Landmark Education and the Landmark Forum

April 30, 2008

The Myth of Modesty

Filed under: inspiration — Tags: , , , — landmarkeducationinaustralia @ 2:44 pm

This blog post was written by someone who came to an introduction to the Landmark Forum. The post speaks so eloquently and powerfully about the courage it takes to live our dreams that I just had to share it here:

The Myth of Modesty

I can remember a time in my distant youth when I was surrounded by adults who encouraged and convinced me that I was capable of anything, that I was smart enough to grow up and be anything I wanted to be. From my mother, to my school teachers, to Mr. Rogers and Big Bird, there was no shortage of uplifting arms in any aspect of my daily life. I have little doubt that many children had similar experiences. And like those other children, it would be later in life that a gradual, almost imperceptible shift took place, a shift that was spread thin over the troubled years of my adolescence. By the time I had left the sheltering arms of my family and became an adult, I soon found that no one cared to talk about potential, be it their own or another’s. Everyone seemed trapped into what has been called “the almost certain future.” To discuss ambitious plans for the future, or to explore one’s own perceived potential was to be labeled arrogant or self centered. To have an ego was and is as socially damning as having a highly contagious STD.

To be humble and modest is the unspoken doctrine of our adult lives. The words themselves convey a false authority over truth, as they have always been used to describe something that has been deemed admirable. Such is the nature of our language, of our knowledge; words become permanently associated with their context until the meaning is forever shadowed by it. How could modesty be a form of self-crippling behavior? It is like asking what role religion has played throughout time to stabilize class imbalances. Few people dare to pursue such questions with sincere openness, indeed rarely are such questions even uttered. We read books by the romantic idealists in our short lived education, not by the Karl Marxs. It is of no small coincidence that prior to reaching the time in our lives when we are capable of so much, that the inner core of our being is retarded with notions of servitude and inferiority. We beach ourselves on the shore of mediocrity, and as the tide of opportunity laps at our feet we remain motionless, intimidated by the silent gaze of those lying next to us.

In her novel “A Return to Love” (1992), Marianne Williamson touches upon this subject quite beautifully:

“…Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Though I am arguably the most godless person I know (a topic for another day), I quote Williamson’s passage in its entirety. Besides, there is no small amount of irony contained in this passage, a passage that is otherwise remarkably insightful and truthful.

Gene Wolfe, whose work is linked on this site as undeniably the greatest fiction I have ever read, is also well worth quoting here. This passage is from his 1997 book “The Urth of the New Sun,” the context being that the main character has just restored to life what had been an undead human:

“…the others who had come to aid us backed away, their faces filled with fear and wonder: and I thought then (as I think now) how strange it was that they should have been so brave when they faced a horror, but such cowards when confronted by the palinode of fate.

Perhaps it is only that when we contend with evil, we are engaged against our brothers. For my own part I understood then something that had puzzled me from childhood—the legend that in the final battle whole armies of demons will fly from the mere sight of a soldier of the Increate.

I visited a small conference recently that was an introduction to the Landmark Forum, during which time someone described their desire to become “unstoppable” in their life. The context was grounded in the daily challenges and disappointments we all face. I believe it is an admirable desire, and one that is surprisingly within our grasp. With that said, I use this opportunity of my first true blog post to leave the shores of mediocrity. I wash from my self the antiquated granules of modesty, and though there is nothing as solitary as the waters of the Internet, I find solace in that solitude, as I have learned to.

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