Reverential Respect Definition Essay

Esteem or deference to a right of another, to honor, be courteous to.

— Respect, 22

esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability: I have great respect for her judgment.
deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment: respect for a suspect’s right to counsel; to show respect for the flag; respect for the elderly.
the condition of being esteemed or honored: to be held in respect.

Respect is honoring the worth or dignity in a person or process. When we respect others, we take their preferences and ideas seriously. We thoughtfully weigh our own insights and experiences against theirs. Respect is merited particularly by those who are our elders, because knowledge, insight and wisdom often are hard won through a lifetime of discipline and learning. Cultivating respect as a virtue does not mean insisting that all ideas, beliefs, or actions are respect-worthy. It does mean that we recognize the basic human dignity of others, even when their ideas or values are different than our own. A general attitude of respect also assumes that each person has something to teach us if we are willing to learn.


Respect has great importance in everyday life. As children we are taught (one hopes) to respect our parents, teachers, and elders, school rules and traffic laws, family and cultural traditions, other people’s feelings and rights, our country’s flag and leaders, the truth and people’s differing opinions. And we come to value respect for such things; when we’re older, we may shake our heads (or fists) at people who seem not to have learned to respect them. We develop great respect for people we consider exemplary and lose respect for those we discover to be clay-footed, and so we may try to respect only those who are truly worthy of our respect. We may also come to believe that, at some level, all people are worthy of respect. We may learn that jobs and relationships become unbearable if we receive no respect in them; in certain social milieus we may learn the price of disrespect if we violate the street law: “Dis me, and you die.” Calls to respect this or that are increasingly part of public life: environmentalists exhort us to respect nature, foes of abortion and capital punishment insist on respect for human life, members of racial and ethnic minorities and those discriminated against because of their gender, sexual orientation, age, religious beliefs, or economic status demand respect both as social and moral equals and for their cultural differences. And it is widely acknowledged that public debates about such demands should take place under terms of mutual respect. We may learn both that our lives together go better when we respect the things that deserve to be respected and that we should respect some things independently of considerations of how our lives would go.

We may also learn that how our lives go depends every bit as much on whether we respect ourselves. The value of self-respect may be something we can take for granted, or we may discover how very important it is when our self-respect is threatened, or we lose it and have to work to regain it, or we have to struggle to develop or maintain it in a hostile environment. Some people find that finally being able to respect themselves is what matters most about getting off welfare, kicking a disgusting habit, or defending something they value; others, sadly, discover that life is no longer worth living if self-respect is irretrievably lost. It is part of everyday wisdom that respect and self-respect are deeply connected, that it is difficult if not impossible both to respect others if we don’t respect ourselves and to respect ourselves if others don’t respect us. It is increasingly part of political wisdom both that unjust social institutions can devastatingly damage self-respect and that robust and resilient self-respect can be a potent force in struggles against injustice.

Teenagers’ lack of respect for adults

by Natalie Qabazard, a High School Senior

In contemporary America, it seems as though more and more teenagers are inclined to act disrespectfully toward adults. The notion that the youth must respect their elders has completely vanished. What has replaced this attitude is a sense of disobedience, noncompliance and rudeness. Some contributors include the lack of discipline from parents, the mimicking of friends’ attitudes toward adults and how the media portrays disrespectful teenagers as being hip.

Modern families contain parents who are more driven and focused on their careers and less focused on the success of their family. According to, “Becoming a teenager brings with it a host of new emotions, attitudes and behaviors. As kids age 13 to 19 move from childhood to maturity, they often experiment with language to express their boundaries and talk back to parents in ways that are inappropriate. It then becomes the parents’ duty to instruct their children how to speak with respect to authorities.”

The problem arises when parents fail to teach their children the correct way of behaving toward adults. Once threats are made, the parents back down and the teenager feels powerful. Now, the teenager has control over the parent, causing the parent to feel weak and powerless.

Now more than ever, teens are mimicking the disrespectful and disobedient attitude, which their friends exhibit at school. This can mainly be seen between a student and a teacher. The same attitude that is being used toward parents is used against school officials. Schools should enforce more disciplinary action against these rude teens so as to make them pay for their lack of respect. As teenagers go about their daily lives, they observe others being rude to their friends and their parents, so they in turn do the same. The amount of peer pressure is increasing; therefore, it results in conforming to their peers’ expectations.

The media portrays disrespectful teenagers as being “cool” and therefore has contributed to this epidemic. We see more and more disrespectful teenagers on TV because it is entertaining to watch. However, this should not be at the expense of our future society’s behavior.

On the popular reality show “My Super Sweet Sixteen,” spoiled adolescent girls treat their parents with a lack of respect in order to get what they want. It is apparent, in this TV show, that the parents of these 16-year-olds only care about buying their children happiness when, in fact, the child feeds off of this carelessness and would like to take the power away from the parents and bring it upon themselves. By televising such acts, it is promoting these behaviors, hence more of it.

Teenagers must end this form of verbal abuse because if this behavior persists, America will form into a country filled with insolence. How would the remainder of the world esteem America if the president was arrogant, rude and disrespectful? America is known for its stature as a nation, filled with kind and respectful people. However, with the way that our generation proceeds into the future, that stature will likely plummet.

The Concept of Respect

An attitude of respect is, most generally, a relation between a subject and an object in which the subject responds to the object from a certain perspective in some appropriate way. Respect necessarily has an object: respect is always directed toward, paid to, felt about, shown for some object. While a very wide variety of things can be appropriate objects of one kind of respect or another, the subject of respect (the respecter) is always a person, that is, a conscious rational being capable of recognizing and acknowledging things, of self-consciously and intentionally responding to them, of having and expressing values with regard to them, and of being accountable for disrespecting or failing to respect them. Though animals may love or fear us, only persons can respect and disrespect us or anything else. Respect is a responsive relation, and ordinary discourse about respect identifies several key elements of the response, including attention, deference, judgment, acknowledgment, valuing, and behavior. First, as suggested by its derivation from the Latin respicere, which means “to look back at” or “to look again,” respect is a particular mode of apprehending the object: the person who respects something pays attention to it and perceives it differently from someone who does not and responds to it in light of that perception. This perceptual element is common also to synonyms such as regard (from “to watch out for”) and consideration (“examine (the stars) carefully”). The idea of paying heed or giving proper attention to the object which is central to respect often means trying to see the object clearly, as it really is in its own right, and not seeing it solely through the filter of one’s own desires and fears or likes and dislikes. Thus, respecting something contrasts with being oblivious or indifferent to it, ignoring or quickly dismissing it, neglecting or disregarding it, or carelessly or intentionally misidentifying it. An object can be perceived by a subject from a variety of perspectives; for example, one might rightly regard another human individual as a rights-bearer, a judge, a superlative singer, a trustworthy person, or a threat to one’s security. The respect one accords her in each case will be different, yet all will involve attention to her as she really is as a judge, threat, etc. It is in virtue of this aspect of careful attention that respect is sometimes thought of as an epistemic virtue.

Respect for Persons

People can be the objects or recipients of different forms of respect. We can (directive) respect a person’s legal rights, show (institutional) respect for the president by calling him “Mr. President,” have a healthy (obstacle) respect (respekt) for an easily angered person, (care) respect someone by cherishing her in her concrete particularity, (evaluatively) respect an individual for her commitment to a worthy project, and accord one person the same basic moral respect we think any person deserves. Thus the idea of respect for persons is ambiguous. Because both institutional respect and evaluative respect can be for persons in roles or position, the phrase “respecting someone as an R” might mean either having high regard for a person’s excellent performance in the role or behaving in ways that express due consideration or deference to an individual qua holder of that position. Similarly, the phrase “respecting someone as a person” might refer to appraising her as overall a morally good person, or to acknowledging her standing as an equal in the moral community, or to attending to her as the particular person she is as opposed to treating her like just another body. In the literature of moral and political philosophy, the notion of respect for persons commonly means a kind of respect that all people are owed morally just because they are persons, regardless of social position, individual characteristics or achievements, or moral merit. The idea is that persons as such have a distinctive moral status in virtue of which we have special categorical obligations to regard and treat them in ways that are constrained by certain inviolable limits. This is sometimes expressed in terms of rights: persons, it is said, have a fundamental moral right to respect simply because they are persons. And it is a commonplace that persons are owed or have a right to equal respect. It is obvious that we could not owe every individual evaluative respect, let alone equal evaluative respect, since not everyone acts morally correctly or has an equally morally good character. So, if it is true that all persons are owed or have a moral right to respect just as persons, then the concept of respect for person has to be analyzed as some form or combination of forms of recognition or reverential respect. For a variety of reasons, however, it is controversial whether we do indeed have a moral obligation to respect all persons, regardless of merit, and if so, why. There are disagreements, for example, about the scope of this claim, the grounds for respect, and the justification for the obligation. There is also a divergence of views about the kinds of treatment that are respectful of persons.

The most influential position on respect is found in the moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant. Indeed, most contemporary discussions of respect for persons explicitly claim to rely on, develop, or challenge some aspect of Kant’s ethics. Central to Kant’s ethical theory is the claim that all persons are owed respect just because they are persons, that is, free rational beings. To be a person is to have a status and worth that is unlike that of any other kind of being: it is to be an end in itself with dignity. And the only response that is appropriate to such a being is respect. Respect (that is, moral recognition respect) is the acknowledgment in attitude and conduct of the dignity of persons as ends in themselves. Respect for such beings is not only appropriate but also morally and unconditionally required: the status and worth of person is such that they must always be respected. Because we are all too often inclined not to respect persons, not to value them as they ought to be valued, one formulation of the Categorical Imperative, which is the supreme principle of morality, commands that our actions express due respect for the worth of persons: “Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or the person of any other, never simply as a means but always at the same time as an end”. Our fundamental moral obligation, then, is to respect persons; morally right actions are thus those that express respect for persons as ends in themselves, while morally wrong actions are those that express disrespect or contempt for persons by not valuing them as ends in themselves. In addition to this general commandment, Kant argues that there are also more specific duties of respect for other persons and self-respect, to which we’ll return.

