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The Truth of Humility

It has invariably been the case, since its genesis, that the idea of humility is reduced to a mere equation to modesty. To be unassuming, perhaps even oblivious and unconscious to one's own merits isn't in the slightest, contrary to popular belief, what true humility is capable of encapsulating. It may even be the case that the philosophical tendrils that underlie most modern institutions, religious doctrines and behavioral ethics, are a consequence of bringing humility into cognizance. And yet so, overlying this subconscious incarnation of the idea, is very little conscious effort expended into either discerning or acting on it.

In order to begin even, to understand humility, one must first necessarily understand mortality. This needn't be strictly a biological or physiological interpretation of life, nor strictly a metaphysical one. It may well be a confluence of both. In order to conceive of mortality, one may either adopt an approach of causal or existential influence. In the former, it is the transiency of the human lifetime that acts as a guiding lantern. Man's inability to exert any meaningful causal influence on the incomprehensibly large universe he resides in, may thus be interpreted as proof of his inconsequent nature. Of course, thinking, acting beings very rarely contemplate this truth in their daily lives persistently; hedonistic and materialistic impulses are much prominent in our minds. And even when it is acknowledged, it is done so to either falsify an argument or impress upon a grandiloquence of pseudo-philosophy. If anything, it detracts from the seriousness of the idea when further discussion is not elicited.

When this notion is adopted in more profound ways, however, such as the imposition of a Messiah (in monotheistic religions), it brings about acts of humility in leaps and bounds. To offer supplication, or any other prayer, is fundamentally symbolic of humility - acting in acknowledgement of your insignificance and dependence, perhaps, on a perceived higher being. Those who renounce the freedom of one's will, and truly live out a deterministic life are subject to that very same acknowledgement - not having one's fate attached to one's volition. The only difference therein, lies in what they attribute their fate to - an atheistic universe instead of one of design. Subsequently, a causal approach to humility is subject to two thresholds that must be bypassed - first an acausal relationship with all physical existence, and then a concession of one's fate to either an outsider or abstract mechanism.

The second approach, with regards to existential influence, appears to run contrary to the argument of unimportance, but runs asunder in its own ways. Existentialism, in some respects, liberates its subject to decipher the world as they please - unshackled from the worries and angsts of both the past and the future. To live on account of one's consciousness, as opposed to one's constitution, is what most existentialists endeavor to rationalize. Along those same lines, the existential idea claims that the mere 'existence' of man is never at fault - and that the optimality of human experience can only result when man's existence is oriented correctly with the world around him (thus prefacing Jean-Paul Sartre's 'Existentialism is a Humanism' ). If, one were to adopt the acausal belief previously described however, their orientation with the world may become severely malignant - causing them to suffer from and/or succumb to nihilistic proclivities. They find themselves enslaved by an inescapable confrontation of meaninglessness.

Traditional Existentialism attempts to provide a cure for this. As Sartre claims, it is in one's past (the philosophical result of memory) that a significant number of one's self-conceptions lie. One may elect to disregard these self-conceptions, and live out one's life in a manner neglectful of them - but that would result in a circle of guilt and inauthenticity. Who one is and what they can be, to a certain degree, are both predicated on one's past. Man's memory consists of acts and beliefs that have defined him thus far, and precedents that demonstrate what he is capable of - both of which are entirely necessary for a meaningful life. They do, however, act as constraints to what one is meant to be, and therefore disorient the waking state. The highest ideal you strive towards can never be found by looking into your past - it is an elusive truth that you continually approximate over the course of your life. It is herein in fact, that a freedom from the past and the future becomes necessary.

In attaining this freedom, humility is invaluable. The compromise then becomes clear - to live as though one were responsible for the banal exercises of daily life, and the outcomes that facilitated one's livelihood, and yet fundamentally conceding to the indeterminacy of one's fate while doing so.

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