I have been reading a lot on humility lately. Probably because in an age of ranting and ribbing, Socratic humility is not something we—perpetrators of social media selfies and humblebrags—practice enough of these days. So how do we work closer toward it? As Sister Helen Prejean, Catholic nun and author of Dead Man Walking, wrote in The Wall Street Journal, the word humility is derived from the Latin humus—from the soil—and is about finding one’s place among things, forgoing the ego, much like a farmer who recognizes that “things are going to happen outside of us, that are bigger than us.” Others have written that time with children and their lack of filter keeps us humble, while learning about humility through books like the Bible (“ashes to ashes, dust to dust”) or The Iliad, which illustrates, as Madeline Miller, the author of The Song of Achilles and Circe, writes, also in the WSJ, that humility is the ability to be changed—to be vulnerable, ever-understanding and empathetic. Researchers say humility is cultivated through awe-inspired moments, “like nature, art, music, religious experiences and witnessing acts of magnanimity or virtuosity. Awe-inspired people are kinder, more patient and less self-absorbed,” as Dr. Samantha Boardman writes in her Positive Prescription newsletter. And when we are witnessing something magnificent, we connect more to the world around us.
What better way to diminish our sense of self than through the amazement we feel watching an Olympic athlete? In this issue, we celebrate some of the powerhouse women champions, a brand-new Olympic category—surfing—plus the one athlete on the precipice of greatness like we have never seen in world history, Simone Biles. This gymnast is attempting to win her second straight all-around gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics this month, and there are few times in our lifetime when someone has tried to achieve such greatness. When you add that she’s an African American female who has broken so many barriers just to get into the upper echelon alone, and no man has ever been able to do what she has, it’s even more impressive. Since Biles was a young teen, she has dealt with the fact that she was told she should be the best ever, and so many collapse under that pressure, yet all she has done is manifest that again and again. She is a walking, breathing manifestation of not only the American Dream but proof of what is possible in sport. And, lastly, she’s a fantastic role model for the next generation, like my 11-year-old who wants to reach her goal of making it to the Olympics as a gymnast because of her—and for all of us to tap into the best of us.