Everyday discourse and practices insist that respect is personally, socially, politically, and morally important, and philosophical discussions of the concepts bear this out. It’s role in our lives as individuals, as people living in complex relations with other people and surrounded by a plethora of other beings and things on which our attitudes and actions have tremendous effects, cannot be taken lightly.

Blessed In Aging

by Esther Mary Walker

Blessed are they who understand
My faltering step and shaking hand
Blessed, who know my ears today
Must strain to hear the things they say.

Blessed are those who seem to know
My eyes are dim and my mind is slow
Blessed are those who look away
When I spilled tea that weary day.

Blessed are they who, with cheery smile
Stopped to chat for a little while
Blessed are they who know the way
To bring back memories of yesterday.

Blessed are those who never say
“You’ve told that story twice today”
Blessed are they who make it known
That I am loved, respected and not alone.

And blessed are they who will ease the days
Of my journey home, in loving ways.

Basic Respect

Going back in time, respect played an important role in survival. If we think of a small tribe wandering in the desert we can imagine that a person not respected by anyone could be left behind and die. Such a person was considered to have no worth, no importance, no value to the group. This, I believe is the foundation of our psychological need to feel respected.

Nowadays it seems much more possible to survive without being respected. Someone could, for example, inherit a large sum of money, have many servants and employees and have salesmen constantly calling on him and catering to him, yet not be respected in the least. Someone could also make a lot of money through having a particular talent which is valued, such as being able to dunk a basketball yet not really be respected, perhaps because of the way he treats others.

Still, there is a value to respect which money can’t buy. Though someone’s life might not depend on it, there are times, many times in fact, when another person has the chance to make a personal decision – a judgment call. When that person feels sincere respect for someone else, they will make a different decision than if they feel no respect, even if they have customarily shown a false, pseudo-respect to the person.

We can all sense whether we are respected or not. This holds true for those with money and power as well. Moreover, it is quite possible that those who pursue money and power are actually trying to gain a type of respect that they never have truly felt.

When we are respected we gain the voluntary cooperation of people. We don’t have to use as much of our energy and resources trying to get our needs met. When people respect one another there are fewer conflicts. In summary, it is for both evolutionary and practical reasons that respect is important, and also why we simply feel better when we are respected.

Respect Your Fellow Man

This happened on American airlines.

A 50-something year old white woman arrived at her seat and saw that the passenger next to her was a black man.

Visibly furious, she called the stewardess, ”What’s the problem, ma’am?” the stewardess asked her.

“Can’t you see?” the lady said – “I was given a seat next to a black man. I can’t sit here next to him. You have to change my seat.”

– “Please, calm down, madam” – said the stewardess.
“Unfortunately, all the seats are occupied, but I’m still going to check if we have any.”

The stewardess left and returned some minutes later.

“Madam, as I told you, there isn’t any empty seat in this class- economy class.
But I spoke to the captain and he confirmed that there are no empty seats left in the economy class. We only have seats in the first class.”

And before the woman said anything, the stewardess continued

“Look, it is unusual for our company to allow a passenger from the economy class change to the first class.
However, given the circumstances, the captain thinks that it would be a scandal to make a passenger travel having to sit next to an unpleasant person.”

And turning to the black man, the stewardess said:

“Which means, Sir, if you would be so nice to pack your handbag, we have reserved you a seat in first class…”

And all the passengers nearby, who were shocked to see the scene started applauding, some standing on their feet.”

Showing and Earning Respect

Respecting someone means respecting their feelings and their survival needs. Here are ways to show respect for someone’s feelings:

  1. asking them how they feel
  2. validating their feelings
  3. empathizing with them
  4. seeking understanding of their feelings
  5. taking their feelings into consideration

Here are some specific ways to show respect:

  1. Asking others “How would you feel if…” before making a decision which affects them
  2. Voluntarily making changes and compromises to accommodate their feelings, desires and needs
  3. Not interrupting them
  4. Soliciting and allowing feedback. Trying to understand their beliefs, values and needs
  5. Giving them the opportunity to solve their own problems without underestimating them, in particular:
  6. Avoid telling them what to do
  7. Avoid telling them what they ‘need’ to or ‘should do
  8. Avoid giving them unsolicited advice, sermons and lectures

A different kind of drug problem…

The other day, someone at a store in our town read that a met amphetamine lab had been found in an old farm house in the adjoining county and he asked me a rhetorical question, ”Why didn’t we have a drug problem when you and I were growing up?” I replied: ”But I did have a drug problem when I was a kid growing up on the farm.”

I had a drug problem when I was young: I was drug to church on Sunday morning. I was drug to church for weddings and funerals. I was drug to family reunions and community socials no matter the weather.

I was drug by my ears when I was disrespectful to adults. I was also drug to the woodshed when I disobeyed my parents, told a lie, brought home a bad report card, did not speak with respect, spoke ill of the teacher or the preacher. Or if I didn’t put forth my best effort in everything that was asked of me. I was drug to the kitchen sink to have my mouth washed out with soap if I uttered a profane four letter word. I was drug out to pull weeds in mom’s garden and flower beds and ragweed out of dad’s fields.

I was drug to the homes of family, friends, and neighbors to help out some poor soul who had no one to mow the yard, repair the clothesline or chop some fire wood. And if my mother had ever known that I took a single dime as a tip for this kindness, she would have drug me back to the wood shed.

Those drugs are still in my veins; and they affect my behavior in everything I do, say, and think. They are stronger than cocaine, crack, or heroin, and if today’s children had this kind of drug problem, America might be a better place today.

Respect, Handshakes, and Humanity Greetings

According to one anthropologist, the handshake evolved in medieval Europe, during the times of knights. It seems not all were knights were virtuous. More than a few would approach opponents with concealed weapons and when within striking distance pull out a dagger or a sword and plunge it into the unsuspecting opponent.

To fend off the fear of this kind of nasty business, knights took to offering their open and visibly empty hand to each other. It was a kind of surety, a gesture of trust which said, “See, I am unarmed, so you may safely let me approach.” As the story goes, soon the gesture itself took on meaning and the less noble, less lethal man on the street adopted the handshake as the proper way to greet others.

We do a lot of handshaking in the United States where we are outgoing, forceful, and externalized. We are unabashedly acquisitive, defining our progress in life by how much we have — how much wealth, influence, stored up knowledge, status or whatever. Every culture exhibits these traits to some extent, but there are several Eastern and South Pacific cultures where people are generally taught to be more introspective, more concerned with the quality of things than their quantity, more attuned with the interior spiritual life. In these cultures people do not shake hands when they meet. They may hug formally or kiss one another on the cheek, as in Eastern Europe and Arab states. They may bow softly, eyes turned to the ground, as in Japan and China. The Hawaiian greeting, termed “honi,” consists of placing the nostril gently beside that of the person greeted, a kind of sharing the breath of life. For Hindu(s) the greeting of choice is “Namaste,” the two hands pressed together and held near the heart with the head gently bowed as one says, “Namaste.” Thus it is both a spoken greeting and a gesture. The prayerful hand position is meant “to adorn, honor, celebrate or anoint.” Namaste means “I bow to you.” I am sure there are a lot of things going on in the heads of Americans when they shake hands, but I don’t think “I bow to you” is one of them.

It is always interesting, often revealing and occasionally enlightening to think about the everyday cultural traits and habits that evolve in different cultures around the globe. It is amazing how our little gestures can portray so much about how we view life and our fellow man.

By a handshake we Americans acknowledge our equality with others and not necessarily our “Respect”. We convey how strong we are, how nervous, how aggressive or passive. There is bold physicality to it, but it does very little to convey respect for each others humanity. For these and other reasons, Popes never shake hands. Kings never shake hands. Even mothers don’t shake hands with their own children. I think shaking hands is more about power than it is about humanity.

The humanity greetings of Namaste, kisses, and cheek touching for example, are quite different than handshakes. Kings Namaste, Guru(s) Namaste, nobles touch cheeks, and mothers kiss their own family. Just as many venerate
our God, a holy man or even a holy place, our humanity greeting bespeaks of our inner valuing of the sacredness of the humanity in everyone we meet. It reminds us in a graphic manner, that we can see a reflection of our own humanity in everyone we meet. It is saying, silently, “I recognize the humanity in us both, and bow with respect before it.”

Initiating even our most mundane encounters with a humanity greeting can change everything. Instead of being short with the people I love the most, I give more of myself to them. Instead of walking by the custodian in the hall, I give him a humanity greeting and take interest in his day. Instead of passing it off, I see the sadness in the cashier’s eyes and offer a kind word. I take the time to stop and “chat” with my neighbor instead of rushing off to the next thing on my Saturday to do list. I start to fill my life with conscious purposeful actions that respect humanity rather than honor a faceless schedule.

Try offering a humanity greeting instead of a handshake the next time the situation presents itself. You might get a strange look, but behind that look is a soul beaming in the light of the respect and honor you are giving them.

Teach your children respect.

One of the most important things you can teach your child is respect. Keep in mind that respect is not the same as obedience. Children might obey because they are afraid. If they respect you, they will obey because they know you want what’s best for them. The best way to teach respect is to show respect. When a child experiences respect, they know what it feels like and begin to understand how important it is. Keep in mind the saying “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Respect is an attitude. Being respectful helps a child succeed in life. If children don’t have respect for peers, authority, or themselves, it’s almost impossible for them to succeed. A respectful child takes care of belongings and responsibilities, and a respectful child gets along with peers. Parents have the most influence on how respectful children become. Until children show respect at home, it’s unlikely they will show it anywhere else.

