Discovering Nobility

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“O SON OF SPIRIT! Noble have I created thee, yet thou hast abased thyself. Rise then unto that for which thou wast created.”

– Baha’u’llah

As I interact with my human family in this very fascinating world, I am faced with the dilemma that the above quote seems to encapsulate perfectly… that we are all created noble, but have to learn to arise from the abasement that we’ve gotten ourselves into. That abasement comes in all forms from abuse to oppression to negligence and all kinds of hurtful experiences that we may put ourselves and each other through.

So the burning question stands: How do we arise out of this lost sense of nobility? What behaviors, systems and practices are we collectively consenting to or engaging in that keep us from our noble destiny? What are our associations with even the word “noble”? How many names have we called ourselves and each other; how many judgements passed to undermine the fundamental nobility of those around us?

“God has created man lofty and noble, made him a dominant factor in creation. He has specialized man with supreme bestowals, conferred upon him mind, perception, memory, abstraction and the powers of the senses. These gifts of God to man were intended to make him the manifestation of divine virtues, a radiant light in the world of creation, a source of life and the agency of constructiveness in the infinite fields of existence.”
– ‘Abdu’l-Baha

Photo by George Hatcher

If I strip back the layers of how the word has been used and discard the sources of negative association such as “the rank or station above and having power over others”, as in some caste systems, I find that it is how the word has been used that is most problematic. Even in that definition, there is an implication of elevation that if one achieved such a station and wielded such power “with” others rather than “over” others, we might experience fundamentally different results from how we experience power in our lives.

…but I stray…

If everyone who crosses my path IS noble, but is just struggling for one reason or another, how can I summon my own nobility to meet them where they are and explore where they want to be? Would the world be a better place if everyone in the world engaged in this practice? Could such a universal practice bring about a negative result?

There are without doubt people who I have actively tried to avoid in my life who were hurting in some way that I couldn’t identify. I know for certain that doing so isn’t the answer, but how does one maintain their own nobility in face of the threat of oppressors? How many oppressors do you know who weren’t once victims of oppression? How does one slow, stop and heal from such cycles of violence?

I have made it a point to actively try to stretch myself socially to engage, develop and maintain close friendships with people who I may not have been attracted to initially without actively trying to see the nobility in all who cross my path. This stretching requires for me to put aside my assumptions about how things “should” be said or done, and wipe clean from my heart poisonous habits such as assuming the worst or engaging people with suspicion regarding their motives just because they engage the universe differently than I do. Thus far, I have had very few negative experiences in doing so… relatively safe, and very fruitful.

This approach has brought to my awareness a whole world of diversity, and allows “unity in diversity” to be that, rather than “unity in assimilation” or “unity in conformity.” I’ve learned in many, many ways that there’s more than one way to eat a Reese’s, and I am now in love with the experience of being engaged by, and engaging with other noble souls. None of us are out of the woods of abasement just yet, but it’s a start…. Care to join?

Oak Ritchie is a native of South Carolina, and has lived all over the East Coast and the Caribbean. He presently lives in Carrboro, NC, where he is working with a variety of visual mediums and blogs at Steady Flow.


  1. Pingback: Nobility « Steady Flow

  2. Jeff

    13 October, 2012 at 2:41 am

    Nobility! I’ve read this a couple times now, and I especially enjoy some of the phrases you use – “engage the univerise differently than I do” and “more than one way to eat a Reese’s”.

  3. Oak

    15 October, 2012 at 3:47 am

    Thanks for swinging through and for your feedback, Jeff!