It was the great mythologist Joseph Campbell who coined the title phrase. He noted that to accomplish anything worthwhile requires a great deal of will power, self-confidence, ego-driven drive. What often passes as humility is a refusal to do the work necessary to meet one’s talent and genius. We both admire and disdain ambition, often asking people to tone it down and make sure that everyone has the exact number of minutes on the floor.
And yes, it’s true that we need to share space and leave room for others to step forward and say their piece. But the fact of the matter is that those who often speak out more often and more strongly are those willing to do whatever it takes to meet their promise. How to balance that with being a nice person concerned about whether the folks they’re around are comfortable?
Campbell suggests that the issue is not turning down your light because it’s too bright for some people’s comfort, but making sure the focus is in the right place. If the light becomes a spotlight shining on your own ego, it’s the wrong use of your spiritual power, A lot of performers and political figures get caught in this trap, much to their own detriment and that of the culture around them. “Transparent to transcendence” means you let that light shine through your small ego self, illuminating all in your presence. Along the way you will be accused of (sometimes rightly so) arrogance and worse, but if you use your power and turn your efforts for the benefit of all, you will arrive at a true humility.
All of this triggered by an evaluation I just received in one of my courses from a person I highly admire and respect. Because she is on that same path, she gets it. Reading it in the midst of this intense, exhausting and exhilarating jazz course here in New Orleans, it’s just the reminder I need to keep going. Onward!
Thank you, Doug, for sharing your love, your soul, and your lifework as a humanitarian thinker, artist, performer, educator, publisher, person. There are so many paths of personhood you could have chosen in the music arts, but you have chosen a path of humility and service. Thank you for choices that have been such a benefit to so many people, in so many ways.