Respect: It’s a Two-Way Street

By Colleen Kettenhofen

Respect and leadership go hand-in-hand. Effective leaders base their leadership on respect and trust. However, those who have honed their leadership skills know it’s not just about garnering respect from your employees; respect truly is a two-way street.

What is Respect?

According to Merriam-Webster, you respect someone when you hold them in high regard or esteem. People you respect are people you admire either for their accomplishments, their knowledge and/or their position. Those you respect have some quality you find valuable.

Why is Respect So Important to Effective Leadership?

To understand why respect is so important to effective leadership, let’s take a look at the primary difference between “managers” and “leaders.”

  • Managers tell employees what to do.
  • Leaders inspire employees to take actions.

People will not willingly follow or be inspired by a person they do not respect. If someone doesn’t feel you have the knowledge or other qualities they should value, and even emulate, why would they follow your lead, unless their was some other incentive (a paycheck) or punishment (loss of a job)? They wouldn’t!

Effective Leaders Give Respect to Get Respect

Although your employees may respect you for what you’ve accomplished or even simply because of your position, that respect will be short-lived if they feel you have little to no respect for them! Think about it for a moment.

If your boss didn’t value your opinion, appreciate the hard work you do, or didn’t acknowledge the experience and expertise you bring to your position, it would be very hard for you to respect them. You’d likely begin to question their competence, if they couldn’t see your value. It’s not surprising that you’d lose respect for them.

3 Ways You Can Build Respect from Your Employees, by Showing Respect

  1. Make yourself available. Leaders who are accessible show that they care about their employees and their thoughts and opinions. Take this beyond the typical “open door policy” and actively seek out your employees for face time.
  2. Instruct what to do, not how to do it. Show your employees you trust their judgment in coming up with the best course of action in how to complete a task. Doing so, shows them you respect their opinion and expertise.
  3. Address concerns in a timely manner. Listening to the concerns of your employees and taking them seriously shows you respect their thoughts and concerns. This builds trust your employee has in you.

What is respect?

Respect is loving.

Respect is understanding and acting honestly to others.

Respect is doing the right thing.

Respect is understanding other’s differences.

Respect is behaving responsibly with others in mind.

Respect is keeping an open mind.

Respect is forgiving.

Respect is understanding how your actions impact others.

Being kind to others’ values and opinions.

Treating others well despite anything because you don’t know their situation.

Treating others as you would like to be treated and being open to all different ideas.

It means learning to listen to others even when their opinion doesn’t match your own.

Being able to express yourself and not being judged because of it.

Respect means showing care and not judging people.

Respect means treating each other with dignity and accepting everyone for their differences!

Respect means taking the time to realize that everyone sees and experiences the world in a unique way. Once you realize these differences you can make efforts to respect people in the way they feel respected.

When we’re young, we’re taught respect. We’re taught not to interrupt our peers, listen to our teachers, and be polite to everyone. But as we grow up, this definition is often forgot as we rarely show consideration for our peers who have different values and viewpoints. We lack in appreciation for those who teach us. We are rarely gracious to those who impact our lives. We might think those basic principles taught to us at an early age hardly defines respect, but they really do. Respect is given when we listen to differing viewpoints, when we thank someone, when we appreciate, when we treat others with the same consideration. Respect is something we need to give in order to receive.

Respect is slowing down and taking the time to understand each other.

One must acknowledge and appreciate both the social and individual identities of others to truly have a sense of respect i.e. the socially ascribed characteristics such as race, religion, and gender are integral to be aware of aside from and in relation to those attributes generally deemed to be a manifestation of personal quality.

On Respecting Authority

We are living in a time when a great many people have little or no respect for authority. Our jails are full of those who do not respect the authority of our government. We have many children in our world today who do not respect the authority of their parents or elders. In order to survive this stormy world, we need to be able to recognize authority. Here is a short story that clearly illustrates the importance of recognizing authority.

The captain on the bridge of a large naval vessel saw a light ahead on a collision course. He signaled, “Alter your course ten degrees south.” The reply came back, “Alter your course ten degrees north.”

The captain then signaled, “Alter your course ten degrees south. I am a captain.” The reply: “Alter your course ten degrees north. I am a seaman third-class.”

The furious captain signaled, “Alter your course ten degrees south. I am a battleship.” The reply: “Alter your course ten degrees north. I am a lighthouse.”

If we do not recognize where true authority lies – then we will be making many wrong decisions in this life.

Teaching Kids to Respect Sports Coaches

By Jack Perconte

It would be great if all youth sport coaches were caring, knowledgeable, fun, positive and fair. Most youth coaches do not possess all of these qualities and parents should not expect them to. After all, most youth coaches are often untrained, volunteer coaches that are parents of players on the team.

Often, youth coaches have a lasting influence on kids’ lives, positive or negative. When kids have coaches that have all of the above desired characteristics, parents should feel extremely fortunate. With this in mind, the importance of coaches, even for very young children should not be underestimated.

More common, in youth sports, is having coaches who have a few of the above qualities. When coaches are deficient in some area, it is usually noticeable to parents and/or athletes. This is when problems often begin to arise in youth sports. When unhappiness begins to percolate amongst players, parents or both, negative feelings are created that lead to negative situations in youth sports. When unhappiness with youth coaching escalates, things often get out of hand and lead to unpleasant situations.

Unhappiness with a coach often is expressed when parents or young athletes begin to complain about coaches in front of each other, or to others. Before you know it, negativity seems to permeate everyone’s attitude.

Positive parenting in sports is all about parents teaching their kids to respect their coaches, even when coaches have shortcomings. Additionally, parents should not allow their kids to “trash talk” their coach. Bad mouthing a coach reflects badly on youth and on adults who allow it. The good news is that many of these escalating situations can be avoided. Parents who are aware of this bad mouthing and disrespect of coaches can and should put a stop to it before it gets out of hand.

This is not meant to say that some negative coaching situations do not exist, have merit or need parents’ attention. Often, there is a legitimate gripe, but it the point is that parents should not put young athletes in the middle of it and it is no reason that parents should allow their kids to disrespect their coach.

How to nip this type behavior in the bud:

  1. Parents should have the perspective that volunteer coaches are just that and that coaches should be appreciated for donating their valuable time to help kids. Reminding their kids of the same is the first step to having kids respect coaches.
  2. Parents should not expect coaches to be great communicators or have “expert” knowledge. Those type coaches are usually only exist at the higher levels of sport.
  3. Parents should understand that coaches are doing their best with the limited training they have.
  4. Parents and athletes should give coaches time to prove themselves. First impressions are often wrong, and over time, everyone will begin to appreciate what their coach brings to the table.

Additionally, it is important that parents use negative coaching situations as teaching moments and not as totally negative experiences. Explaining to kids that they will encounter many types of influence in their lives, and not all good ones, but that it is important that they show adults respect through it all is positive parenting.

This is not meant to say that parents should not talk with and listen to their child’s complaints about their coach. Kids should be encouraged to express their feelings to their parents but also be encouraged to keep their concerns between parents and child. It serves no purpose to allow kids to be disrespectful towards authority figures and to bad mouth their coaches publicly. More often than not, the child’s concerns are just “kids being kids” and not very serious matters. Other times, it is a sign of a frustrated athlete. As long as a coach is not abusive in any way, parents should help kids deal with their concerns and, at the same time, encourage them to respect their coach.

Along the same lines, parents should keep any coaching concerns to themselves, not speak badly of the coach in front of their kids and show the appropriate respect, also. When parents state discontent about the coach, it gives kids the message that it is all right to bad-mouth the coach. Parents should keep negative comments about their kid’s coach to themselves or to address the coach with their concerns when they feel it is appropriate.

In conclusion, parents should bring their kids up to respect their coaches and that bad-mouthing the coach is unacceptable behavior.

A Story About Respecting the Elderly

Velan was a carpenter. He was living in a village. His mother dies a long time back. His aged father, Kuppan, lived with Velan. Kuppan was very weak. He could not even walk well. He was so weak. It was because Velan did not give him enough food. He had given his father a small earthen plate. Even a small quantity of rice in the plate appeared to be much. Velan was a bad man. He was a drunkard also. After taking drinks, he abused his father badly.

Velan had a son. His name is Muthu. Muthu was just ten years old. He was a very good boy. He loved his grandfather. He had great respect for his grandfather. He did not like his father’s attitude and character, because his father was treating his grandfather cruelly.

One day Kuppan was eating his food out of earthen plate that his son had given to him. The earthen plate fell down. The plate broke into pieces. The food also fell on the floor. Velan was working at the other end of the room. He saw the broken plate. He was very angry with his father and used very harsh words to abuse his father. The old man felt bad about what happened. He was sorry for his mistake. Velan’s words wounded him very deeply.

Velan’s son, Muthu, saw this. He did not like his father. His father was ill-treating his grandfather. He was afraid to speak against his father. He was sad about his grandfather. But he was not powerful to stand in support of his grandfather.

The next day Muthu took some of his father’s carpentry tools and a piece of wood. He worked with the tools to make a wooden plate. His father saw him working.

“What are you making, Muthu?” he asked.

“I am making a wooden plate!” replied Muthu.

“A wooden plate! What for?” asked his father.

“I am making it for you, father. When you grow old, like my grandfather, you will need a plate for food. A plate made from earth mat break very easily. Then I may scold you severely. So, I want to give you a wooden plate. It may not break so easily.”

