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Finding your Greatness

Greatness. To be great.

If you’re hoping to achieve greatness, you must have a guiding image of greatness. In other words, to be great you must know what it is to be great. Or you must at least be able to recognize greatness in another person.

Most people, if asked to name a great person, will probably come up with a name of some well-known person.

Greatness is taken to be synonymous with fame, not necessarily in the movies, music, or sports, but in any endeavor.

A person can not be great if they are not famous. Or, to put it another way, how can a person be great and not be well-known?

Should we, then, take this as a standard by which to judge the greatness of a person?

You’ll probably say: What other standard can there be? How else are we to know of a great person if the person is not famous, or not recognized in some way?

These are valid responses. If we accept them, however, we also have to accept that we may possibly never meet a great person. It is not very common for an individual, or rather, the common individual isn’t fortunate enough, to get to meet a great figure in person.

Are we fated never to meet a great person? Or, are there not any great people who are not well-known, but who we know personally? Isn’t it possible that there may be a great person who lives on the same street as we do, who is yet not famous?

It doesn’t sound very plausible. We somehow refuse to accept this possibility, or we refuse to trust our own judgement in the matter. To recognize someone to be great without the concurrence of the world means that we would have to judge and decide on the person’s greatness. In most cases we simply do not trust our own judgement to such an extent.

Which comes down to the fact that we wouldn’t know a great person if we were to meet one, unless the person already had a reputation of some kind.

So greatness is something seen in the movies, or read about in a book, or read or heard in the News. The great person is almost a fairy tale figure.

We often hear, or we often say it ourselves, of someone we know, “So-and-so is such a great person!” We might even say it of a parent or a grandparent, “My grandfather was a great man!”

Is this greatness of a different order from that which we define as “a great person”? Do we take the greatness of a personal acquaintance or a friend or a family member to be less than the greatness of a famous person? Or is it that when we say it of someone we know, we only mean to say “nice person” and not really “great”?

What is urgently required is that we find a way to define a great person. We should be able to decide if a person is great or not, without the approval of another person. This means that we need to figure out what makes a great person great.

Is it merely the great accomplishments which make a great person? Is greatness a quality of character, or is it strictly based on an accomplishment of some kind?

Coming back to yourself, how would you know if you’re great? Easy, you’ll say. The world will recognize your greatness. Which is to say you will know you are great because the world will tell you you’re great. The world will be kind enough to let you in on the secret, which you wouldn’t have known otherwise, that you, sir, or madam, are great!

We have to rely on the world to either recognize our greatness and let us know about it, or to not think we’re great but still flatter us out of some hidden motive. But either way, the decision is theirs. Our greatness is in their hands.

What would you have to do to be considered a great person? If you immediately think of some triumphal feat of performance, then that is what you will take as the standard by which to judge another person’s greatness.

If you feel that to be a great person you have to have some nobility of character, then that will be your criteria for deciding on the greatness of another person.

You will notice that as soon as you give up on the evaluation by others, and turn to your own valuation, greatness takes on a very subjective character. It actually becomes a matter of “it takes one to know one.”

That’s right. That’s what it comes down to, essentially. You have to be great to know a great person. Or, if you don’t feel comfortable taking on the mantle of greatness, at least you can say that, that which you strive for to achieve greatness, is that which will be the basis of your deciding on the greatness of another person.

The moral in all this can be stated as: If you strive to be great, you will get to know other great individuals. You will not need the world to decide for you. And you may actually already know a great person, someone you’ll only recognize when you allow the possibility of greatness in yourself.

Most of all, in time you’ll come to know that a person who sets out on the path to greatness, is already a great person. For, as only a great person can recognize another great person, so also, only a great person sets out to be worthy of greatness.

The moral above the moral, finally, is that you have only to recognize the greatness that is already in you.

We are all great. We already have been great since the day we were born. “Trailing clouds of glory do we come…” I’ll quote a bit more of the poem by William Wordsworth.

“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:

The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,

Hath had elsewhere its setting,

And cometh from afar:

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come

From God, who is our home:”

And the poem continues, with every line speaking of your greatness and mine.

The conclusion, in all solemnity, dear reader, you don’t need to wait upon the world to grant you what is already yours. You don’t have to read articles like this, to find out how you can be great. Great you are, and if the world doesn’t recognize it, the loss is theirs.