Too often, we think of greatness in terms of MORE — who’s richer, who’s stronger, who’s more influential. But is this the true measurement of greatness?
Can you consider a person truly great if he/she became rich through stealing?
Can you consider a person truly great if he/she became stronger by exploiting the weak?
Can you consider a person truly great if he/she became more influential because of his/her coercive ways?
That is why I always go back to what Seneca, a Stoic philosopher, said, “Nothing is great unless it’s also at peace.” A person who became rich through doubtful means will always seek to enrich himself/herself, morals be damned. A person who exploits the weak will always be threatened that he/she will be overthrown. A person who desires influence will never be satiated with all the attention in the world. What do these imply? Sometimes, what human standards believe is great, is really not great after all for how can you be great if you are not at peace with yourself and with those whom you love?
I believe those who deserve to be called great can actually enjoy their accomplishments because they achieved them through honesty and hard work.
I believe those who deserve to be called great have seen life in its entirety and still be grateful for both success and difficulties.
I believe those who deserve to be called great are those who live with their hands unclenched, whose primary question is always, “What can I give?” rather than “What can I gain?”
There is greatness in generosity. There is greatness in humility. There is greatness in stillness.
Somebody should amend what Julius Caesar once said: Veni, Vidi, Vici — I came, I saw, I conquered. Things did not end well for a man whom people once revered as a great emperor.
I am reminded of the lines of a Victor Hugo poem: “I’ve lived long enough now. I have not refused my task on earth. I have lived smiling, ever kinder. I have done what I could.”
The title of the poem? Veni, Vidi, Vixi: I came, I saw, I lived.
And that, living a life of kindness and peace, I believe, is the true meaning of greatness.