I had a recent lesson in humility. Actually two. I wrote this post days ago with a bad title and almost no one read it. That was lesson two. I can write bad titles. Actually, I should have realized that years ago, having penned a book called Anselmian Explorations. On one level, it was aptly labelled. On another, the phrase doesn't quite sizzle, does it? But anyway, my blogpost title didn't exactly lure in multitudes to philosophize with me. It was a lonely pondering day.
Humility Lesson One happened several days prior to that.
I had worked hard and for many days to memorize the famous "To Be or Not To Be" soliloquy from Shakespeare's great play, Hamlet. It's longer than you might remember, at over two hundred words. After a lot of effort, I finally had it nailed, with feeling. It's worth the effort, for the ideas you eventually glean from it, as you perform it while feeding the dog, or driving to the store, And that very day, the day I had first done it perfectly, start to finish, I was in the checkout line at my local grocery store, rehearsing it once more in my head as my purchases were bring rung up, when I suddenly became aware that the checkout girl was saying something to me. "I'm sorry, what did you say?" She repeated herself and I laughed and said, "I didn't hear you the first time because I was practicing in my head something I recently memorized."
"What did you memorize?" She seemed genuinely interested.
"The To Be or Not To Be passage from Hamlet." I said it with a feeling of great pride in myself.
"Oh, I memorized Hamlet once," she replied.
"Wait. You mean a passage from Hamlet?"
"No, the whole thing."
"The whole thing? The entire play?" My large balloon of pride was rapidly losing air.
"Yeah, the whole play," she said, and then added, "but, not in English."
"What do you mean not in English? It's an English play." I gave her a puzzled smile.
"I know, but I memorized it in Klingon."
"The Star Trek language?"
"Yeah, it took me five and a half months. But I got it."
"Wow. Jeez. That's pretty amazing."
"Yeah, it was fun." My balloon was now empty and lying pathetically inert on the ground.
The lesson I learned, and reflected on as I carried my bags to the car, was that we should all remember the two inscriptions written in marble at the Oracle of Delphi in ancient Greece. First: Know Thyself. And second: Nothing in Excess. If you have a tendency to puff up in pride at the least accomplishment, knowing that about yourself is the first requirement for controlling it and reigning it in. It's fine to feel a glow of accomplishment, of course, but, as the Oracle also reminds us, "Nothing in Excess." Because, more often than you think, whatever you've done, there may just be someone else out there who has done much more, and in Klingon. So remember, as the Klingons say, yIDoghQo' - or in English, "Don't be silly," control the balloon of pride.