I grant you humility is not a trait one tends to hear in connection with current or former TV news anchors. And for good reason. But the longer I have lived on this planet, the more I have witnessed and learned, the more I recognize that facing our world, and certainly our place in the cosmos, with humility is the only path to recognizing a key truth to our existence.
These thoughts return once more with the flare up of the ominous omicron Covid variant. How dispiriting it is. How full of uncertainty and concern. How humbled we feel at the mercurial power of nature.
Humility is often contextualized in terms of loss - a loss of control, a loss of assuredness, a loss of expectation, a loss of certainty. And all of this applies with the current public health anxiety sweeping the globe once more. The protections the human mind has mustered to push back against the chaos, especially the vaccines so miraculous in their power, efficacy, and speed of development, now wobble with unknowns. Will they work? If so, how well?
Doctors and scientists, while rightfully raising alarms around omicron, also caution that there is much more at this point that we don’t know than we do. Over the course of this pandemic, the global public has experienced what researchers know all too well. The more we learn, the more we realize how much we still don’t understand. Nature is full of complexities and surprises. It’s humbling. And to try to respond with hubris in the face of these immutable truths is a key ingredient in a recipe for disaster.
But humility should not only be considered in terms of our inabilities. Countless times in my life I have been humbled by human ingenuity, kindness, selflessness, knowledge, and community. Especially in difficult, frightening, and alienating times, we must keep these assurances in mind.
I am humbled by the healthcare workers who have sacrificed so much. I am humbled by the scientists who are rushing to develop treatments and vaccines for the coronavirus. I am humbled by all those who are endeavoring to try to make the world better, to ease suffering and comfort the afflicted. And I am humbled by all of you who have joined in the community we are building.
I know we face grave challenges. And I know that pride and hubris seem ascendant. We are inundated with chest pounding, gaslighting, and caustic overconfidence. Humility can and should be an appropriate rejoinder. It is not in its essence inherently hopeful, but it can be a source of hope.
We can find solace in recognizing that there is only so much we can control and predict. There is only so much that we can know and fix. But if our mind is open to accepting the winds of change that power nature, we can recognize that change is a force for creation as well as destruction. We can find ways to regroup and rebuild, together, with humility.