Cranky Old Man

By Dave Griffith

What do you see nurses? . . .. . .What do you see?
What are you thinking .. . when you’re looking at me?
A cranky old man, . . . . . .not very wise,
Uncertain of habit .. . . . . . . .. with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food .. . … . . and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice . .’I do wish you’d try!’
Who seems not to notice . . .the things that you do.
And forever is losing . . . . . .. . . A sock or shoe?
Who, resisting or not . . . … lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding . . . .The long day to fill?
Is that what you’re thinking?. .Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse .you’re not looking at me.
I’ll tell you who I am . . . . .. As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, .. . . . as I eat at your will.
I’m a small child of Ten . .with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters .. . . .. . who love one another
A young boy of Sixteen . . . .. with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now . . .. . . a lover he’ll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty . . . heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows .. .. .that I promised to keep.
At Twenty-Five, now . . . . .I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide . . . And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty . .. . . . . My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other . . .. With ties that should last.
At Forty, my young sons .. .have grown and are gone,
But my woman is beside me . . to see I don’t mourn.
At Fifty, once more, .. …Babies play ’round my knee,
Again, we know children . . . . My loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me . . . . My wife is now dead.
I look at the future … . . . . I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing .. . . young of their own.
And I think of the years . . . And the love that I’ve known.
I’m now an old man . . . . . . .. and nature is cruel.
It’s jest to make old age . . . . . . . look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles .. .. . grace and vigour, depart.
There is now a stone . . . where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass . A young man still dwells,
And now and again . . . . . my battered heart swells
I remember the joys . . . . .. . I remember the pain.
And I’m loving and living . . . . . . . life over again.
I think of the years, all too few . . .. gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact . . . that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people .. . . . .. . . open and see.
Not a cranky old man .
Look closer . . . . see .. .. . .. …. . ME!!

Respect, Handshakes, and Humanity Greetings

According to one anthropologist, the handshake evolved in medieval Europe, during the times of knights. It seems not all were knights were virtuous. More than a few would approach opponents with concealed weapons and when within striking distance pull out a dagger or a sword and plunge it into the unsuspecting opponent.

To fend off the fear of this kind of nasty business, knights took to offering their open and visibly empty hand to each other. It was a kind of surety, a gesture of trust which said, “See, I am unarmed, so you may safely let me approach.” As the story goes, soon the gesture itself took on meaning and the less noble, less lethal man on the street adopted the handshake as the proper way to greet others.

We do a lot of handshaking in the United States where we are outgoing, forceful, and externalized. We are told
We are unabashedly acquisitive, defining our progress in life by how much we have — how much wealth, influence, stored up knowledge, status or whatever. Every culture exhibits these traits to some extent, but there are several Eastern and South Pacific cultures where people are generally taught to be more introspective, more concerned with the quality of things than their quantity, more attuned with the interior spiritual life. In these cultures people do not shake hands when they meet. They may hug formally or kiss one another on the cheek, as in Eastern Europe and Arab states. They may bow softly, eyes turned to the ground, as in Japan and China. The Hawaiian greeting, termed “honi,” consists of placing the nostril gently beside that of the person greeted, a kind of sharing the breath of life. For Hindu(s) the greeting of choice is “Namaste,” the two hands pressed together and held near the heart with the head gently bowed as one says, “Namaste.” Thus it is both a spoken greeting and a gesture. The prayerful hand position is meant “to adorn, honor, celebrate or anoint.” Namaste means “I bow to you.” I am sure there are a lot of things going on in the heads of Americans when they shake hands, but I don’t think “I bow to you” is one of them.

It is always interesting, often revealing and occasionally enlightening to think about the everyday cultural traits and habits that evolve in different cultures around the globe. It is amazing how our little gestures can portray so much about how we view life and our fellow man.

By a handshake we Americans acknowledge our equality with others and not necessarily our “Respect”. We convey how strong we are, how nervous, how aggressive or passive. There is bold physicality to it, but it does very little to convey respect for each other’s humanity. For these and other reasons, Popes never shake hands. Kings never shake hands. Even mothers don’t shake hands with their own children. I think shaking hands is more about power than it is about humanity.

The humanity greetings of Namaste, kisses, and cheek touching for example, are quite different than handshakes. Kings Namaste, Guru(s) Namaste, nobles touch cheeks, and mothers kiss their own family. Just as many venerate our God, a holy man or even a holy place, our humanity greeting bespeaks of our inner valuing of the sacredness of the humanity in everyone we meet. It reminds us in a graphic manner, that we can see a reflection of our own humanity in everyone we meet. It is saying, silently, “I recognize the humanity in us both, and bow with respect before it.”

Initiating even our most mundane encounters with a humanity greeting can change everything. Instead of being short with the people I love the most, I give more of myself to them. Instead of walking by the custodian in the hall, I give him a humanity greeting and take interest in his day. Instead of passing it off, I see the sadness in the cashier’s eyes and offer a kind word. I take the time to stop and “chat” with my neighbor instead of rushing off to the next thing on my Saturday to do list. I start to fill my life with conscious purposeful actions that respect humanity rather than honor a faceless schedule.

Try offering a humanity greeting instead of a handshake the next time the situation presents itself. You might get a strange look, but behind that look is a soul beaming in the light of the respect and honor you are giving them.


Treating people with respect makes your world a nicer place to live in, whether it’s at home, at school, or out in your community. And it’s easy – all you have to do is treat people the way you like to have them treat you. Here are a few ideas.

  • Don’t insult people or make fun of them.
  • Listen to others when they speak.
  • Value other people’s opinions.
  • Be considerate of people’s likes and dislikes.
  • Don’t mock or tease people.
  • Don’t talk about people behind their backs.
  • Be sensitive to other people’s feelings.
  • Don’t pressure someone to do something he or she doesn’t want to do.

We live in a diverse nation made up of many different cultures, languages, races, and backgrounds. That kind of variety can make all our lives a lot more fun and interesting, but only if we get along with each other. And to do that we have to respect each other. In addition to the list above, here are some ways we can respect people who are different from us.

  • Try to learn something from the other person.
  • Never stereotype people.
  • Show interest and appreciation for other people’s cultures and backgrounds.
  • Don’t go along with prejudices and racist attitudes.
  • Develop an understanding of the importance of respectful behavior.
  • Become aware of the many ways in which they show both respect and disrespect toward each other.
  • Adopt a value for treating people respectfully.
  • Learn to appreciate people’s differences rather than fear them.
  • Become interested in learning more about their own roots and those of their schoolmates.


  1. Agree or disagree: It’s okay to insult or make fun of people as long as they don’t hear it.
  2. What are some common signs of disrespect that you see in people here at school? How do you feel about that?
  3. What do you dislike most about the way people treat each other here at school? What do you like the most? Why do you feel that way?
  4. Are there a lot of put-downs here at school? Are put-downs a sign of disrespect? How, in what way?
  5. Is there a difference between a put-down and an insult? What’s the difference?
  6. Do you have to like a person in order to be respectful, or can you be respectful to someone even if you don’t particularly care for him or her?
  7. When you’re with a group of kids, what things might other people do or say that make you feel good? What things make you feel bad?
  8. Do you think there is racism here at school? How is it expressed? How does that make you feel?
  9. Have you, personally, ever experienced racism or some other type of prejudice? What happened? How did it make you feel?
  10. Do the kids in your school tend to stay within their own racial and ethnic groups, or do they mix. Why do you think that happens here?
  11. Several of the kids in the video commented that they feel pressure to stay with their own kind rather than mixing. Do you find the same pressures here at your school?
  12. Do you think people are afraid of differences sometimes? Can you give some examples? Why do you think that’s true?
  13. Is it harder to respect someone who is very different from us? Why?
  14. What are the benefits of having friends who are different from us?
  15. Have you ever learned something new about a different culture from a friend?
  16. How well do you kids know each other? What things stand in the way of getting to know people better?
  17. What responsibilities do you feel you have toward your classmates?
  18. Is it ever okay to treat another person with disrespect?
  19. What are the benefits of treating people with respect?
  20. The kids in this video said they think everybody is entitled to be treated with respect. Do you agree?
  21. What was most meaningful to you in this video?
  22. Did anybody in this video say anything you disagree with? What would you say to that person?
To feed men and not to love them is to treat them as if they were barnyard cattle. To love them and not respect them is to treat them as if they were household pets.Mencius
The secret of education is respecting the pupil.Ralph Waldo Emerson
Respect commands itself and it can neither be given nor withheld when it is due.Eldridge Cleaver
Before and after practicing Judo or engaging in a match, opponents bow to each other. Bowing is an expression of gratitude and respect. In effect, you are thanking your opponent for giving you the opportunity to improve your technique.Jigoro Kano
Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.Albert Einstein
Old age adds to the respect due to virtue, but it takes nothing from the contempt inspired by vice; it whitens only the hair.Ira Gershwin
Be beautiful if you can, wise if you want to… But be respected, that is essential.Anna Gould
The porcupine, whom one must handle gloved, May be respected, but is never loved.Arthur Guiterman
Every individual has a place to fill in the world, and is important, in some respect, whether he chooses to be so or not.Nathaniel Hawthorne
A fool boasts of those who fear him; a wise man’s pride is those who respect him.Philip R. Breeze
There was no respect for youth when I was young, and now that I am old, there is no respect for age–I missed it coming and going.J. B. Priestly
Respect for ones parents is the highest duty of civil life.Chinese Proverb
It is the safeguard of the strongest that he lives under a government which is obliged to respect the voice of the weakest.Robert Purvis
Respect is love in plain clothes.Frankie Byrne
To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly; to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart; to bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never. In a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common. This is to be my symphony.William Henry Channin
Self-empowerment – that’s learning to respect other people’s music, but dance to your own tune as you master harmony within yourself.Doc Childre
Whoever is admitted or sought for, in company, upon any other account than that of his merit and manners, is never respected there, but only made use of. We will have such-a-one, for he sings prettily; we will invite such-a-one to a ball, for he dances well; we will have such-a-one at supper, for he is always joking and laughing; we will ask another because he plays deep at all games, or because he can drink a great deal. These are all vilifying distinctions, mortifying preferences, and exclude all ideas of esteem and regard. Whoever is had (as it is called) in company for the sake of any one thing singly, is singly that thing, and will never be considered in any other light; consequently never respected, let his merits be what they will.Lord Chesterfield
A youth is to be regarded with respect. How do you know that his future will not be equal to our present?Confucius
To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.Ralph Waldo Emerson
Our high respect for a well-read man is praise enough of literature.Ralph Waldo Emerson
Men are respectable only as they respect.Ralph Waldo Emerson
We may not return the affection of those who like us, but we always respect their good judgment.Libbie Fudim
Man and his deed are two distinct things. Whereas a good deed should call forth approbation, and a wicked deed disapprobation, the doer of the deed, whether good or wicked always deserves respect or pity as the case may be.Mahatma Gandhi
We never respect those who amuse us, however we may smile at their comic powers.Marguerite Gardiner
A society that does not recognize that each individual has values of his own which he is entitled to follow can have no respect for the dignity of the individual and cannot really know freedom.F.a. Hayek
There is a secret pride in every human heart that revolts at tyranny. You may order and drive an individual, but you cannot make him respect you.William Hazlitt
It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is.Hermann Hesse
Everybody likes and respects self-made men. It is a great deal better to be made in that way than not to be made at all.Oliver Wendell Holmes
The hat is the ultimum moriens of respectability.Oliver Wendell Holmes
My constituency is the desperate, the damned, the disinherited, the disrespected and the despised.Jesse Jackson
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness–That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such Principles and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. . . .Declaration of Independence of the United States of America
When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.Elizabeth Barrett Lao-Tzu
I must respect the opinions of others even if I disagree with them.Herbert Henry Lehman
Respectable men and women content with good and easy living are missing some of the most important things in life. Unless you give yourself to some great cause you haven’t even begun to live.William P. Merrill
There is, nevertheless, a certain respect and a general duty of humanity that ties us, not only to beasts that have life and sense, but even to trees and plants.Michel de Montaigne
When I approach a child, he inspires in me two sentiments; tenderness for what he is, and respect for what he may become.Louis Pasteur
Respect is for you to walk in my shoes.Author Unknown
Old age adds to the respect due to virtue, but it takes nothing from the contempt inspired by vice; it whitens only the hair.J. P. Senn
That man is successful who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much, who has gained the respect of the intelligent men and the love of children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who leaves the world better than he found it, whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul; who never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty or failed to express it; who looked for the best in others and gave the best he had.Robert Stevenson
Men naturally despise those who court them, but respect those who do not give way to them.Thucydides
He who does not have the courage to speak up for his rights cannot earn the respect of others.René G. Torres
In the restaurant, the elderly gentleman had just been served his food, and he bowed to offer silent thanks. To the young roughs at an adjoining table, this was a very funny thing, and one of them just had to show-out for his peers. When the old man lifted his head, one of the young men called to him: ”Hey Pops, do they all do that where you come from?” The old man answered: ”No, son. THE PIGS DON’T.”Bill Jackson
Every fairly intelligent person is aware that the price of respectability is a muffled soul bent on the trivial and the mediocre.Walter Lippmann
I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me . . . All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.Jackie Robinson
. . . what women want is what men want. They want respect.Marilyn vos Savant
Leadership is a two-way street, loyalty up and loyalty down. Respect for one’s superiors; care for one’s crew.Grace Murray Hopper
Man learns more readily and remembers more willingly what excites his ridicule than what deserves esteem and respect.George Horace
We can not expect to breed respect for law and order among people who do not share the fruits of our freedom.Hubert H. Humphrey
Back to H.F. Philosophy contents

