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By December 20, 2016Culture, Humility

Not only have you left and gone away, Joe DiMaggio, you seem to have taken the virtue of humbleness with you.

“Culture changes in ways that are both superficial and profound,” writes David Brooks in The Road to Character. The book uses examples throughout history to contrast humanity’s changing morality and humility.

“Johnny Unitas, like Joe DiMaggio in baseball, came to embody a particular way of being a sports hero in the age of self-effacement,” writes Brooks, a New York Times columnist. Contrast these guys with the flamboyant and arrogant Joe Namath, who grew up a half-generation later and “lived in a different moral universe.”

Hardly an anomaly, Namath led a culture change, at least in sports. Larger than life personalities and egos, along with end zone dances, chest thumping and bat flipping mock the old saw, “There’s no ‘I’ in team.”

“Over the past several decades,” Brooks laments, “we have built a moral ecology around the Big Me, around the belief in a golden figure inside. This has led to a rise in narcissism and self-aggrandizement.”

Humility is a dicey proposition on which to pontificate — and not, by inference, assume to embody. But Brooks does well to navigate such false modesty by referencing history, authorities and his own professional experiences.

“Humility is having an accurate assessment of your own nature and your own place in the cosmos,” Brooks explains. “Humility is an awareness that your individual talents alone are inadequate to the tasks that have been assigned to you. Humility reminds you that you are not the center of the universe, but you serve a larger order.”


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