on making oneself visible in the world

There is a lovely root to the word humiliation – from the latin word humus, meaning soil or ground. When we are humiliated, we are in effect returning to the ground of our being.

Shedding the carapace we have been building so assiduously on the surface, we must by definition give up exactly what we thought was necessary to protect us from further harm. The outlaw is the radical, the one close to the roots of existence. The one who refuses to forget their humanity and, in remembering, helps everyone else remember too.

To die inside is to rob our outside life of any sense of arrival from that interior. Our work is to make ourselves visible in the world. This is the soul’s individual journey, and the soul would much rather fail at its own life than succeed at someone else’s.

David Whyte, from Crossing the Unknown Sea

5 thoughts on “on making oneself visible in the world

  1. Sorry to burst the bubble, the etymology of “humiliate” is the Latin “humiliare, which means to abase, mortify, reduce, make lowly.
    It has an almost exclusively negative connotation, as opposed to the word “humble”, which derives from the Latin “humilis”, which is a derivative of “humus”, meaning “ground”, or “low to the ground”.
    “Humbleness helps us the shed the shell, the shield we build against the world, to allow the world to be part of us, and us to be part of the world. We are inseperable, no matter the bastions we try to raise.”

  2. Thanks for that elucidation… If one substitutes, then, the word “humbled” for “humiliated” – these two words have similar connotations in English, albeit differing in degree of intensity – I think the meaning of the passage remains intact. By humbling oneself, by being open to that which is most lowly and fundamental in us, in all humanity, rather than cloaked in and fiercely protective of the accoutrements of ego, we allow our souls to connect with and live our essential purpose. That is how I understand this passage.

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