Philosophy of Reverence and Humility

Henry Flynt                 (2003/09)

© Henry A. Flynt, Jr.



                  This is the second of the three essays which I have extracted from “Values, Reverence, Humility” (1997).

                  Some announcements are needed at the outset so that the reader will not misconstrue, or get lost in secondary issues.


                  This inquiry is not devotional literature.  I’m not advocating reverence and humility; nor am I railing against them as certain secularists might.  I was trying to break new ground in philosophical anthropology or personhood theory:  to understand what ‘reverence’ and ‘humility’ might mean, to surmise where these affections live.

                  Broadly, reverence and humility are affections which may be called spiritual, which presuppose that one is at a disadvantage.  That said, we need to get behind the words to the situations the words are applied to.  We find that given situations have been given opposite interpretations or appraisals by different thinkers.  So there are no truisms in the appraisal of these situations.  After seeking an understanding of the situations themselves, we may ask what the effect is of uniting them with a single label.

                  There is no slam-bang conclusion:  how far we have fallen, that one has to say that.


                  Through most of the 1997 draft, I suited myself by pondering the situation of one who “takes the world on one’s shoulders.”  The person for whom the determination of reality is within the scope of individual responsibility.  (It may be a mistake even to mention it, but Rilke depicted this perspective in conjunction with his character Malte Brigge.)  I do not address people who are content to “get along”—except insofar as they provide a milieu and a contrast. 

                  Much of the text, then, is interwoven with genius theory.  How did I have the nerve to write about issues which matter to only a few people?  Answer:  If I had been falsely modest, if I had pretended to be at more of a loss than I am, then I would have bored myself.  I insist on being mindful of the altered boundaries of possibility afforded by meta-technology etc.  Because the altered boundaries condition the possibility of inspiration.

                  My path is one of unique wariness toward the shared cognitive orientation.  I do not consign the responsibility of judgment to anyone else.  My process of disabusing myself of inner deceptions places myself at the vertex of judgment.

                  My path embodies a requirement of rigor:  because my process has to overmatch the part of the inherited culture thought to be unconquerable.  The person who wants a legitimate proof of the impossible (if there is one to be had) is after a lever to turn “reality” upside-down.  This person risks various social penalties—namely the resentment of the conventionally minded at having their sanity-mirage shattered.  He or she reaps a mixed reward.  All the same, this venture will shift the universe underneath him or her—public opinion or no public opinion.

                  The absolute endeavor proposes to pre-empt the entire future of science.  To do that changes the arena of the question.  The standard goal of cogitation, to discover the truth, is superseded.  For me, the escape from mental servility is bound up with the capacity for joy.  I only claim to be speaking for myself here.


                  All the while, through most of the 1997 manuscript, I did pretend to be at more of a loss than I am.  The public whom I address has underestimated personhood theory and the “evaluational processing of experience.”  To accommodate that public, I confine myself to the familiar in certain respects.  I speak of our full stature, of our fate—of ourselves as possibility—and yet:  I do not integrate the altered boundaries afforded by meta-technology etc.

                  I humor common sense:  in order to examine zones which the prevailing civilization places in shadow—zones which pertain to our stature or fate.  I address ordinary personhood, which is hierarchical, longitudinal, etc.

                  Speaking to the public about the person-world, I resorted to the language of truth and honesty and their opposites.

                  I conducted the argument in verbal abstractions, as if I were doing “modern” philosophy, whereas I have expressed major reservations about this modern approach.

                    The 1997 manuscript weaved back and forth, trying to reach a public, trying not to forget the insights to which my perspective is due.  The result was a soup, epistemologically.  I have explained that way of working:  I’m exploring, searching for results I want to commit to.  Once I find them, I hope to reconstruct them at the appropriate level.


                  What do I discover about reverence and humility?  These words have the connotations of groveling.  We are secular and democratic enough to be suspicious of groveling; groveling should not be necessary.  For all that, I am in a locale which is flooded with postmodernism, punk fanzines, the academic lionization of misbehavior and degradation.  These irritants motivated me to take another look at reverence and humility, I said in 1997. 

                  If people were equable to begin with, if they did not start in a theater of defilement, then nothing which connotes groveling would need to be urged as a virtue.  What is more, as I said, I concentrate on what ‘reverence’ and ‘humility’ might mean to one who takes the world on one’s shoulders.  Or—the 1997 draft is romantic in that I take once-in-a-lifetime cognitive insights, etc., as examples.  Occasionally, the 1997 draft became a romanticism of ultimate experiences as I would interpret the phrase.

                   I’m not sure we need an exhortation to be reverent and humble.  All that is required is not to have a chip on your shoulder; all that is required is to be able to listen.  People shouldn’t have to be exhorted to be equable and level-headed and curious; if they do have to be, it means they were ruined by the time you got to them.  They had drowned in self-hatred when you got to them.  Unfortunately, that may be a common condition.


                  I’ve just said that the 1997 draft was motivated by the sense of being flooded with postmodernism, punk fanzines, churlish flippancy which disguises itself as depreciating relativism.  In many passages, I’m holding up “irony man” as if I were debating him; I reply to gibes which sound idiotic but are supposed to be brilliant.  OK, there may be something to be learned by saying exactly what is wrong with “radical” gibes.

                  We may try to elucidate reverence and humility by contemplating their polar opposites.  But infinite cynicism doesn’t work as an iconoclastic absolute:  it is trivially self-defeating.  Postmodernism is not an iconoclastic absolute like the brend theory or cognitive nihilism or the civilization in one mind.

                  The mystique of infinite cynicism cannot usefully be understood in a historical vacuum the way an iconoclastic absolute can.  Postmodernism subsists only in a socio-historical arena:  in which a civilization is nearer to the end of a life-cycle than to its beginning.  The bluff of sophistication hides a decline in competence.  The slogan is that it is chic to be ruined; why do you suppose that someone would say that?  It is pride struggling to hide a defeat it cannot recover from.  It also bespeaks retardation.

                  In the 1997 draft, I ponderously worked my way to the conclusion that Postmodernist impudence was a wretched bluff—or less than a wretched bluff.  Now it is clear that my 1997 grappling with the social threat of Postmodernism impeded the thread of the argument.  This time around, I move all that to the third essay.  There is just one point which we need here.  Irony man’s “disproofs of the truth” are bluffs, or less than bluffs.

