After we returned from the Camino, I wrote a list of Ten Truths. One of those truths, number 8, is this: Sometimes you just have to get through the day with your underwear pinned to the outside of your pack.
This truth is vital, it's one of the most important truths of all. Sometimes, in spite of your preparation and attention and hard work, things don't go as planned (the washed undies don't dry overnight) and you have to keep moving with your vulnerabilities hanging out for the world to see. This happens. A lot. To everyone.
One can, of course, hide the undies. One can ball them up and stuff them somewhere where others can't detect them...but then they won't dry at all...and you'll regret your bashfulness when you put them on later. No, it's better to bite the bullet and dry them on the back of your pack. Sure, it's embarrassing, and yes, some people will make comments. But so what. Such is life.
At least you'll stay humble.
Humility is crucial. It's why I believe this truth is so important. Humility is what makes the day pleasant. Our own humility...and the humility of others.
We've all come across people who present themselves as experts on this, that, or the other. Such folks parade their opinions as facts on internet forums, Facebook pages, newspaper articles, and/or blog posts. Arming themselves with nothing more than a sliver of experience in any one subject, they deliberately portray themselves as gurus in an effort to boost their own self-esteem. They shout their opinion at you as though it is fact, and they verbally attack and insult anyone who dares challenge their so-called authority.
We've all also been the unfortunate victims of our own ridiculous egos. Ever had an argument with someone and, halfway through, realize most of the blame actually falls on your own shoulders? Ever refuse to acknowledge your mistakes out of pride or fear of looking weak? Ever claim to be the best at anything -- anything at all?
Such pride and egotism make life uncomfortable for everyone. Humility is key. We all seriously need to walk a few days with our underwear pinned to the outside of our packs. I think that might solve most of the world's problems.
While we can't force humility on others, we can recognize arrogance when we see it and refuse to listen to or acknowledge those who pretend (or actually and unfortunately believe) they are better than others. We can also habitually recognize our own shortcomings and mistakes. We can acknowledge that, in spite of our best efforts, we are not perfect, we do not have all the answers, and we will inevitably look profoundly goofy to others every now and then.
The following is a (non-inclusive) list of the idiotic things I did during the past few weeks. I expose all of this knowing full well each and every one of you commits equally stupid acts from time to time. We're all human. May as well laugh at our own foibles and keep our egos in check.
I accidentally started the electric mixer while still assembling the blades (always keep an appliance unplugged until you are ready to use it!).
I sent an email asking questions about my fireplace to the organizer of Peaks Foundation instead of my local contractor.
I fussed at my kids for losing a toy, then remembered that I was the one who took it out of the house (I apologized).
I wore a shirt backward without realizing it for half a day.
I cut a small tree limb while standing directly beneath it...you can guess what happened when it fell...
I don't mind admitting all these things because I personally witness other humans committing equally bone-headed acts each and every day.
Wouldn't the world be a better place if, instead of trying to pump ourselves up in the eyes of others, we habitually announced and laughed at our own imperfections? In owning up to our own ridiculousness, wouldn't we come to a better understanding, appreciation -- and, counterintuitively, respect -- of each other?
I think so. But that's just my opinion.
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- Alex in the White Mountains (Alex's hiking blog)
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- California's Lost Coast Trail. June 8-9, 2019
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- Great Wall of China Trek 2015
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