On humility and humiliation
Buying idealistic dreams is not productive. But persevering through the unexpected difficulties of creative achievement is not only productive, it's transformational.
A writing student recently told me that she was avoiding writing because she didn't want to be humiliated.
“You won’t be humiliated,” I wanted to say.
But the words would’ve been insincere. Audre Lorde said our silence will not protect us, but silence sure can feel like a snuggly place to hide.
To put one’s interior journey “out there” in the public arena, whether fictionalized or not, can often mean a certain level of humiliation. In fact, even sharing art with good friends is an act of incredible bravery. Things will get messed up. Things will get messy. One’s fears of humiliation most certainly could come to fruition.
Humiliation: from late Latin humiliat or ‘made humble.’ The original meaning was ‘bring low’
If we think of the root of humiliation, it is only possible if the way we identify or would like to identify is challenged by another. And yet, is to be ‘made humble’ necessarily a bad thing? Could it be seen, instead, as a gift to the world that supersedes any external goals attached to one’s art?
A willingness to be humiliated is the great superpower of the public artist, and a willingness to be humiliated, to be humbled, is to truly live.
To me, literary publications feel great but, here too, they come with profound humility. I believe the best possible quote to describe a writing life (or any artistic life) comes from A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles when the narrator is describing what is referred to as the “Confederacy of the Humbled.”
"Knowing beauty, influence, fame, and privilege to be borrowed rather than bestowed, they are not easily impressed. They are not quick to envy or take offense. They certainly do not scour the papers in search of their own names. They remain committed to living among their peers, but they greet adulation with caution, ambition with sympathy, and condescension with an inward smile."
I post blogs that will no doubt have errors and issues. I share work I might change my mind about later. Thoughts evolve and change and lose context. Ideas can be good one day and bad the next. But how do we find the confidence and trust to share our ideas anyway?
To put one’s voice out there in the world is to set oneself up for humility, which might come with a fleeting sense of humiliation. As a proud member of the “Confederacy of the Humbled,” I just wanted to share that I wholeheartedly believe that it’s all worth it.
Some say the secret is to take ourselves and our work less seriously. But perhaps the point is to dive into the humiliat and learn to live expansively and share our thoughts anyway.
*Speaking of all this, if you’re not sick of my words yet, read about ASCENSION from the perspective of a table busser at a horrible little diner in Ohio. #truestory
**My next post will be On Patience & Writing
Your construction of “Ascension” righteously accelerated my scrolling forth on this device. I’m humbled, positively, at your trail of words.