When I was in my freshmen year of high school, we had to read Homer's The Odyssey. My lack of reading comprehension skills aside, I found this to be a tedious read. The tiny print, odd formatting, and dated tone all left me feeling unattached. Our own odyssey, though, came when we had our socratic discussions, and it was then that I learned about hubris.
hu·bris: excessive pride or self-confidence.
It was Odysseus's foil, and mine as well. Ironically, my poor reading comprehension and frustrations led me to decide not to continue reading the book. I used the internet to research the different chapter assignments, which worked for the most part. However, when I didn't do the assigned reading and was surprised with a chapter quiz, I succumbed to deceitful behavior. I cheated.
What was I to do? I was in my first year of high school, pimple faced and pubescent, and the competitive nature of traditional academia left me with very little to keep me standing tall. I was the daughter of an English teacher; I had been involved in the gifted and talented program, and sitting there in my Honors English class, I decided I was too proud to come forward and say I didn't do the reading and needed more time. Too proud to admit that reading had never been easy for me, and I found this book to be particularly challenging. Far too proud to ask for help. I cheated.
Then I had been found out. My oh-so-clever teacher had mixed up the questions on the quiz, and my oh-not-so-clever, panicked mind didn't realize, and I copied all of the correct answers to a different quiz onto mine. It was painfully obvious what I had done. Yet, when my teacher asked to see me after class, and confronted me with my poor decision, I was even still too proud. I lied. I said that I must have just gotten all of the answers incorrect and it was a complete coincidence that I had all of the same answers to the quiz of the student that sat next to me. Instead of admitting that I was wrong and needed help, I quickly decided to be a liar, a cheater, and a voluntary idiot. One class period later my consciousness felt as heavy as lead, and so I returned to the classroom, my inferno, and admitted to my sins.
"Bless me, teacher, for I have sinned."
"You must accept a grade of 0, and confess to your parent."
Confess to my mother. The English teacher.
"Mom, I have something I have to tell you."
"What is it?"
"I did...I got..."
"Dude, spit it out."
The words "I am very disappointed in you," are always worse than punishment, even when they just fall from our parents' mouths without effort or sincerity. This time though, it most certainly was honest and true. Her disappointment was everything that I was not in that moment.
That is how I learned about pride.
I've learned much more since those (hardly) complicated years of high school. Humility is so important. We take ourselves so seriously, everyday, with very little room for foolery. We must balance our seriousness with some jest, and our achievements with failure, and our strength with weakness. We're an amazing species, and capable of so much, and we're so brilliant.
We're going to fall sometimes, though, and we just need to accept that. It's when we learn.
PS- I'm notoriously late to the game when it comes to cool, trendy stuff. Even art, I'm always on the tail end. For the record, I was on top of when Kendrick Lamar's DAMN was released. I just didn't get around to listening to it until recently. I love this music video. I think DNA is better, because Don Cheadle, but this is clearly more relevant.