In the hearts of most human beings, there is a desire to rise above the crowd. To be the best at something, to use everything we have, everything we are, to become almost superhuman. A hero. A genius. An award-winner.
Many of us lose that as we grow older, abandoning it as the dull tragedies of life press us down. Forgetting that we ever desired more than we could get; that we ever wanted to be more than who we are.
Some of us hold onto that desire, using it as a bitter shield against the dangers of mediocrity. We walk through life desperately afraid that despite our best efforts, we will never be more than we are. Never do great deeds; never discover something new; never change the world, much less save it.
We want to be someone great.
That's not a bad thing, I don't think. But it can make a life hard, scary, full of hidden despair.
And there is an alternative.
It doesn't speak as directly to this human desire for excellence and respect, but I think it stems from the same source, and eventually it fills the same need, if we can lay hold of it.
Every moment is a choice. Every action we take, or choose not to take, alters the world around us. Alters us, as well. From something as tiny as looking up at the sky to notice the clouds rushing by, to something as painful as confronting a loved one, to something as huge as allowing yourself to be killed rather than deny your God. From flossing to giving someone a hug, from making sure you're home on time to choosing which TV channel you turn on at the end of the day.
These choices aren't all equal in terms of their effects, but they all affect us. Each one goes into defining who we are at this moment.
We can't live in the future, or the past. The one is being made right now, as we reach out and act, or as we hold ourselves back. The other is unalterable; all we can do is choose how we react to it, whether it will rule us.
All we have is the choice we're making right this second. I'm making a choice to type this out for you all to read. I chose to get up and come to work today. I'm choosing to type this on work time, which is not such a great choice, maybe. :-)
If we make a habit of choosing what it right over what is easy, we become those choices. They're often unnoticed and unseen, but God sees them, and sometimes our loved ones see the effects. They (and God) smile, and call us "good."
I want to be clear: I don't mean "good" as in "good, but not great." I mean these two things in opposition: "good" is the quality in a man or woman of making right choices, loving, helping, being. "Great" is the quality in a man or woman of making choices to excel and rise to the top.
They're very nearly the same, but I think I would prefer to be "good." One can be great without being good, though goodness can also lead to greatness. I would prefer to live a life rich with choosing God, with choosing love, with choosing trust and hope and sharing, with choosing excellence but not being ruled by the desire for it.
I'd rather hear "you're a good woman," than "you're a great woman." Goodness can be lonely, but greatness can be gilt over a bottomless emptiness.
"I stand in Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun, and behold! the Shadow has departed! I will be a shieldmaiden no longer, nor vie with the great Riders, nor take joy only in the songs of slaying. I will be a healer, and love all things that grow and are not barren."
[ETA: er, for my fellow LOST fans, this set of musings was brought to you by Desmond Hume. *g*]