A blog about our shared experience…

Nobility

This post can also be viewed along with other marvelous content at Nineteen Months!

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“O SON OF SPIRIT! Noble have I created thee, yet thou hast abased thyself. Rise then unto that for which thou wast created.”

– Bahá’ú’lláh

As I interact with my human family in this very fascinating world, I am faced with the dilemma that the above quote seems to encapsulate perfectly…that we are all created noble, but have to learn to arise from the abasement that we’ve gotten ourselves into. That abasement comes in all forms from abuse to oppression to negligence and all kinds of hurtful experiences that we may put ourselves and each other through.

John Lowry Photography: slideshow &emdash; Egyptian Carolina

So the burning question stands: How do we arise out of this lost sense of nobility? What behaviors, systems and practices are we collectively consenting to or engaging in that keep us from our noble destiny? What are our associations with even the word “noble”? How many names have we called ourselves and each other; how many judgements passed to undermine the fundamental nobility of those around us?

“God has created man lofty and noble, made him a dominant factor in creation. He has specialized man with supreme bestowals, conferred upon him mind, perception, memory, abstraction and the powers of the senses. These gifts of God to man were intended to make him the manifestation of divine virtues, a radiant light in the world of creation, a source of life and the agency of constructiveness in the infinite fields of existence.”
– Abdúl’-Bahá

John Lowry Photography: Prints &emdash; gathering magic

If I strip back the layers of how the word “Noble” has been used and discard the sources of negative association such as “the rank or station above and having power over others”, as in some caste systems, I find that it is how the word has been used that is most problematic. Even in that definition, there is an implication of elevation that if one achieved such a station and wielded such power “with” others rather than “over” others, we might experience fundamentally different results from how we experience power in our lives.

…but I stray…

If everyone who crosses my path IS noble, but is just struggling for one reason or another, how can I summon my own nobility to meet them where they are and explore where they want to be? Would the world be a better place if everyone in the world engaged in this practice? Could such a universal practice bring about a negative result?

There are without doubt people who I have actively tried to avoid in my life who were hurting in some way that I couldn’t identify. I know for certain that doing so isn’t the answer, but how does one maintain their own nobility in face of the threat of oppressors? How many oppressors do you know who weren’t once victims of oppression? How does one slow, stop and heal from such cycles of violence?

John Lowry Photography: Prints &emdash; Morris Island Lighthouse II

I have made it a point to actively trying to stretch myself socially to engage, develop and maintain close friendships with people who I may not have been attracted to initially without actively trying to see the nobility in all who cross my path. This stretching requires for me to put aside my assumptions about how things “should” be said or done, and wipe clean from my heart poisonous habits such as assuming the worst or engaging people with suspicion regarding their motives just because they engage the universe differently than I do. Thus far, I have had very few negative experiences in doing so…relatively safe, and very fruitful.

This approach has brought to my awareness a whole world of diversity, and allows “unity in diversity” to be that, rather than “unity in assimilation” or “unity in conformity”. I’ve learned in many, many ways that there’s more than one way to eat a Reese’s, and I am now in love with the experience being engaged by, and engaging with other noble souls. None of us are out of the woods of abasement just yet, but it’s a start…care to join?”

6 responses

  1. Mark Perry

    Hey buddy, I especially like the following expression: ” wipe clean from my heart poisonous habits such as assuming the worst or engaging people with suspicion regarding their motives just because they engage the universe differently than I do.”

    August 13, 2012 at 4:20 am

  2. If everyone who crosses my path IS noble, but is just struggling for one reason or another, how can I summon my own nobility to meet them where they are and explore where they want to be? … Like Mark, I think the trick might be to change expectations. It is tempting to think other person is being mean to me for no other reason than they are a bad person. But that is the amygdala talking because it wants to fight or flight. Instead when the executive function kicks in, I have to remind myself that everyone has the capacity to be a wonderful person, but everyone is struggling to find the capability to be so. Second, third, fourth chances are required.

    This is probably easier online through asynchronous communications where we have time to re-read and think about what is missing and it is just text. In person we have tone and body language to which we react without thinking.

    Would the world be a better place if everyone in the world engaged in this practice?… Sure.

