Such an old fashioned word, but one I have been thinking about recently. Two events have brought this word to my attention. To start with the second one first.
Today, I spent some time with one of my granddaughters walking around the art shops here in our small fishing village of Coromandel. When my granddaughter talked with the artists we met, she impressed them with her questions indicating a flair for art. Some of them have gave her a small gift of their art as an appreciation for her talent and interest. Occasionally, the artist looked to me for an answer, and I just suggested they ask the young girl – for she had the insight, not I. It was humbling for me to be with my granddaughter and to witness her obvious passion and talent for artistic beauty. I just do not have it to that degree.
The second event has come through my reading of a book called “Humanure Handbook” by Joseph Jenkins. I realise the subject of composting human manure can be a very challenging topic for many people. For me, however, the idea of recycling all our ‘waste’ seems to be a natural progression from my decision to move away from eating animal productsto eating a plant based diet. This decision to eat a plant based diet, came about after walking the 900kms along the Camino de Santiago and Camino Finisterre in 2014. At the end of this journey, I was far more aware of my responsibility to live care-fully on this only home we have, that is our treasured planet earth. I write a little about this in my book Kiwi on the Camino.
The second event – my reading about how to compost human ‘waste’ – which I no longer call waste as it is recyclable – is the other link to my thinking about the notion of ‘humility’. Bruce and I have been recycling our food scrapes for many years so are familiar with composting processes. We are in the beginning stages of planning to build our new home, here in Coromandel, and are are thrilled to have a builder and an engineer who understand our requirements to recycle both the black water and grey water we produce on a daily basis. Thus, we have a builder who is familiar with installing a commercial composting toilet and an engineer who is familiar with recycling all the water from our washing machine, dish washer, shower etc. We will also have solar panels on our roof which we hope will generate all the electricity we will need. I will not have a clothes dryer as we will use solar energy (i.e. an external clothes line) or in wet weather, dry our clothes by our wood fire. We obtain our fire wood from our property.
What has recycling our human ‘waste’ got to do with humility? Jenkins – in his book Humanure Handbook – writes of a time he met with a community of nuns called the Sisters of Humility (see p. 69). He writes that the sisters said that the word humble and humus come from the same semantic root. They also suggested that human is related to these two words. Therefore, they, as sisters of humility decided to recycle their digestive products. They suggested that recycling the by-products of digestion is an act of humility. I like this idea and have decided that recycling the by-products of digestion is an act of acknowledgement that I am a small part in the cycle of life. Also recycling is an acknowledgement of the debt I owe both to the planet, the growers of my food, those who provide for my daily needs, and above all to the Creator who holds all things in His love and provision.
I have still much to learn about how to recycle all our ‘leftovers’ safely and well, to ensure that all pathogens are destroyed, but I have confidence we can do this and that the planet, our neighbours – both human and animal – as well as ourselves, will benefit from our attempts at humility and care.