                  In fact, irony man’s ploy is very old, and should be familiar to every philosopher.  If you want to defend a belief which is anachronistic and intellectually indefensible, what do you say?  That nothing can be known, that everything is kerflooie—so we “might as well” go back to believing that the earth is flat or whatever the trash is.

                                                                                          •               •               •

I.  Person and Life-course

A.          This essay has no topic without a concept of the person, without a human self-definition.  Most of our reflections concern the self—taking the individual (or individual subjectivity) as the arena of “the development.”  So we need an account of the self; in this text, the account is a shifting compromise.  In “Analytical Sketch” (January 1997), I offered the following:

Each of us is a goal-seeking creature with self-consciousness, in a field of shared ideas, under an imperative of “development,” of making its “identity.”

We consist of caring and striving—and tone, or morale.  This essay would have no topic if indifferent inertness were our character.  A person has likes and dislikes, and has norms, aims, ideals.  Phenomenally, once one is past early childhood, one is always on the way from norms and ideals to other norms and ideals.  In lived experience, the self is not norm-free or ideal-free.

                  One progressively makes, shapes one’s identity.  The complexities of the phenomena teach us that one’s developing identity, one’s course of self-creation, unrolls on many levels.  There are common turns of phrase for reconsidering one’s direction:

“I can’t go on being the dupe.”

“If this is how it is, something must be done.”

Am I becoming what I ought to be?—can I become what I ought to be?  The outcome can be favorable or unfavorable.  One wins oneself or fails to do so.  In 1997, I was needlessly vague, calling it one’s fate.

                  The drama of winning oneself?—I can imagine the objection that many people’s lives meander without a point; they only “accomplish” what somebody forces them to accomplish.  Well, there are problems with philosophy argued in broad abstractions; there is no help for that here.  Aside from that, the objection simply picks the wrong moment to be condescending.  I don’t want to give it any more space.

                  Pride looms large here.  The pride which everyone has is the desire of self-admiration.  For the balance of people, pride is inseparable from one’s surmises about one’s standing with other people.  (Pride is desire of approval by self and others.)  In “Analytical Sketch,” I found pride to be people’s paramount motivation.

                  Elsewhere, I place the emphasis differently.  A human being’s personal identity (thematic identity) subsists in imagination, in the realm of comprehended meanings.  Given that an individual has an ideology, to assign oneself a place in that ideology is a procedure of the imagination.  In other words, to align one’s personal identity with the meaning of existence and the cosmos is an imaginative procedure.

                  Humans seek or enjoy material comfort, but not mindlessly.  They interpret their aspirations.  One receives or gains material comfort in a journey of meaning; it has to be legitimated.  In the social landscape, the most important thing to a human being is self-realization in this imaginative realm.

                  So.  In the arena of the self-regulated self and of longitudinal thematic identity, I commit and strive, in interaction with others.  And I must pay attention to the identities and conduct codes which people share.  Given that we are striving creatures, the avenue we pursue cannot be an indifferent consideration.  Either our deeds honor what awes us—or we despise ourselves.  [[When we hear claims to be above it all, or to be indifferent to it all, we again meet pride struggling to hide a defeat it cannot recover from.]]

                  Desire of approval by self and others—self-realization relative to a legitimating consensus—these depictions of motivation shade into each other.  (Only the emphasis is different.)  To continue with pride, it becomes preposterous, or self-endangering, if it is due to a “complacency” which is completely unprepared to be challenged.  Or, pride can consist in a person’s gyrations to contrive an admiration for self in the face of suspicions that there is little to admire.  When pride underestimates an adversary, or refuses to admit a need for help, it can be mortally dangerous to the prideful person.

                  Consider an individual’s direction in life.  Such a “choice” of direction pertains to a person-world which extends distantly, which is temporal.  Longitudinal identity is at issue.

                  There is another respect in which “choices” of this sort highlight the variegation of the person-world.  A “chosen” type of conduct or direction in life has concurrent consequences throughout the person.  It plays out among affections and among postures of denial. 

                  Seriousness and originality are vanishingly rare.  One is not able to cause them.  They emerge first, and then impel uncompromising comportments (as well as risk-taking, and safeguarding of the self).  They are correlative to respect for oneself, and to personal authority:  which is to say that they “do to” culturally more than they are “done to.”  Nobody concocts my seriousness and originality; it arrives—and it does to, rather than being done to.  [A possible synonym is “passion.”]

                  Various types of conduct cannot be mere matters of taste.  The conduct has correlatives throughout the person; or, types of conduct are not freely available—are not arbitrarily obtainable or obtained.  The conduct implicates the whole person.  People make their identities.—But within ranges determined by the natures they possess or lack.  A given conduct reflects the possession, or the lack, of a faculty (say).  And “making a different value judgment” cannot alter it.  A conduct may be expressive of an entire personal fate.  (A different sense of ‘fate’ in the 1997 draft.)  What, then, of winning oneself?  It means, whether I gain the reward of the constrained direction, or forfeit that reward through demoralization, folly, etc.

                  A life-path is not a mere matter of taste—when uncontrived élan enables it.  Or when hollowness and failure, and preposterous scorn, dominate—and one wills one’s own defeat on a certain level.  Or—if it involves taking stock of oneself, of what one has come to.  Or—if it involves the perception of whether one has a nature one will honor.


B.           Philosophical anthropology may well take



—personal mastery (i.e. control of one’s fate)

as human tropisms.  The life-affirming tropisms, let us say.  That’s not even to speak of honesty, for example, which I grapple with in much of my writing on human relations.  I don’t think there’s a tropism for honesty; there is an ingenuous candor, but children also discover craftiness of themselves.  [FN  All the while, there are many occasions when misdirection and concealment are benign or warranted and impose no shame on the person who practices them.  Honesty and dishonesty are both penalized from without.  The inner penalty to “dishonesty” is actually a penalty to delusion and betrayal, and it would take us far afield to speak about it here.]

                  If someone turns from a life-affirming course, the usual assumption is that he or she has been abused earlier in life.  Most people have the tropism to self-preservation and well-being—or we wouldn’t have lasted this long.  [FN  Where self-aggrandizement may sabotage itself is in the aggregate.  The myopically selfish pursuit of more and more powerful weapons.]

                  What indeed are we to make of the person who turns from a life-affirming course?  Is it possible that people are so utterly different that the atypical individual is not created by abuse, but is born kinky?  Born for senseless destruction?  (The cannibal Armin Meiwes who became a public figure in Germany in 2003—actually, it was his victim who was really baffling.)  If we were all like that all the time then we wouldn’t be here. 

                  The question of whether people are different for some reason other than “environment” has proved to be politically sensitive.  It’s a real question and official knowledge does not offer a trustworthy answer.

                  But again, let’s be clear.  If some people are born without the life-affirming tropisms, It would have to be rare.  When we come to Postmodernism, and its lionization of corruption and degradation, to seek an explanation in heredity does not help.  Postmodernism offers itself to a broad public as an ideology.  It plays on stereotypes of “outsiders” by announcing that the values of deceit and squalor and corruption and hollowness nurture outsiders.  The youth rebel’s self-destruction.  “Bad is good.”  In this theater, and that is what it is, only “squares” are honest and constructive.  (I have met ambitious “others” who believe that in affirming deceit and squalor and corruption and hollowness, they are advocating for themselves.)  It’s so ill-conceived that I can’t believe I have to write about it.  The reason Postmodernism has swept the culture has to reside in the civilization’s life-cycle, in the stage we have arrived at.

                  Are some people born different?  If it is a serious possibility, then philosophical anthropology is a dubious enterprise.  Let us set aside the destructive deviance of cannibal Meiwes etc.  (Could it be advantageous in the aggregate in reducing the population?)  A tiny number of us are running away from opportunism, from pretenses in the service of inferior aims.  It makes us the opposite of the rest of humanity.  Nobody instructed us to be this way; they weren’t qualified to so instruct us.  There is a patent difference here; and the burden of proof is on anybody who would call it superficial.  So, is there one description of “the self” for all people?  Hennix said no.  It’s a risky conclusion, but I can’t rule it out.  Limiting my observations to personal familiarity, it has not been proved that Hennix, or I, is assembled from the same pieces as the average person.  It has not been proved that Pandit Pran Nath was assembled from the same pieces as the average person.

                  Even so, the gulfs between people are not the whole story.  The atypical and the typical have much in common.  None of us walks on air.  Then, the atypical individual is a singularity who produces no lineage of like individuals.  Then, the exceptional achievement which is publicly visible presupposes a continuum between people.  The atypical individual springs from a culture which is a collective creation, a collective witness.  An environment of receptivity enables the atypical ones to extend themselves.  Just here, the individual’s fate is bound up with interpersonal relations.

                                                                                          •               •               •

II.  Reverence

                  One of the capacities comprising spirit (so-called) is studious detachment; and to that we may add a comportment called analytical thought or ratiocination.  It is worth remarking that European commentators at the beginning of the twentieth century placed opposite interpretations on clinical observation.  Some commentators avowed that clinical observation presupposes reverence.  Other commentators insisted that it is hampered by reverence.

                  Some said that you have to be reverent just to study a rock as a geologist.  Presumably, meaning that the geologist has to be serious, sincere, persistent—cannot be dismissive, jeering, resentful, perfunctory, numb.  (Reverence proposed as an antonym of mockery, impatience, narcissism.)

                  In the supplements to this manuscript, I will offer a definition of piety.  The twentieth-century secularists avowed that to understand what is atypical or formidable requires one not to be pious.  You cannot appreciate the object if you set your faculties aside and seek a pleasant vagueness or dreaminess.  [wish the object to sweep over you, sweep you away, overwhelm you, transport you.]

