describe what I see as humility. I’ll first tell you what I believe it is not and that is this - false modesty. Authentic humility seems to go against much of what the world values. It is influential and irrefutable because of the strength of truth that seems intrinsic to it and at the same time it has an amazing gentleness or softness to it. This to me is a paradoxical characteristic of humility in the worlds view. It is powerful but completely unoffensive and unintrusive. It is as soft and innocent as a child’s whisper but can seemingly elude the often harsh consequences of any attack. And most of all, I always sense deep love within and around active humility. I had a chat with a few other Quakers during coffee hour at the rise of meeting one Sunday. As we talked, one person came to mind that I believe is one of the worlds best living examples of active humility, the Dalai Lama. I’m not sure that I would say he personifies humility because I don’t personally know the Dalai Lama but I would venture to guess that he is certainly one of the world’s best exemplars. What sticks with me about the Dalai Lama and his presence is a few things. First, he seems absolute in his message(s) and tirelessly promotes peace, love, simplicity, tolerance, forgiveness and non-judgment to anyone and everyone that will listen. Second, he is considerably influential to the world at large and this I think all would agree equates to true power. His presence and his words seem to evoke a sense of deep respect and reverence with people. Third, his message is always simple and usually deficient of any complexity. Everyone understands him. What’s more is that people feel this on a very personal level. Words like “ambition”, “greed”, “attack” are used by him only in the context of describing world events. They are never part of his message or his ideas or that which he attempts to instill in people. He may not be as influential within the political landscape of the world but to the masses he is genuinely cherished, respected and revered regardless of political affiliation, religion, race or nationality.


Only kidding… Seriously though, there is another aspect about the Dalai Lama that is pervasive and very convincing. It is the one element that I believe gives someone the permission to lecture people and moralize a system of beliefs; he lives his life as an example. His life is a testament to his words that reflect his beliefs of Love, peace and tolerance. Now please understand that I am not by any stretch a scholar of Buddhism, the Dalai Lama or his life. I had no part in “Kundun” the movie but I did enjoy it and I have read some of his writings and heard some of his speeches and listened to others speak of their experiences of his teachings. My humble opinion is the result of my exposure to only some of his works. If you have never familiarized yourself with his message(s), I encourage you to at least read a little about him. Very inspirational and mightily pragmatic!

I use the Dalai Lama as my example because most people generally know who he is and can identify my point. When the Dalai Lama speaks or teaches, people truly listen and his intent is to sincerely be of assistance to people on some level. I believe listeners think of their own lives and they go through a kind of inner “grading system” and genuinely feel the significance of his words and how it applies to their own lives. The Dalai Lama will never demean you, humiliate you or insult you. Usually we do this to ourselves without any assistance. God knows, we’ve had enough practice!  A realistic intent of a teacher, I believe could be to encourage you to see the truth of who you are and what’s inside and what possibilities reside there.  Have you ever asked yourself "if God actually created me, what does that say about me?"  I believe that Love is our natural inheritance and our intimate connection to it is unconditional. It is our truth. It is our secret aching to feel it embracing us and truly infiltrating all the aspects of our lives. With that said I can say that to help another person to see this inner truth within themselves and to show them that Love is waiting for them is a bona fide ambition of mine. This realization even if only remotely felt will bring about the experience of true joy to at least some degree to both people. There have been a few people in my life that have done that for me and helped me along life’s road. Their mark is indelible and etched into my very soul. This gift was always given freely and gently and the results were transformative. Through mere words, they encouraged me to look at my life and gently nudged me in a new direction. Often life changed, sometimes in small ways, sometimes in big ways. And, it was usually not obvious to the outside world but change I did. As I mentioned these experiences have left their mark on me and they have stirred me to know more and experience more and to live and love more completely.  My gratitude is very real. 

The need to connect with others is natural. To be able to communicate with another with humility and Love and without my ego getting in the way is an honorable aspiration I think. You could say that I aspire to throw nerf balls in glass houses. To give what I’ve been given. Yes, to open yourself up, revealing your human-ness and make yourself vulnerable can be a treasured gift in this life. Being an example, using life’s many experiences through your words as lessons for another and gently urging them in the direction of Love, intimacy, life purpose, wholeness, sobriety, safety, joy, maturity, growth or health is a good thing. So, if I can say to someone “I see the direction you’re headed. I’ve been down that road and the destination did not serve me well. Why not try this? It’s an alternative that has brought me some joy.” and affect them in a positive way then learning to throw nerf balls in glass houses and what it means to live with authentic humility just may be a worthy and rewarding aspiration after all.

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Quaker - everyday guy - has everyday challenges - believer in truth and fairness - loves family and friends - armchair photographer - flawed in many ways, gifted in many ways - lover of the outdoors - devoted family man
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