Humility – Shining Your Mud Ball

011005asci In the ancient Japanese art form of Dorodango the artist shapes earth and water to create a delicate shiny sphere very much like a billiard ball.

So what does shining a mud ball have to do with the practice of humility?

The word humble is derived from the Latin humus meaning earth, ground, or soil. It is reminiscent of the name given to the first biblical figure Adam whose name is derived from the Hebrew word for ground or dust. He was literally a ‘man of the dust.’ The Taoist philosophy, found in the book of ancient Chinese wisdom Chuang Tzu, reflects a similar theme. The universe and its people are viewed as a mighty mud ball (Hun Tun -dark essence). Our mud nature reminds us of our,

  • Fragility
  • Mortality

Now these topics may not seem the stuff of an upbeat inspirational blog but bear with me and consider their part in humility. Realizing our fragility is important because we then have the opportunity to,

  • Embrace our ‘mud nature’ with the recognition that “peak performance” waxes and wanes over the course of our years. Much like the seasons of the year we learn to accept and even celebrate what is and not spend our time wishing it were Spring (or that we were young again).
  • Not waste time on the regrets of the past or the anxieties of the future.
  • Realize that in our fragility we are more resilient than we think.

Factoring in our mortality gives us the perspective that we,

  • Don’t have unlimited time available and therefore live every moment to its fullest.
  • Avoid denying death by unconsciously sweeping it under the rug. We make dying a part of living. Here in Mexico we have just been through the Day of the Dead celebration. This culture deals with death as a normal experience and does not mask it with the“eternal youth quest” of the USA.
  • Affirm our oneness with all other “mud ball” humans.

So, polishing or mud ball is a way of saying “have a more humble perspective” on life, do the best we can with our limitations, and show ourselves a lot of compassion for being less than perfect (as if that is possible and will make us more lovable/productive). Humility serves to makes a person,

  • More approachable
  • Have a healthier perspective on life
  • Set the stage for living in the moment
  • Feel gratitude for the gift of life.
  • Live life realistically and to the fullest.



About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
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