                  My snap reaction to this imaginary debate between the pious and their critics is:  if reverence is an affection which presupposes that one is at a disadvantage, it does not help for the geologist to come to the rock reverently.  The attitude of confidence, the attitude that I have an advantage, is as productive or more so.  What is needed to cognize the rock is the simple absence of contempt (and/or patience, receptivity); that is not piety.  Studious detachment is clinical acuteness.  No awe is needed; awe is a hindrance.  The simple absence of contempt would be a matter of course:  if one were not submerged in the affections of dismissiveness, resentment, mockery (these affections are reactive).—If one were not submerged in the affection of numbness (a facet of subjugation).

                  The ingenuous acceptance which we call for—is it similar or the same as the child’s virtue of curiosity-not-clouded-by-ridicule-and-resentment?


                  A limited creature (a pet, an infant) presumably can express gratitude via affection, but does not feel reverence (in the word’s principal meaning).  Even pathetic gratitude and affection already recognize their object as a person, a creature of sentience and volition who has the advantage of oneself and wills benevolence.

                  A benefit from an inanimate source is called the beneficiary’s good luck.  If school is snowed out on the day you didn’t do your homework, you shouldn’t feel reverence for the snow.  In offering this explication, we come closer to the normative meaning of reverence.  (“Reverence for a rock” was a usage which we found to be explicable, but overwrought.)

                  Reverence, properly speaking, accompanies an understanding (a deluded understanding?)—even if the moment of reverence is a moment of feeling and not of ratiocination.  Understanding in itself is not reverence, however; and reverence may be an obstruction to understanding, as well as a consequence of it.

                  Intimidation, fear, etc. are phases of respect which presuppose that the object is a threat to me.  Of themselves, they are not reverence.  (Of course, cultural messages do not present clear-cut distinctions.  The God of the Bible is on a hair-trigger of vanity and so is continually hurting his favorites because they didn’t serve his vanity enough.  You must love the one who harms you to escape additional harm.  And personal relationships may not present clear-cut distinctions.)


                  Reverence is something more obscure than gratitude for a kindness.  You feel reverence not for a deed, but for a state of affairs, a condition.  Reverence is a feeling which follows, accompanies, ostensible understanding.  The essential qualities are fascination—and an understanding that a condition benefits you which you could not have manufactured.  You resonate emotionally with an other who has the advantage of you; you do so because its intentions are beneficial to you.  (Immensely beneficial on balance.)  Reverence pertains to an entire state of affairs, not to another’s beneficial deed.

                  Reverence, in the normative sense, has an object which is personal.  Then—indeed—which “others” are persons?

                  In reverence, that which confronts you has the advantage of you [is perhaps more vivid to you than yourself].  Reverence is affection and gratitude toward something you understand as beneficent and as having the advantage of you.

                  You resonate with what you behold, you are attracted and fascinated by it.  Now—a continuum from reverence to piety?  You suspend your own authority and analysis and seek to be transported by the object’s advantage of you.  You suspend authority and analysis, say, and seek a pleasant vagueness or dreaminess.  Again cf. the supplements to this manuscript.


                  In general, I would have said that reverence and humility are simply mystification.  Why is reverence needed at all?  Why aren’t understanding, and ingenuous attentiveness, sufficient for a complete person?  Evidently the universe does not militate entirely for me or against me.  Why do I have to have an emotional reaction to a totality, given that it is not all one thing or the other?  Why do I have to personalize the universe?  Where am I getting my expectations?  What do I suppose the universe has promised me? 

                  [Am I supposed to be grateful for existence?  It’s an amenity, an opportunity, which I couldn’t have earned.  Well, causal thinking is implicit here.  I return to the topic in the “Light of Being” manuscripts.]

                  As the conventional objects of reverence are presented to me, I am going to say that the understandings which recommend them as objects of reverence are deluded.  We only disable our possibilities:  by suspending our own authority and our faculties and wanting the power of the object to mesmerize us, to transport us.

                  Reverence is evidently a transfer of gratitude and affection to an impersonal situation, depending heavily on what is ostensibly understood.  Just for that reason, it is at risk of being inappropriate.  The awe people had in ancient times for the celestial bodies turned out to be based on preposterous notions about what those bodies were.

[[As I already said, we assume an account of the person, the self, to have something to talk about.  Then the person has to be complemented by other people and by “an entire universe.”  What is the account of them?  I don’t want to simply affirm common sense.  At the same time, we have to hew to a recognizable landscape to have anything to talk about.  Again, a shifting compromise.  These provisos are unavoidable when we speak of “reverence for the astrophysical universe.”]]

Let us not stop with individual celestial bodies.  When the apologist for the supernatural demands reverence for the universe, he shows how jerry-rigged his apologism is.  The astrophysical universe-picture is a speculation, a product of conceptualization.  The religious apologist demands an ultimate commitment to this speculation; and yet it is a category mistake to cultivate reverence for a mindless and indifferent “universe.”  Indeed, if the universe-picture is that of astrophysics, then it militates against the moral-theological conclusions which the apologist wants.  So the apologist is left with an ultimate commitment to a totality which he cannot even define coherently.

                  These observations can be extended to the asceticism which religions occasionally require.  (See the supplement; in our time, asceticism is seen as a chump’s game.)

                  Reverence has an “aesthetic” side.  The object not only tests my understanding; it fascinates me and appeals to me.  Actually, an inanimate object which fascinates me, and which I do not earn or manufacture, can evoke my feeling.  A seashell.  But the object has no intention toward me.  Unstrained thought would be unable to locate a benevolent intention as its cause.  Then any so-called reverence I felt for it would be an aesthetic reaction.  I would be gratified that such an object exists, presents itself.

                  Reverent curiosity:  a word for it is wonder.


                  Our full stature, or possibility, has a rationale like self-consciousness.  We always extend farther than the “plays” we set in motion.  Our stature extends above any heights we know how to invent and install.  What we are towers above any hierarchy of goals we can invent.

                  All the while, we are not lords of all we survey; we remain partly helpless no matter what.  Moreover, we are incapable of an equilibrium of pleasure.  This assures that we are always “unsatisfied” in our longitudinal thematic existence.  [There are episodes in which dissatisfaction is turned off.  The word ‘overjoyed’ implies that gratification need not be an equilibrium.]

                  What guise should our awareness, our appreciation, of our full stature, our “sentience,” have?  Accepting that we will discuss self-scorn in essay III, what is the affirmative opposite of self-scorn?  Is it clinical detachment?  If such a neutral apprehension of our full stature were possible, would it be a lucid apprehension?—or would it be stupid?

                  We are creatures of inspiration.  If we apprehend ourselves while favorably disposed, why wouldn’t our caring, striving, life-tone carry forward in that self-apprehension?  (What is there to be clinical about?)  The favorable self-apprehension is an understanding-feeling about the one who understands and feels.  (To turn all feeling off wouldn’t expand us, it would truncate us—and anyway, it’s a pose, we don’t actually do it.)  The feeling to be appreciated lives in appreciation’s center, feeling’s center.  Depending on understanding and perception, this apprehension is also a discovery in the realm of feeling and life-tone, a relish of life which has not been earned or manufactured.

                  Extending beyond the purposes we invent, our possibility has the advantage of us in our favor.  (We may need to stop refusing to be impressed—then:]  To admit to our stature is inspiring.  It switches on our capabilities.

                  One who claims to see human possibility without reverence would in effect claim to surpass oneself immeasurably.  In fact he or she would see nothing, would evince a blindness of stupidity or denial.  (Or, perhaps, the callowness of the child who has not yet been challenged, who has not yet had to insist on itself in the face of derision.)  If we are not awed, we have not apprehended our full stature lucidly. 

                  Again:  As observer and observed, as an interested party and an oriented one, we can’t validly be condescending to ourselves, even if we want to be.  One owes reverence to one’s sentience and possibility—and presumably to that of others. 

                  Any such reverence has to be squared with:  the reality that specific other people threaten to harm me—both because they are deficient and because they are selfishly abundant.  There is no implication here that we ought to be saintly fools.

                  Sentience and possibility—those defining conditions of persons—are open to:

—one’s full stature (“reality-type”)

—winning oneself (relative to the constrained direction).

                  [Reservations.  Are these conclusions supposed to be based on a shell of humanness independent of the human self-definition of any particular civilization?  And-what of the speculative limitations of philosophical anthropology from I.B above?]


Afterward on justice

                  If we characterize history as “tragedy” because of the aggression, the selfishness, the sadism, then we impose justice norms on society (mentally or in discourse).  Let us take a step back.  Where was it written …?  There never was an initial external promise that humanity would be able to live up to “the” justice norms.  All the while, the authorities claim that justice exists and that they have a monopoly of it.

                  At this point, let me offer some universalist reflections which bring us back to an idea we have just floated.  (The very universalism of the argument may be out of fashion today, but that doesn’t make it a mistake.)

                  What shall we base ourselves on?  Shall we judge what society delivers by the ideals which the authorities associate themselves with?  Or shall we base ourselves on the lack of an initial external promise that humanity is rational and decent?  If we consider that rationality and decency were never promised by anybody with the capacity to deliver, then to complain about injustice in history may make the mistake of judging the tiger by the principles of pacifism.  The tiger is a predator by nature, we say.  Even if we confine the tiger, we do not instill new values in it.  The tiger will never undertake to be a pacifist.

                  There is another analogy with the tiger.  Aggression and selfishness may have been indispensable to the elaboration of human powers over thousands of years, just as predation is to the tiger’s nourishment.  Even if humans were capable of primitive harmony, that doesn’t prove that it would have brought us to our full stature.

                  But is the tiger a fair comparison with humans?  The tiger cannot reflect on what it does.  We do.  The supposition that nothing a priori tells against the ruthless use of people is contradicted by the case for reverence for our possibility in the abstract—give or take the reservations I expressed after making that case.

