Whisper words of Wisdom

I am still struggling with the concept of moral humility–an elusive but important goal.

A good friend of mine, much smarter than me, told me that he does not feel he can do more than ask gentle questions. He is very effective at avoiding excessive arrogance. He practices moral humility. I aim to move in that direction.

That does not mean I should be silent. I think that if we see someone acting badly, particularly if that person is in power, we should speak. We should do that respectfully, but we may and should do that. I am trying to teach myself to criticize gently, without pontificating. That is not easy.

Today I learned something valuable for a fellow walker in our walking club.  He is a strong Christian—even an evangelical Christian I would guess—and said he had learned something valuable recently.  He said when talking to someone he never tried to convert the other person. Rather, he said,  “I ask questions,” he said, “all I want to do is leave a stone in the other person’s shoe”.

I know that I have been pontificating too much. For example, I have been very critical of capitalism.  I have never denied that capitalism has done a lot of good. It has pulled hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty into poverty. That is a momentous achievement. We need to do even better, but that is not nothing. It is a lot. I doubt that I have converted anyone.

Yet that does not mean we must give capitalism a free pass. We cannot allow capitalists free rein to destroy life on the planet as sometimes they seem bent on doing. We must criticize, but do so with humility always remembering that we mightbe wrong. Recall the uncertainty principle. Act as if we might be wrong.

As the Beatles said, “Whisper words of wisdom. Let it be.”

4 thoughts on “Whisper words of Wisdom

  1. “If you see something, say something.” —LA Metro. “Do the right thing.” –Alphabet (Google) > “Don’t be evil.” –Google.

    What you’re seeing is a societal trend towards assuming moral responsibility rather than being a passive actor. The next question I have is does wanting to be a morally responsible person make morally responsible people, or are we missing something?

    The Beatles are primarily nihilistic –does nihilism and wanting to be morally responsible go hand in hand?

    1. I would say it is important to desire to be morally responsible. Otherwise, If you don’t care, you for sure will do nothing. Of course desire alone is not enough. I disagree entirely that the Beatles are nihilistic. So wanting to be morally responsible does not at all go hand in hand with nihilism

      1. “Let it be.” —is this not an advocation for “Do nothing?”.

        “Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders…” (Hey Jude) —don’t burden yourself with the world’s problems.

        “Father McKenzie
        Writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear
        No one comes near
        Look at him working
        Darning his socks in the night when there’s nobody there
        What does he care?” (Eleanor Rigby) –why does Father McKenzie work, it doesn’t matter “what does he care”, there’s no point, no meaning, nihilism.

        In which case it is at odds with being morally responsible (“If you see something, say something.”). I like the Beatles as a band, but that doesn’t necessarily change their philosophical outlook.

  2. johnny
    1. are you talking about intellectual humility or moral humility?
    2. and what would you do with hitler? in other words what to do with evil? was bonhoeffer’s position morally humble? does the evolution of proto-fascism all over the planet, including south of the border, call for moral humility?
    3. without being overly dramatic, at a granular level when viewed from a perspective of indigent children i would say i saw plenty of evil over 40 professional years. i have little patience for moral humility when taking that kind of repression into account. what would your perspective be if you lived on a canadian reservation?

Leave a Reply