I was just reading a NY Times review of Apollo 11, a new movie about the moon landing. What struck me was the way the reviewer took the human virtue of ‘humility’ as a core feature he felt the movie especially highlighted. He states: “At the zenith of [Armstrong’s] fame, the hero proves his worth by honoring those to whom the glory is truly owed.” Indeed, coming to terms with how we tackle our so-called ‘ego’, quest for acknowledgement, for standing out, feeling central, is a task many a wisdom and spiritual tradition has as its central concern for us humans. Extinguishing the illusion of ‘self’ we find prevalent in Eastern philosophies, giving in to vanity is seen as sin in the various Christian and Judaic traditions. Stories in mythology, poetry, and folklore abound in those humans whose hubris and pride, sense of grandeur and pomposity, results in an often terrible fall into nothingness, a reminder of the fragility of life, of the greater power to which all of us will need to yield, sooner or later.
At the height of his achievement, Armstrong did not fall prey to hubris, but remembered all those people who made his journey possible: “We’d like to give a special thanks to all those Americans who built the spacecraft, who did the construction, design, the tests, and put their heart and all their abilities into the [space]crafts,” says Armstrong. “To those people tonight we give a special thank you.”
Eldership, as an attitude to life, people and planet, includes a stance which acknowledges the human desire to stand-out, to be central. Such acknowledgement or noticing makes possible an attitude of eldership which – exactly because we recognize our need to be central – can then also remember, as its polar opposite, our interconnectedness, the awareness that nothing we are and/or do can take place without the help of other humans, without the help of the very planet on which we exist. This ‘remembrance’ of how we always stand on the shoulders of others, not just of one or two generations but of all the generations and eons before us, allows us to enter the space of humility, an attitude prized throughout human recorded history as one reflective of true wisdom. An attitude of eldership, in its core, tries to remember our interconnectedness, the rallying cry of young Greeks during the Hellenic period: Hen kai pan, One is All, All is One.
Or, in the words of the movie reviewer, speaking of Armstrong and the Apollo 11 mission: “At the zenith of his fame, the hero proves his worth by honoring those to whom the glory is truly owed.”