Little Big Man: The Humble Aspiration to Greatness
I found his analysis here to be particularly fascinating, for at least a couple of reasons. First is the recovery of original, subtle word meanings that have become buried under centuries of use; and second is the way these words have a sort of geometrical relationship to one another, as I will proceed to explain.
I don't know about you, but in their contemporary usage, I wouldn't have seen any overt relationship between magnanimity and hope, or humility and magnanimity, but this is a fine example of how spiritual reality can become obscured when our words cease to effectively map it.
As mentioned in a recent post, magnanimity is "the aspiration of the spirit to great things." It is not only the "courage to seek what is great" -- and do remember the actual meaning of courage, as per our recent posts on that subject! -- but also to become worthy of the greatness one seeks.
In turn, this all speaks to the special nature of spiritual development, in which who one is is far, far more important than what one knows. Or, to put it another way, who one is places an upper limit on what one may know; in short, know-how is posterior to be-who.
I might add that this adage doesn't just apply to the spiritual dimension, but to the psychic realm as well. It first occurred to me early in my psychoanalytic training. Indeed, it is a thread that runs through Bion's works, and now that I think about it, it explains why it was so natural for me to simply apply Bion's ideas to spiritual reality -- to transpose them one Octave up, as it were, from psyche to pneuma.
The point is that you really cannot become a "healer of souls" unless you have recognized and healed your own soul-wound, otherwise you are just a pretender. You can have all the theoretical knowledge in the world (k), but that doesn't necessarily add up to an ounce of (n). This ultimately means that your theory must flow from genuine experience, or it is just words. And once the theory is severed from emotional/spiritual reality, it begins to drift away from the reality it is supposed to map.
Anyway, back to magnanimity, which Aristotle characterized as "the jewel of all the virtues," since at any particular moment it turns toward "the greater possibility of the human potentiality for being" (Pieper).
Having said that, if magnanimity is detached from humility, it can tend toward grandiosity, presumptuousness, and a promethean glorification of man only. Put it this way: if man is capable of great things, it is only because he is endowed by the Creator with a soul and spirit to aspire to truly great things (aspire is related to spirit).
Excuse me a moment.....
Little insulin reaction there. D'oh! That's the last time I'll take humalog (rapidly acting insulin) first thing in the morning. I've been fooling around with my regimen, seeing if I can get my A1c (the best measure of diabetic control) even lower than 5.3, which is probably impossible. Anyway, back on the record.
Here is how Pieper describes it: "Man's worth, as that of being possessed of a soul, consists solely in this: that, by his own free decision, he knows and acts in accordance with the reality of his nature -- that is, in truth." So the loss of supernatural hope entails the loss of O.
You might say that faith and hope are the penumbra of O. They are "implanted in human nature as natural inclinations," -- although I suppose it would be technically more accurate to say that these are transnatural inclinations, or tacit foreknowledge of the as-yet-undiscovered reality of O. Faith and hope are like "empty categories" to be filled by experiential knowledge of O, or what a Raccoon calls (n).
If magnanimity is working as it should, and our aspiration to great things is resulting in "closer proximity" to the Great Thing, or O, it should automatically result in humility, since one recognizes, first, that no genuine progress is possible in the absence of O, and second, the inconceivable distance between man and God, or (•) and O. Truly, the closer one is, the further away.
If humility is not operative, then pride and hubris come to the forefront, and then comes the fall, all over again. But to paraphrase Unknown Friend, when we fall in this manner, it is only back down to the ground, our ground, that is, the human station, which we never left anyway. And which is great enough as it is without making oneself a god.
So, it is no paradox at all to affirm that hope involves the humble aspiration to to greatness -- or to be a little big man.
Great Danes are like this, which is a big part of their charm. Simultaneously majestic, and yet, oh-so humble, even verging on low self esteem. Little Big Dog:
We are not worthy of a belly rub from the Master!