Saturday, June 19, 2010

Little Big Man: The Humble Aspiration to Greatness

Continuing with yesterday's post, hope is "the steadfast turning toward the true fulfillment of man's nature," or the essence of (•) --> O. But Pieper adds that hope is ordered to two additional sub-virtues, as it were, magnanimity and humility.

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!

33 Comments:

Blogger Mizz E said...

De rigueur

6/19/2010 09:35:00 AM  
Blogger Magnus Itland said...

The world is overflowing with people who honestly want to help others, but who have so far proven that they cannot even help themselves. This is particularly disturbing when they do not just want to offer assistance, but guide or even rule others, without having been able to guide or rule even one single mind, their own.

To quote the Christian mystics that taught me in my youth (or at least tried): "The big you can't, the small you won't, how then can you expect to get anywhere?"

6/19/2010 10:18:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

Sorry about the insulin reaction -- lots of that sort of thing around here, as well.

"...it should automatically result in humility..."

Yes, it seems that all my learning is only coming to not-knowing. I should'a learned the not-knowing sooner!

6/19/2010 10:19:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Re Magnus' observation: the problem with the left is that it ends in people who cannot govern themselves ruling over those of us who can. Imagine Anon ruling over you!

In contrast, we have no desire to rule over him, for that is the only way he will ever learn to change his own damn diaper.

6/19/2010 10:29:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Save us from the parasitocracy!

6/19/2010 10:48:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It's at the heart of our failed state here in California, in which the parasitic public employee unions rule over the host they have sucked dry. Not very Darwinian of these fleas to kill the dog.

6/19/2010 10:53:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

To paraphrase Margaret Thatcher, the problem with being a parasite is that you eventually run out of other people's blood.

6/19/2010 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

"Imagine Anon ruling over you!"

Yikes. I'll have to spend the rest of the day trying to shake the skeevy feeling produced by *that* notion.

6/19/2010 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

"...you eventually run out of other people's blood."

And yet, as far as I can tell, that doesn't even give them pause. Your state (my ex-) is a study in that, as the Dems countered Arnold's proposed cuts with calls for higher taxes to cover the deficits. And look at how the parasites squeal re Gov. Christie's efforts!

wv sez anxesio, and yes I am.

6/19/2010 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Re. canine humility, rolling over and excitedly showing her belly was the first thing dog 1 did when she met the baby. Dog 2 was afraid to even approach. It was clear, anyway, that they know where they stand.

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.

Indeed.

6/19/2010 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Walt--

Yes, and not only that, but the population has been declining over the past two decades, but the government never stops growing. It's on growth auto-pilot because of the unions. And Obama's stimulus bailout only aggravates the problem, because the states used the money to pay the parasites.

The whole idea of a "public employee union" is so preposterous. It is undemocratic to the core, as it means that we are held captive by these unelected and unfireable parasites.

Let us pray for the day that someone does to them what Reagan did to the flight controllers -- and what Christie is trying to do in Jersey.

6/19/2010 11:31:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It also makes a mockery of Obama's advice to college graduates to go into "public service."

No, do us a real public service, pal, and get a job in the private sector!

6/19/2010 11:34:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

"...get a job in the private sector!"

That would be tough in today's economic climate, since he has no prior experience....

6/19/2010 11:39:00 AM  
Blogger walt said...

OT, but also about "recovering words," this is very cool. And note the humility in his words.

6/19/2010 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Dic Zero

6/19/2010 12:05:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

That's Doc; typing one handed...

6/19/2010 12:05:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

"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."

And when we choose not to act in accordance with reality, or to evade it (the chicken of a choice by another name), we lose our connection not only with the reality 'out there', but also the ability to appraise the landscape 'in here' and you are set adrift in a sillysighbin sea of your own stating, to which reality need not apply.

"If humility is not operative, then pride and hubris come to the forefront, and then comes the fall, all over again."

And what is humility, but that recognition of who you are in relation to all that is? Lose that and... well... how could any 'good' you wish to do, be good, in the absense of an actual realtion to what is good?

