I agreed, but was a bit embarrassed: since I've got two out of the three. My wife's opined that if bad hips hadn't kept me from excelling at sports: I'd be insufferable. She's probably right.
Self-Esteem Run Amok
Since pride is a sin, is it wrong to be proud of my voice?
Yes — and no. It depends on what sort of "pride" is involved.
When "pride" is self-esteem run amok, it's one of the seven capital sins: along with avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth or acedia. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1866)
Ancient Greeks called it hubris. It's a bad idea in stories, from "Oedipus Rex," to Milton's "Paradise Lost" and Paul Ryder's "Cosmic Monsters."
Most of us don't get the sort of reality checks featured in Greek tragedies and epic poems, but hubris is a bad idea in real life, too.
"...A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you...."Since I'm a Catholic, I see it as a cause of envy, unjust social and economic inequities, war, and hatred of God. (Catechism, 2094, 2317, 2540)
("Mere Christianity," C. S. Lewis)
Getting a Grip About Humility
One sort of humility is a sort of make-believe: smart folks pretending they're not; strong people pretending they're puny. Acting that way is "polite" in some situations, but in its own way it's as unreasonable as hubris.
Another sort of humility is the opposite of hubris. I'll get back to that.
St. Thomas Aquinas had quite a bit to say about pride, reason, and getting a grip, including this:
"...'A man is said to be proud, because he wishes to appear above (super) what he really is'; for he who wishes to overstep beyond what he is, is proud. Now right reason requires that every man's will should tend to that which is proportionate to him. Therefore it is evident that pride denotes something opposed to right reason...."I'm "proud" of my voice, to the extent that I'm happy about having the native ability, and opportunities to learn how it works. That's using "right reason" to understand how I fit into my culture. But boasting about what God gave me would be an "offense against truth." (Catechism, 2481)
("The Summa Theologica," St. Thomas Aquinas, translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province (Benziger Bros. edition, 1947))
As if life wasn't complicated enough, I could even be proud of being humble:
"...Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, 'By jove! I'm being humble', and almost immediately pride—pride at his own humility—will appear...."
("The Screwtape Letters," C. S. Lewis)
A Balanced View
Humility is a virtue. Being delusional, not so much. (September 1, 2013)
As a Catholic, I'm expected to have a balanced view of myself, others, and God. It's okay to admit that I'm pretty good at writing, for example: as long as I acknowledge God's role in my existence and abilities.
I'm also expected to avoid pride. It's a matter of moderation: remembering that God's God, and I'm not.
"HUMILITY: The virtue by which a Christian acknowledges that God is the author of all good. Humility avoids inordinate ambition or pride, and provides the foundation for turning to God in prayer (2559). Voluntary humility can be described as 'poverty of spirit' (2546)."Humility is a good idea, but blindly accepting every humiliation isn't smart.
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, Glossary, H)
"PRIDE: One of the seven capital sins. Pride is undue self–esteem or self–love, which seeks attention and honor and sets oneself in competition with God (1866)."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, Glossary, P)
As St. Thomas Aquinas pointed out, God gave us brains, and expects us to use them:
"...However, it is the mark of humility to accept humiliations without hesitation; not in all cases, of course, but when it is necessary. For, since humility is a virtue, it does not work without discretion. So, it is not proper to humility, but to stupidity, for a man to accept every kind of humiliation, but what must be done for the sake of virtue a person does not reject because of humiliation...."Being humble means accepting the truth: about myself, God, the universe, everything.
("Contra Gentiles," Book Three: Providence, Part II: Chapters 84-163; Thomas Aquinas; translated by Vernon J. Bourke; via Dominican House of Studies, Priory of the Immaculate Conception (www.dhspriory.org)) [emphasis mine]
Believing that God is truth, and that truth cannot contradict truth, leads to a counter-cultural conclusion — Science, studying this wonder-filled universe, is okay. (Catechism, 159, 214-217)
Sin and Science
Over the generations, some scientists have acted as if they were "beyond good and evil," using people for occasionally-lethal experiments.
Between real atrocities like what happened at Willowbrook State School, and more-or-less lurid 'mad scientist' movies, it's small wonder that some folks think science is bad. (December 17, 2012; November 18, 2011)
Science, studying this universe, is part of being human. But like anything else we do, ethics matter. Experiments that needlessly endanger the subject are not right: even if the person understands the danger, and agrees to the experiment. (Catechism, 2292-2295)
The trick is hanging onto humility:
"...Our human understanding, which shares in the light of the divine intellect, can understand what God tells us by means of his creation, though not without great effort and only in a spirit of humility and respect before the Creator and his work...."Science can't tell us why we exist, or what our goals should be. But science and technology can, used properly, let us help each other more effectively. (Catechism, 1723, 1942, 2292-2293, 2493)
We are made "in the image of God," stewards of this world: with the power and responsibility that goes with the job.
"4 What are humans that you are mindful of them, mere mortals that you care for them?More of my take on hubris, humility, and taking the universe 'as is:'
"5 Yet you have made them little less than a god, crowned them with glory and honor."
"...The development of science and technology, this splendid testimony of the human capacity for understanding and for perseverance, does not free humanity from the obligation to ask the ultimate religious questions. Rather, it spurs us on to face the most painful and decisive of struggles, those of the heart and of the moral conscience...."
("Veritatis splendor," John Paul II (August 6, 1993))
- "Cuddly Dinosaurs and Feathers"
(August 8, 2014)
- "Science, Faith, and Albertus Magnus"
(February 23, 2014)
- "Smallpox, Science, and Silliness"
(February 12, 2014)
- "Humble, Yes: Delusional, No"
(September 1, 2013)
- "Faustus, Mephistopheles, and a Simple Contract: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?"
(September 20, 2011)
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