This simple word encapsulates so much of what it is to be human.
It is a beautiful word.
The first syllable hints at hidden truths and clues as to earth origins and wisdom.
For example, the meaning of the word itself is about being ’taken back to the earth’. Almost a re-incorporation of our bodies with the very soil beneath us. To be humble is to be in touch with the earth – to be laid low.
The word Humus hints at this – the rich, dark organic material in soils, produced by the decomposition of vegetable or animal matter and essential to
the fertility of the soil.
Then there is the word Humour: The ability to find things funny or the quality of being funny. When we laugh we become grounded – it is a natural way to ‘earth’ ourselves. It is interesting that it is also one of the best medicines.
Similarly with the word ‘Hum’. When we sing and hum, it naturally grounds us – try it. Again it is very healing.
All that connects us to our source – the earth – is healing and restorative.
So we come to the word ‘Human’
It points us to our true nature – we are ‘of the earth’ – We are quite literally ‘earthlings’.
We forget this at our peril – which is exactly what has happened.
Here are the words to a beautiful chant I often sing:
Humble – yourself – in the arms of the wild –
You’ve got to lay down low – and humble –
Yourself – in the arms of the wild –
You’ve got to ask her what she knows –
And we will lift each other up –
Higher and higher
We – will lift each other up.
It is interesting and constructive that the majority, if not all, spiritual paths have humility as a central tenet of their wisdom instruction or faith teaching.
Some clues and examples.
The way of Tao has humility as one of its Three Treasures – the foundation of a devotional life.
The latin Humilus means ‘low’.
In Buddhism, the Pali word for humility is ‘nivato’ – ‘without air’. (not being puffed up)
In the Hindu tradition, the Sanskrit for humility is ‘neti’ or ‘nati’ – which means ‘Not I’.
In Islam, the very word is linked to surrender and humility.
A couple of snippets from that tradition:
“The loftiest in status are those that do not know their own status.
The most virtuous are those that do not know their own virtue”
And from the Quran: “Your humbleness humbles others and your modesty brings out modesty in others’’
In Druidry and in Wicca the element of earth and a reverence for the Earth are central to its teaching. Again, humility is central and key.
A feeling of oneness with the earth – of being at one with everyone and everything in the universe – ‘without inferiority or superiority or any other bias’.
Humility is about being “Unselved” – of having let go of the baggage of ego without having let go of the essence of self.
To not so much think ‘less of’ oneself, but rather ‘less about’ oneself.
Humility is a virtue which centres on low self pre-occupation
The Fruits of Humility are Peace and Ease; Contentment and Presence.
Some words of wisdom to conclude:
“A true genius admits that he or she knows nothing” – Einstein
“A great man or woman is always willing to be little” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
And my personal favourite:
“On the highest throne in the world, we still only sit on our own bottom” – Michel De Montaigne
JJ Middleway 2019