6/19/2010 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger anon said...

Huh, I was about to congratulate you on a rather nice posting free of the usual juvenile insults. Oh well, you held off until the comments; that's progress. Just think about someone reading your stuff a hundred years from now. Presumably the stuff about O and (k) will be just as relevant and valuable as it is now, but the use of Rosie O'Donnell as a foil will be obscure at best, embarrassing at worst. Magnanimity, even to your foes, sounds like a better practice.

Usually I can't stand "Dick Zero", but today he sounds almost leftist: Big Government and Big Business have become so entwined that any disaster on the scale of the Gulf oil spill, or the subprime mortgage crisis before it, will have both public and private agencies to blame.

Of course he goes on to spout nonsense like Suggesting that government cannot be criticized until every one of its private-sector “partners” has been bankrupted or nationalized is a recipe for tyranny. (nobody has suggested any such thing) and repeats wingnut echo chamber points like accusing unions of blocking cleanup efforts, which is (of course) a lie. Oh well, maybe in a hundred years he'll come around.

6/19/2010 01:18:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

"I was about to congratulate you on a rather nice posting"

In that case, I just dodged a bullet.

6/19/2010 01:46:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

So you claim it's not true, anon, that many different countries (not Liberian, btw) offered to help in the days immediately following the disaster, and were turned away?

Meanwhile, for more than two months before getting "tough" (at least verbally) Obama played around with celebrities, on the golf course, etc...but this is not a "my pet goat" issue for you, apparently. Can we not agree that, if he were a real leader who took the problem seriously, he'd have cleared the way for those Dutch, Canadian, Croatian, French, German, Irish, Mexican, Norwegian, Romanian, South Korean, Spanish, Swedish, U.K., and/or U.N.tankers to start cleaning at the *beginning* of the mess?

Instead of letting it spew for nearly two months?

6/19/2010 07:01:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

"We should study the example of BP and understand that only one half of the government-business alliance can call press conferences at will, addressing a media prepared to extend them unlimited credit for their good intentions.

"One of the reasons Big Government is so helpless in the face of an actual crisis is that it never learns anything, because it evades blame and consequence for its failures."

Yeah, "almost leftist." Almost!

b.o.s.-ing, says wv.

6/19/2010 07:03:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

I'm not saying we should expect any president to be a miracle worker when it comes to messy reality, mind you. But waiving something as simple as this for this specific situation, to increase the possibility of efficiency for at least *some* containment, really shouldn't be beyond him.

6/19/2010 07:28:00 PM  
Blogger anon said...

Susannah: I've got no particular interest in defending Obama's handling of the spill, which has been flawed, but it's clear that the lion's share of responsibility goes to BP and the failure of regulation that permitted it to cut corners. Most of the blame for the latter goes to Bush, with Obama having some culpability for not correcting it.

The fuss about the Jones Act looks like a typical Republican disinformation campaign. According to the coast guard, there are plenty of foreign vessels helping with the cleanup.

You should be aware that if you get your information from right-wing sources (Fox news, wingnut blarghs) you are probably getting fed a steady diet of bullshit.

It's pretty amusing (under the circumstances) that the same people who claim government is incompetent to do anything are the first to demand that it come rto the rescue and fix the catastrophes caused by unregulated private industry. The right (whose bankrupt ideology is responsible for the weakened state of regulation) truly has no shame, and no connection left to reality.

6/19/2010 08:54:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

Back OT:

"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."

Another reason I shrink from offering advice. Physician, heal thyself. :)

I've found that without the influx of the reality you describe, it's practically impossible to have an objective picture of myself. My capacity for self-justification (esp. via the victim card--poor me!) can only be shocked offline and rerouted by a power outside myself.

"Once I prayed (I knew not what I said), Show me myself O Lord. Alas, I did not dread/that hideous sight which now I shudder to behold, because I knew not self aright... Now I pray, I know the prayer is right, show me Thyself, O Lord, be to my soul the bright/And morning star, to shine upon the grave of self..."

