By Jose Aguto
History is littered with the graceless exits of despots clinging to the chimera of the temptation of secular power for personal glorification above the good of others. We know this from the Gospels as one of the three temptations the devil offered to Jesus, which he in turn rejected, and then returning to the world, offering the premier example of a good and just life, abounding in self-sacrifice and love for all people, and powered by boundless grace, strength and peace of Divine origin.
We of human civilization have not yet had enough leaders who have rejected this temptation, and who have made such love an essential part of their leadership Thus far, personal and collective ego-driven dominance of others and nature has exerted the strongest torque upon the moral arc of human history. Not without moments of clarity and togetherness, mind you, but in aggregate a downward spiral. Today, climate disruption stands as the most epic manifestation of this devolutionary pride: of individual and collective pride identified by prophets, sages, and intellectuals across many millenniums and traditions as the first and deadliest sin.
“Humility is the antidote. It is a virtue the devil cannot imitate, fake or overcome, and therefore flees from the souls housing, nurturing and cultivating such a sublime presence. Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues.” – Confucius
“Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.” – St. Augustine
“Explore the depths of humility, not with your intellects but with your lives, lived in prayer of humble obedience. And there you will find that humility is not merely a human virtue. For there is a humility that is in God Himself. Be ye humble as God is humble. For love and humility walk hand in hand, in God as well as in man.
But there is something about deepest humility which makes men bold. For utter obedience is self-forgetful obedience. . . I must confess that, on human judgment, the world tasks we face are appalling—well-nigh hopeless. Only the inner vision of God, only the God-blindedness of unreservedly dedicated souls, only the utterly humble ones can bow and break the raging pride of a power-mad world.” – Thomas R. Kelly, Holy Obedience
“In a world besotted with messaging expressed and implied, placed before the idol of self-glorification, this sounds like madness. But we cannot solve a problem with the same (multi-millennial) thinking that caused it.” – Albert Einstein
The new thinking is to apply the old wisdom.
As you can see by the quotes, these are neither new nor “revolutionary” words. But they are evolutionary, in the sense that we must take this ancient wisdom beyond words and into practice as never before in human history—just as the climate crisis requires action of unprecedented scale. As the environmental and climate crisis is foremost of human moral origin (St. Pope John Paul II, Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis among others), then it starts from within, of Divine Origin, then emanating outward the solutions we need.
I am not there and may never be. Yet with God, everything is possible. And together in beloved community with those who direct the needle of their moral compass resolutely in this direction, even more possible. And together, might we apply humbler spirits and shoulders to the bend of the moral arc towards love, justice, human flourishing, and an Earth restored?
With a new set of leaders and spirit facing some of the most consequential decisions for our and future generations, now is the time. Now is the time to cultivate this spirit, in our space and places, emanating outwards, as leaders ourselves, in a shared journey to protect and advance our common home, and our common future, towards a thriving future.
“For God is Love, and only love can drive out hate, and only light can drive out darkness.” –Martin Luther King
Let us today and henceforth, with even just a little more intention, seek to be vessels of humility, light and love-—active agents in the uplift and rendering of beloved community during this pivotal moment in history. For we are all a part, and we are all related, and every intention matters. All efforts are welcome. Even just a smidge more towards humility, light and love is pleasing to the Divine.