    Could such a universal practice bring about a negative result? … I tend to think of social interactions as non-zero sum games. (I should get my PhD in behavior economics.) What is striking to me is there is value in acting noble, but it takes a ton of work. Getting people to spend the effort requires getting them to desire the value far and above the work required. There will be backsliding by many. But maybe that is negated by constant encouragement?

    August 14, 2012 at 5:46 pm

  3. Mmmmm…lots to chew on, brothaman…

    Acting noble, believing in the nobility of others, seeing through the dross and finding that noble element within each and every person who crosses our path…all require work, and the benefits…seem self-evident to me, but perhaps I’m tripping.

    Could the potential for peace or a safe space to explore reality in possibly offer the necessary motivation?

    August 16, 2012 at 6:06 am

  4. Muhiyidin

    In the sparkling eyes of a living soul is a safe place to Practice Love… Sweet self-recognition of ones capacity to share, care and give. A virtuous quality of nobility is most evident as one knows Self. “I created thee noble”… no search, no struggle… WE ARE… SO BE…. Nobility is a most natural posture of ” I recognize me in you and you in me, and WE ARE BEAUTIFUL….therefore our nobleness shall shine through the shrouds of separation, anxiety, insecurity and the false feelings of superiority. Humble nobility, similar to ‘radiant acquiescence’, comes naturally as Self-Knowledge dawns. No shortcuts. Courageous Loving of ones self unlocks doors to all virtue…. When denied access to radical self-acceptance by expectations of many a kind, our Light slowly gets smothered by an anxious ego identity searching for a safe place to BE outside of ourselves… because inside there are voices that are not validating of our nobility…i.e parents, teachers, friends, commercials ect… The practice of expansion into seemingly strange social spaces is a wonderful way to engage the capacity of recognition of nobility struggling to express itself in a variety of ways (status symbols, money, sexual prowess, intellectual superiority). We are created noble… that will always find expression. The task at hand is to realize the ways in which we can restore that nobility to its finest state of eminence… Glory be to God!

    August 18, 2012 at 3:55 pm

  5. Brian Kempf

    This blog is such a refreshing place. I’m very grateful to be able to interact with others in such a constructive forum.

    When I meditate on the nobility of a human being, I feel strong joy and peace. To think that we are more than robots, more than animals is a higher-level of consciousness that most of us don’t really, truly learn about growing up. Many of our schools teach us ways to improve our utility value towards the economy, popular media teaches us how we can let our minds and bodies be used by others in an attempt to get what we, ourselves, think we want, and most of our religious institutions teach us that we’re, in a way, animals inevitably bad and immutably flawed. Unintentionally, we’re teaching ourselves that our main purpose is to be used, in one way or another. To be used is what machines are for, not people. What if when our schools taught us math, they also taught us the equal value of helping the student in the desk next to us who is struggling with the subject? What if when our popular media taught us about our emotional needs it taught us about our need for love and connection, instead of fabricating needs of rampant promiscuity? And finally, what if our religious institutions taught us that we’re not bad animals but that we’re latent gems of inestimable value and that anything we perceive to be bad about ourselves can be slowly cultivated into something good?

    I think that the implications of accepting the nobility of humanity demands a lot of work and a radical change towards a place where humanity has never been before. If you were to ask someone on the street if they think humans are valuable, worthwhile, or meaningful, I don’t think anyone would be able to honestly and thoughtfully say, “no.” Rather, people may answer anyone of those questions, above, in someway like this: “That is unrealistic and it will never happen.” “Lets be practical.” “The situation isn’t really that bad.” Or, “Those things really cannot be taught.” We deny ourselves the chance before we even attempt to get started. But one declaring human nobility without hypocrisy deduces himself to action; action on this scale is daunting to say the least. With such a radical degree of change between us and the materialization of such a truth, it has been all too tempting to forget about it and carry on with our lives. And fortunately or unfortunately for us, we’re getting to a place where ignoring this nobility is becoming more and more difficult.

    It makes sense that humanity is at this place in its development. You can’t tell a 16 year old that driving 2x the speed limit is very dangerous, she has to find out for herself. But we’ve already had our accident and now we’re hurting bad in a pile up. Maybe we can now slow down, reflect on the value of patience and respecting others who share the road with us. Maybe when we’re driving our cars we can learn that what is important is not the next destination nor the number of people we beat out along the way, but rather it is the security and peacefulness of the human beings in the cars.

    September 23, 2012 at 5:31 pm

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