H is for “Hubris”

by Skimming

I’ve never totally understood what that word “hubris” meant.  It’s one of those words that get thrown around a lot in the media but I’m not really sure how many people know what it means.

So here are a few definitions I found online:

from Wikipedia: Hubris means extreme pride or arrogance. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one’s own competence or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.

from Dictionary.com: Hubris is excessive pride or self-confidence; arrogance.

from Merriam-Webster: Hubris is exaggerated pride or self-confidence

Here are some headlines from the news today incorporating the word hubris:

  • Hubris on Wall Street: an article from Business Journal about Jamie Dimon and his abdication of responsibility in the craziness being uncovered at JPMorgan Chase
  • China GDP Hit Tells Story of Hubris Run Amok: Bloomberg article about the false sense of hope that Asia had during the 2008 recession in Western countries which is just hitting Asian markets now.
  • Protecting Twitter from its Own Hubris: Reuters blogpost about Twitter’s recent cutting off of LinkedIn where the author comments on Twitter’s overconfidence that it can stand alone from such entities as LinkedIn because of its own cachet and power.  Maybe they’re wrong!

This seems to be a common theme today in the excesses of the wealthiest of the wealthy, the CEOs of multinational corporations that are beyond the reach of regulations, regular human comprehension, and any kind of moral values.  How did we get here?  And how do we regain some humility and modesty in the midst of all this excess?

I see the anti-hubris in the little day-to-days:

  • someone getting up from their seat on the train to offer it to an elder, a pregnant woman, or just someone who looks like they’ve had a long day.
  • acknowledgement from youth that I’ve worked with about how much they have grown and developed because of the support of people like me and other youth workers and mentors in their lives.
  • backyard garden plots with the beautifully growing plants that give joy to the gardener and to the eaters of the bounty.
  • the happy faces of a group of friends at a meal together at a restaurant, in a home, at a park, sharing in the simple goodness of good company, good food, and good conversation.
  • the joyful walk in the early mornings or early evenings along a familiar stretch of sidewalk or road where I can see what I know but also experience a newness every time because of a new way the light hits those leaves or the different way the air smells that day.

Simple daily pleasures.  With loved ones.  Remembering why we are here– to build community with others and make positive contributions to building a better world.  The ultimate anti-hubris!

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