Be Humble & Curious
Our reluctance about continued learning has resulted in huge damage to humanity’s attempts at a harmonious life on our planet. This is especially true about religions where critical inquiry is prohibited, and curious exploration is discouraged. As a result, most people live their complex adult lives based on what they learned as children — answers that are inadequate to meet the challenges of living in a complex and complicated world.
We must overcome our obstinacy of omniscience and ignorance, and embark on a path of curiosity, and exploration which requires continuous learning, unlearning, and relearning. “What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know; it’s what we know for sure, that just ain’t so.” These words of Mark Twain have been a guiding light in my relentless curiosity to take daily sips from the ocean of knowledge, only to realize that a lifetime of even guzzling from that deep ocean won’t make a dent in the plethora of data and information out there.
After living on this planet for seven decades and earning five academic degrees, two certifications and two licenses — with a total of 26 letters of the alphabet soup after my name — I humbly admit that I know very little of what is there to know about the world, the universe, life, and everything else. As actor Alan Alda rightfully notes, “With every door into nature we nudge open, hundred new doors become visible, each with its own inscrutable combination lock. It is both an explanation and challenge because there’s always more to know.”
The Socratic paradox, “I know that I know nothing” is true for me as are the words of Shakespeare in Hamlet: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamed of in your philosophy.” So, wearing the proud badge of ignorance, we should be humble enough to consciously unlearn what we have unconsciously learned, with relentless curiosity. We should be like children at a cosmic kindergarten, always raising our hands up to ask yet another question.
The virtue of humility is a prerequisite for life on Earth because the word humility comes from the Latin root, humus, which means ground. We should resist the temptation to float above the ground with an inflated ego, and insist on being grounded, so that we can live a well-rounded life. Every time egoistic feelings flood my mind, remembering Harvard professor Cornel West’s graphic description about our beginnings on Earth has helped me tether me to the ground.
“We are all featherless, two-legged, linguistically conscious creatures born between urine and feces. Saint Jerome and Sigmund Freud and Bill Clinton have all reminded us that we all emerge in the funk. I can put on my three-piece suit if I want to, but I emerged among the juices and the fluids and the stink and the stench as a little baby hollering out for help and protection, hoping for a little love and care, and meaning as I meet inevitable and inescapable and unavoidable extinction someday very soon.”
(From Cosmic Kindergarten: Earthly Lessons for a Heavenly Life)