                                                                                          •               •               •

III.  Humility

                  We might be wary of demands for humility just as we are wary of demands for reverence.  Is it not subservience that is being demanded?  Are we not now secular and democratic?  Knowledge is no longer sacred.  It does not test the prospective knower morally.  The aristocracies have been overthrown.  Only merit can elevate a person above me, and that elevation pertains only to one excellence, not to our relative status as persons.

                  This is all very brave.  It proposes that subservience is merely a product of upbringing.  Even worse, if we count Freud’s occult psychology as modern, subservience may be an ingrained comportment that persists from childhood even as the sufferer does not recognize it for what it is.

                  Well, I don’t know that it gets us any farther forward to announce that subservience is merely a product of upbringing.  It makes me think of romantic selection (object-choice, in psychoanalysis).  Whom you select may be a matter of an instilled fixation.  That you select could as well be innate.  What democratic dogma pre-judges, I don’t want to pre-judge. 

                  Perhaps it is the norm for people to hunger for a master to kneel to.  Perhaps democracy makes this human trait worse by throwing the role of lord up for grabs. 

                  Then the conclusion here is that if humility is a fault, modernity does nothing to deliver us from it.  We will be able to find humility as often as we find impertinence.  Very few people gain their identity by telling themselves that nobody is worthy to be their hero.  Imitation is too important as a way of extending ourselves.


                  I wish that the scientific materialists could be commanded to speak on humility; I wonder what they would say.  Humility is a personalistic comportment.  One would expect the scientific materialists, as anti-dualists or psychephobes, to dismiss humility as a fiction like all mental comportments. 

                  At the same time, the scientific materialists always forget that they shouldn’t be persons.  They gratuitously adopt postures which they have never even thought about defending.  They display an abrupt, unreflective sententiousness regarding those moral issues which connect to their social identities.  (Forgetting that since they are mere androids—not to say electric fans—they shouldn’t have voluntary social identities.)

                  In their “human” transactions, the scientific materialists just can’t trip over themselves often enough.  In their contempt for the psyche and for humanism, they may decide that humility is for losers.  Because they have thrown off their masters, they themselves are masters of all they survey.  Others may know defeats, comedowns; not them.  They are so cool that nothing gets to them.  Of course, that is already wildly incongruous with their sententiousness—but then, these geniuses of logic wouldn’t know consistency if it came up and bit them.

                  At the Baltimore astrophysics conference of June 2008, Michael Turner said regarding the puzzle of dark energy, “You have a job, to go knock on everyone’s door and say this is the opportunity of a lifetime.”  Perhaps this is a very thin example, but the exhortation to mobilize enthusiasm and dedication relative to a consensus goal, which erupts because something remote and abstract has just been understood—isn’t that personalistic?  Doesn’t it conjure up more than one future and make the actual future depend on human choice?  In their “human” transactions, they seem to have the same problem of “needing to act” that theology does.

                  All the while, they expect the laity to be humble before science.  The truth is counter-intuitive, quantitative, and difficult:  maybe you will never understand it.  Indeed, their enterprise, science, pitilessly puts you in your place.  It teaches you that you are nothing but a speck in an indifferent universe.  It teaches you that your understanding that there is something for you to understand is a contemptible illusion.  They do not have to be humble, but you have to be humble before them.  They do not have to be good, but you have to be good to them.

                    The value system of today’s youth rebellion industry, or sassiness industry, has a point of tangency with the scientific materialists.  Humility is for losers.  Honor and trust are virtues only to the pompous.  The cool kid adopts a gutter’s-eye view, and proclaims himself lord of all he surveys.  Winners only know “fun.”  Nothing gets to him:  there is no problem that cannot be solved beneath sunglasses by an evil grin.


                  We have taken note of two postures—one well-organized, one silly—because my readers may be intimately familiar with them.  But let us now ponder humility without the restrictiveness of willful folly.

Any particular experience of being outdone

                  Humility can be an imposed personal experience in anybody’s life.  To be individually humbled, to be put in one’s place.  It can be an irreparable loss.  It can be an opportunity which calls on you to recognize it as such.  (If you don’t recognize it, that can expose you as a dolt.)

                  The comportment called humility is concomitant to an event, namely being humbled.  One is palpably overpowered or outdone.  It may then be a feeling of helplessness and dependence.  To be shown in a particular case that you overestimated your power.  To discover in a particular case that your self is inadequate.

                  We come to humility instinctively when we are palpably outdone, overpowered.  Something does not have to be fascinating, appealing, benevolent to humble you.  Suppose you swim where there is a warning about sharks, and a shark bites your leg off.  The shark humbles you.  There is nothing benign about it.

                  Being humbled in a more recondite way.  The emergence, appearance of objective norms which override your norms.  To learn that the standards by which you have judged something are themselves the mistake.  “I realized that my entire previous life was a lie and a fraud.”

                  Humility is necessary to reverence, but is not the whole of reverence.

                  The noble person may well be a person who confronts you with an overwhelming advantage.  Their “contribution” may pull your universe out from under you.  Is there a humility at the level of reverence, a humility which signifies that an abstract understanding has been deeply felt?  If, on the other hand, you do not realize that you have been outdone, it shows you up as numb, stupefied.  You lack humility to a fault.


                  Speaking of a particular experience of being outdone, the addict at the threshold of recovery provides an example.  This juncture in a life is utterly prosaic, and yet not prosaic.  Berndt reminds us of a commonplace, that the first of the Twelve Steps is to admit that one is powerless over one’s addiction, that one cannot end one’s addiction by will-power.  Addiction is master of you.  An experience of surrender is the first gate to recovery. 

                  Actually, there is more than one “attitude problem” (if that is what we choose to call it) which you cannot overcome by will power.  But each of these attitude problems plays out differently.

                  The cool kid is often an addict, and at some point he or she may have had enough of being a cool kid, and contemplate recovery.  At that point, whether to humble oneself is a life-or-death choice.  But where does it take you and how is it effective?  On the face of it, one rings in peer communication, a peer network, in place of one’s will-power.  Then one’s self-discipline is coming as much from counterpart sentiences as from within.

                  Addiction is a particular risk to oneself.  It is pictured as harming nobody but oneself.  It may not be illegal.  It is not kept secret from the sympathetic, only from the unsympathetic.  It has public constituencies of admiration.  (It is an ordeal that proves adulthood—or that horrible Postmodern quality, transgressiveness.)  To enter a milieu devoted to sobriety, then, can supply what will-power cannot.  To divulge one’s shortcomings to the congregation, and then be congratulated for however much sober time one has, can be another gate to recovery.

                  It is prosaic because these days, anybody is a recovering addict.  But the whole person, as a tangle of causation, has detours, not all of them at the surface of the mind.  You cannot do what you need to do by conscious self-discipline alone.


The imperfection of the human lot

                  Humility is implicit in the human lot.  Anybody is the center of his or her microcosm, but it does not follow that he or she is master of all he or she surveys.  Anyone is continuously taught his or her helplessness and dependency.  Anyone is continuously liable to frustration and suffering.

                  There is a helplessness I cannot transcend.  I am always at risk of being crushed by pitiless powers, whether they are called nature or collective human folly. 

                  We will never be fulfilled in the sense of reaching a sustainable equilibrium of pleasure.  The hot button of gratification—conspicuously proffered in the twentieth century by competing schools of naturalism—does not exist.  The totality is not harmonious. There are irremediable tragedies.  There are wrongs that will never be remedied.  There are lost opportunities.

                  [Again:  Is this supposed to be based on a shell of humanness independent of every civilization’s human self-definition?]

                  The universe does not militate exclusively for me or against me.  History is sprawling, and out-of-control—so that “progress” comes about along corrupt paths.  Humanity has “ascended” over the centuries via myths—there’s no escaping it.

                  People who rank low according to wisdom’s values have to be served:  Alexander, Napoleon.  Hegel tried to be realistic by praising these men as world-historical Caesars.  Alexander in particular attained little well-being.  The Caesars were killed by enemies they created.  Hegel tells us that their service was to History and to their posthumous fame, not to themselves as living selves.

                  A person who insists on integrity becomes invisible, is forced to exist as an eccentric hobbyist and hermit.  One can construct a realm of personal values which one considers superior to public life.  One can then deplore public life.  If one imagines that one’s work will have a posthumous cash value, one can even imagine that one is being robbed.

                  One may also envision utopian subversive endeavors, thereby raging against the corruption which pervades collective life.

[One motivation of principle which led me to Communism was the spectacle of “grants” being awarded to “cultural aspirants.”  To reward real geniuses would require the authorities to have a framework in which the very standards of worth could be debated—and that doesn’t happen.  I couldn’t stand watching it play out.  “Grants” go to professional ladder-climbers.  In the way of the world, the authorities can’t know which contribution is most deserving.  The only just solution is for the collective to provision its members as a matter of principle, separating their survival from the relative worths of their contributions.]


Respect for instruction

                  There is a humility which you need to peruse my body of work productively.  (I would say the same about Hennix’s body of work.  Again, I’m limiting myself to personal familiarity.)  But let me reframe what to me is a personal lesson in general terms.

                  Many publicists utter one sentence which destroys trust at the outset.  Many tendencies in the public arena are charlatanism, and even know that they are. 

                  Given that a presentation is offered which is free of trust-destroying lapses.  How about conceding that you are unfinished and have something to learn?  How about considering familiarization as a worthy goal?  How about granting that homework may reasonably be expected from you?  How about conceding that you may have been disserved by standards of judgment which were inculcated in you? 

                  If I may reasonably ask you to start climbing a high and unfamiliar mountain, if there is a prospect that you will benefit greatly from doing so, then humility well serves you. 

                  At other times and places, all this would have been so truistic that it wouldn’t have been said.  Today, it is a shocking novelty that we have to fight for.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *