This post brings the Literary Life Book Club to a stopping point, at least for a while. We will be on an indefinite hiatus beginning January 1st. Our goal is to resume the club by the middle of the year. It is “farewell” rather than “goodbye.”
As we cross from autumn to winter and from 2018 to 2019, we likewise thank our friend Karen Swallow Prior on the conclusion of our study of On Reading Well. I know you will agree with me that the study of her beautiful book has both enriched and informed our lives.
It is altogether appropriate that our final post for On Reading Well is about humility. Speaking as your host and friend, I am genuinely humbled by the breadth and depth of our diverse membership. The final chapter of her book draws its lessons from Flannery O’Connor’s “Revelation” and “Everything That Rises Must Converge.”
As Karen wrote:
One thing I love about words is how their own stories can reveal so much about the history of ideas and worldviews, along with a deeper understanding of the concept. Humility is one such word. The ancient root from which we get the word, along with its sister humble, means “earth” or “ground.” Eugene Peterson explains, “This is the Genesis origin of who we are: dust—dust that the Lord God used to make us a human being. If we cultivate a lively sense of our origin and nurture a sense of continuity with it, who knows, we may also acquire humility.” Implicit in the word humility is the acknowledgment that we “all come from dust, and to dust all return” (Eccles. 3:20). Like the earth itself, the humble person is lowly. The person of humility is—literally and figuratively—grounded. Thus humility is the recognition that we are all human—another word that comes from the same root—and that none of us are God. Remembering our position as earthly creatures who are not gods is the essence of humility. The virtue of humility, most simply defined, is an accurate assessment of oneself. And, of course, it is impossible to assess oneself rightly apart from God.
God bless you all,