Michael Karlesky

A cabinet of wonders. Minus the cabinet. And possibly the wonders.


The best definition of humility that I’ve ever heard is that it is a true recognition of reality and one’s place in it. Humility is neither modesty nor humiliation. In its simplicity, humility is actually quite powerful. It is the consideration of both the frailty and the strength in myself and in the world around me.

This season of life in New York City has likely been the most humbling I've ever known. Nearly daily I come to know some measure of humility anew. In my graduate studies I am coming to see both how capable I am and just how limited I am. I am one of the very few in this world who is blessed with this level of education. And so I recognize how much privilege I enjoy in that while simultaneously wrestling with the hard question of just what it is I will do with that privilege.

This city is home to both the most powerful and the most destitute. I am confronted with both the places of power I will likely never know and the powerlessness I am unable to do much about. New York City pumps out opportunity like a grove of trees in Prospect Park does oxygen. The scent of it is intoxicating but also strangely debilitating. While it is not always the case that I cannot help (or choose not to), more often than not, my only expression of humanity to those on the subway who ask for change or those on the street who ask for something to eat is to look them in the eye when I say no.

New York City is home to people from every nation on Earth. I meet and see people who live and look and think and believe and succeed and struggle so very differently from me. I am liberated in how these experiences reveal my stigmas and prejudices and open my eyes to previously unseen beauty, but I am also crushed in the recognition of how long I have been sheltered from such things.

Perhaps it is time that is most humbling. I have so little of it now because of school and school-related obligations. This lack has taken from me much in the way of relationships I once knew and has also kept from me much in the way of new relationships.

I don’t know that I’ve ever heard someone reflect on the connection of humility and gratitude. While I am knowing humility like I may have never known it before, I am also coming to know gratitude like I have never known it before.