Humility is universally applicable

Yesterday I had the privilege of moderating a plenary panel discussion at the Thames Valley Family Health Team’s annual spring conference. The purpose of the panel was to share stories about patient experience. Four storytellers recounted personal moments when the healthcare system blossomed beautifully or failed miserably in response to an individual struggling with mental illness, addiction, depression, or post-traumatic stress.

I left the session with two salient points at front of mind. This post is a brief reflection on the first takeaway.

Listening to the panelist’s stories, it occurred to me that the concept of cultural humility has relevance beyond the domain and context of intercultural interactions. (Brief review: cultural humility is the idea that approaching an individual from another culture in a spirit of humble curiosity paves the way for a constructive therapeutic or clinical relationship. Now, juxtapose this approach of gentle inquiry with walking into the room thinking that you are aware of another person’s needs, beliefs, worldview, and convictions because you graduated from the ‘cultural competency’ course over the weekend.)

Conscientious, intentional, self-doubting humility is not only crucial in intercultural exchanges: the ethos transposes seamlessly when listening to individuals struggling with addiction or other psychological complexities. Assuming to know ‘the answer’ to another’s situation because you have a clinical category for their condition is something like ‘psychologicalism’ — similar to the way that a racist assumes to know particular facts about another person based on specific physical characteristics or ethnic appearances.

It is interesting to think about the ways that ‘cultural humility’ might be taken up as ‘clinical humility’ or in a broader sense. But creating more jargon is not the point: figuring out how we can inspire one another towards greater humility — and the curious, individual-centric inquisitiveness it fosters — is the bottom line.

It boils down to a question: as a healthcare system, how do we treat individual people as individual persons? The second takeaway from yesterday’s session follows from this question. It’s a reflection about the bottlenecks and potentials of bureaucracies. Will post shortly.

The sooner you realize

The sooner you realize that you’re gonna be just another irrelevant footnote in the bargain bin of history, the sooner you can get on with the marvellousness of living your life.

A moment of salient awareness

A moment of salient awareness
Of just what it means to be here
A bundle of molecules
Clinging to this relatively inconspicuous rock
Hurling through a universe
A universe with or without parameters and borders
A universe with or without parallels and corollaries
I can’t fathom even the simplest explanations for it all:
Rewind every theory and retell every origin story
Every account asks me to consent to the inconceivable
It all begins with something that was never started
Or a medium materializing from nothing
Which means, ultimately, I don’t know anything
Or why there is something instead of nothing
Every fact and precept I cherish
Is just an emergent property of the whole
The mystery of being pervades everything
Making everything inscrutable
How hilarious are my arguments?
Look how I perch my ego on my conclusions about the inconclusive!
Come, laugh at my confident pretensions to knowledge
When you hear me suggest
That there is only one legitimate way
Of being, or seeing, or knowing on this planet
Remind me that I’m just another fool in the universe
A fool who can only perceive the universe
Through one set of eyes
A view hued by history and heuristic
Even more unique than the configuration of my gnome
Oh, how tightly the whole of creation orbits my fragile ego
Happy in my self-assurance
Reveling in the idea that my analysis of existence
Corresponds to some kind of final actuality
Gleefully confident that my particular path in life
Has fortuitously granted me this uncanny chance
To understand the final, objective nature of things
Far more accurately than anyone
Who happens to disagree with me

Note to Self

You must realize that other people experience the world differently than you.

Until then, you won’t realize anything.

Admit you blindly carry your prejudice around with you everywhere.

Until then, think yourself a god.

If the Internet has taught me one lesson, it is this…

If the Internet has taught me one lesson, it is this: virtually every “original” idea I have was already had, likely a long time ago, by someone much smarter than I, who understood the counterpoints and implications far better than I do.

I have learned that the worth of an idea rests not in being its originator, discoverer, or author. Nor is the value of an idea some inherent property related to its degree of originality.

In the end, what matters about ideas is not only their capacity to shape the way I view the world, but even more how they shape my actions, choices, and behaviours in the world.

When an idea acutely changes the way I live my life, does really matter who had the idea first?

Perhaps our obsession with originality is more clearly a reflection of our individualism.

Every day I find myself more consciously aware that I need to hear, discover, and absorb the ideas of others… even people who have lived thousands of years ago.

The Internet tantalized the ego of my individualism, which sought to be original and unique, and turned it on its head to teach me a (repeated) lesson about humility.