Saturday, July 11, 2015

2217 : Will a terrible beauty be born (personal greatness and the quest of it)

Greatness by its definition is slightly uncommon, its the ability of the human spirit (and rarely ever the body) to rise above the plebeian. We could define and debate this endlessly, but never will we find greatness in the lumpen and the plebeian.

What moves us is usually the extraordinary, because it far far outshines the regular ordinary.

I was having this chat with a dear friend of mine, and invariably we veered towards this topic. For folks who know me, know that "dharma", "meaning", "purpose" and "personal greatness"  are some of the ever pervasive topics in my everyday conversations. I am never more than 60 seconds away from jumping into these abstract and "personal" topics.

The reason I call these topics "personal" is because for all of this, and more - what the individual wants to achieve or define - means far more and possibly the "only" thing that is worth aspiring for.

Unfortunately I am a complete sucker for these topics, and not because I have achieved super stardom in any of them. Infact to the contrary its the reverse, I hope to debate and learn from other experiences - and feed into my very own weak definition around these themes.

As I spoke to my friend, I realized that I was killing her, and something that meant a lot to her using my regular diatribe.

For the little residual goodness that is still left in me and harbors on my left side :-) I decided to take a step back and define this topic at least to a point, where I present to her my debate in some reasonable rational way.

So what is greatness?
Like I defined above usually it is uncommon, and is above the plebeian. The other way to look at it, is anything that requires our spirit to soar requires us to abandon compromises, kill charades and choose/find wisdom over established ideas. That process is daunting to even the most resilient of us, it gets even more daunting to know that at the end of this long road, you could be staring down a graveyard of losses. Even the most strong willed amongst us can be deterred by that simple thought.

What is personal greatness?
You define the baseline, you define how high you want to jump and keep constantly re-marking your zenith(s). That to me is my definition of personal greatness. Usually factors in all known constraints, weaknesses, fallacies, charades and compromises. You achieve this inspite of the above, rather than because of it.
No one needs to vet it, no one needs to agree to it, and no one ever can disagree with your vision - as long as your vision is what your best is, and as long as it gives you a complete sense of achievement and more so as long as you can better this baseline in the years to come.

Why is (personal) greatness (or any) so hard?
Like I said before, choosing differently is hard. Breaking charades is hard. Saying things what you mean, when you mean it - will most probably get you classified as "crazy" and "antisocial". Breaking charades, will make you a villain. Aiming in isolation will make you a "nut" and....all of this is very very hard.

And yet personal greatness has absolutes....
As an example - anyone who chooses to buy a honda accord 2.4 (in itself a great fantastic car) over a vento 7 speed DSG TDI engine (a remarkable phenomenal car) is choosing with compromises.
One (accord) is bigger and better on the ego. Most in the world would choose it. Most would choose to say the vento is non-pragmatic, but in reality, its a fab piece of german engineering, slightly smaller, but at about 25% lesser price, it delivers the best the world can offer at that price.

Anyone choosing the accord is compromising on greatness, and that is clear as spring water. We can debate and customize the definition to death, but it is what it is.

Can you buy/muscle into greatness?
Yes. You can buy a BMW 5/7 whatever series, you can choose a Mont Blanc, you can also choose a Tag Heuer Tourbillion or better a Bregeut....and its the price you pay for greatness in the world. Especially in the material world. Spiritual or creative greatness, cannot be bought, but instead requires huge amount of inner focus.
Is it wonder that a generation focussed on clicks and societal acceptance, cannot even understand what the fuss about creative greatness is?

John Galt and Roark (two heroes from Rand's novels) exemplify personal greatness. Roark especially chooses to constantly avoid falling into the trap of "acceptance" or "definition" which the world around imposes on him.

Why is this(greatness) very hard to define/find?
By its definition, it is off the beaten path. Whenever you try and define it, you automatically crave for acceptance. If we agree (maybe condescendingly) that almost 99 out of 100 - will never know/agree or possible repress the desire to seek their personal greatness, then essentially we are also saying that now we shall go back and seek acceptance for our greatness from a world around us that is behaving like a swarm of ostriches.

Even modern examples like Steve Jobs, the poetry of Tomas Transtomer, the genius of Picasso - all point to a single direction - they took a path which not just initially, but for some even later, did not offer any acceptance.

Acceptance by its very nature, is possible a good indicator that you have compromised too much, you have veered too far away from what matters. Its not a rule, but a good indicator.

Is it worth fighting for?
Yes, arguably its the only thing worth fighting for - because within it is contained meaning, purpose and dharma.

Then why don't enough not aspire for it?
In my personal cynical view - a world full of people keeping themselves busy is not in search of a destination, its search of a journey...actually more and more, its in search of company during a journey, they don't even care which journey. For all they know it could be a treadmill to nowhere, but here.

The games we play, keep us busy enough to believe, that someday magically the world will reveal itself. My own experience has taught me that the reverse if actually true. The more we play, the more entrenched we get - the more we are blinded by our artificial contexts.

To achieve even the definition of greatness, the first thing we need to do is stop playing the game. That is why even the greatest of masters (Leonard Cohen as an example, or Jobs as even a better one) craved for solitude, personal space and at times complete withdrawal from the world.

solitude is a sure catalyst to find your inner strength, and as they say in modern times, your true north.

Finally....
I think I did kill my friend a bit today. Some day I hope she sees that my intention was not to murder, or to bias (proselyte) her, or to tell her my view is correct. My intention was to show her the mirror and tell her - the mirror only shows you yourself. What is hidden behind you only reveals itself when the mirror cracks or is intentionally broken.
Break it my dear friend. Some blood on your hands wont hurt.

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