Of course, that's only the first part of the process. The rest involves an ceaseless, transformational love from which nothing can separate you, and which you yourself can do nothing to remit.

"Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish."

From selfish to splendorous. Sounds like something only authentic contact with divine love could accomplish.

6/19/2010 09:01:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

And if that doesn't work, you can always blame Bush.

6/19/2010 09:07:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

anone said "You should be aware that if you get your information from right-wing sources (Fox news, wingnut blarghs) you are probably getting fed a steady diet of bullshit."

This from someone who cites 'Mother Jones' as their news source. Now. That. Is. F*ing. Funny.

"... are the first to demand that it come rto the rescue and fix the catastrophes caused by unregulated private industry."

laughing and crying... it's not pleasant, but it's coming out loud.

"..catastrophes caused by unregulated private industry..."

The ignorance is... horrible, and in it is written 'doom'.

Real friggin' loud.

6/19/2010 09:11:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

I don't know anon...from what I've read, some of the fault is the usual bureacratic constipation. Suspending critical operations until we can make sure life jackets are on board? Etc.

The least (or really, most) a chief executive can do is clear some red tape out of the way, so the ones with the courage and savvy to act (read: who are not concerned with politics and PR, but real world solutions) can fly by the seat of their pants as necessary. I can't see where I'm wrong about this; perhaps you can point it out?

I'm *not* asking the government to fix this. Some are positing it's not even fixable at this point. The best we may be able to do is clean up some of it. I'm no genius, but I would conclude, given a worst case scenario, the more "clean up" resources we have cleared and at the ready, the better. What am I missing here?

Where you get "weakened" and "unregulated" when reams of regulation are already in place (to obvious effect), I'm not sure. (It'd be interesting to hear you expound on how on earth adding MORE regulation will stop people from cutting corners. Knowing what we do about human nature, wouldn't it more likely have the opposite effect?)

"You should be aware that if you get your information from right-wing sources (Fox news, wingnut blarghs) you are probably getting fed a steady diet of bullshit."

Says the individual who just linked to Mother Jones... BTW, the author didn't quite pull off that deep concern for national security. (insert eyeroll here)

Talk about disinformation and loss of contact with reality...

6/19/2010 09:21:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

"And if that doesn't work, you can always blame Bush."

There ya go! I knew I had an out.

6/19/2010 09:32:00 PM  
Blogger Susannah said...

Poor, poor Obama. Yet another victim of the Bush administration.

6/19/2010 09:47:00 PM  
Blogger black hole said...

You can't wound anyone's soul unless your own is wounded.

Mine is wounded and I spread pain and destruction around me on all sides.

I am a parasite, a leftist, and a public union member. And I am on a rampage.

Until tommorrow; then I might behave.

6/19/2010 11:52:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I blame Bush for Obama.

6/20/2010 06:41:00 AM  
Blogger Tigtog said...

To anon: BP contributed more campaign cash to Obama in one election cycle than they have contributed to all candidates for the last 10 years. I know you are a real big supporter of Campaign Finance, being a liberal, so why no criticism of Obama's ultimate betrayal of liberal dogma? Why no questioning of the gobs of unregulated contributions. Is it that you support unregulated and unnamed campaign contribution? Does this make you a free market socialist?

6/20/2010 08:54:00 AM  
Blogger anon said...

tigtog: you are so filled with hate you can barely manage to emit coherent setences. Pretty sad. You've also packed your comment with falsehoods and unwarranted assumptions, too many to unpack, so let's just say that I've never been in the tank for Obama, I don't consider him infalliable, he's a politician, and like any other major party politician is in hock to the powers that be, he won't do anything that will seriously piss off Wall Street or the Pentagon. But he's saner, smarter, more competent, and more progressive than Republicans, which is no small matter.

He's done things that I think are far worse than taking money from BP, such as continuting the torture policies of the previous administration and ordering the assassination of US citizens, so please don't think I'm under some obligation to defend everything he does to you.

6/20/2010 10:50:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home