I have always been a staunch admirer of great people. Those larger than life individuals that leave a permanent mark and redefine or change our perception of life. I have envied such people for as long as I can remember and it explains why am a big fan of epic movies and biographies. Movies like “Brave heart” and “The Gladiator,” had my heart racing and ready to charge onto the battle field like I was personally aggrieved. I have always wondered what inspired them! What kept them going to overcome what seemed like insurmountable obstacles.
So then what makes a man or woman great? Is it their timing? Or is it Love, passion, pain, a willingness to die for a cause? Or could it be greed, persistence and a resolve to never settle for less? Could it just be that unmatched hunger or thirst that isn’t easily quenched! Could it all be destiny, a story already written for these towering humans and therefore a favor from God bestowed at birth?
Whatever the answer to these questions are, the truth remains that these individuals despite hailing from different regions and eras in history, they were great men and women. This brings me to another important question: What is it that separates these people from the rest of us “mere mortals”? Over the years, I kept reading their stories and watched them being depicted in movies. They had simple upbringings. There was definitely no myths of stars aligning on the nights they were born. There were no prophesies like we see in epic trilogies. They were, unbelievably very simple humans just like you and I, if not simpler who, with dedication, timing, persistence and luck, rose to heights that make their stories leave you in awe.
Greatness, however, is relative. Different people have different versions of greatness. So no matter how great one’s story is, one will always find the naysayers or people who view your hero as the villain. Greatness fortunately or unfortunately is more often than not endowed by history to the victors and not to the vanquished, regardless of methods or morals or lack thereof used by the victor. In my opinion some great leaders like Napoleon, Hitler, Mussolini among others were tyrants who are inappropriately labelled as great men. Granted they were military geniuses whose achievements and legacies are unfortunately tainted by the merciless tyranny they used during their eras.
On the other hand, Some of the greatest heroes and liberators of our time were once labelled rebels or insurgents. They were hunted by the “moral big brothers” of our world. Nelson Mandela was at one time on the FBI’s most wanted list! It sounded like a sick joke the first time I was told that. A Nobel prize winner and ultimate idol for millions, but viewed as a threat! Martin Luther King Jr, Malcom X and Gandhi all these men were vilified just because they couldn’t tow the line.
Almost all liberators are viewed and perceived as rebels before the liberation is successful, they’re dismissed as mad men disturbing peace. Fidel Castrol of Cuba, Gadhafi of Libya, Haile Selassie of Ethiopia are just but a few examples. This applies to all those that fought colonialism in the colonial era. Great scientists were ridiculed, ignored and dismissed as lunatics. Albert Einstein was called a moron! Am guessing anyone that ever referred to him as that felt like the real moron years later.
When I look at all great men I realize that most of them share similar attributes. Some contradictory to each other. Like someone with bipolar disorder. You find that they will be selfless and greedy; the selflessness endears them to their followers but the greed also helps them not to settle for less. The likes of president Obama, for example had timing favoring him like it was pre destined, leaving you wondering whether he would have stood a chance if he had been born earlier. Or if it hadn’t been for a very poor performing republican president before him, would voters have been chanting his campaign slogan “yes we can”? Then there’s the message they carry, and the words they speak that strike a chord in their followers’ hearts. The hope in those words make their followers believe, trust and follow fanatically. Mandela had passion and persistence, not that Obama didn’t but each has a trait that stood out more than others.
I then realize that the most important thing these men or women share is the fact that God was on their side. Certain things are out of your control and only God can “align the stars for you”. They’re countless men and women who fought more,worked harder and sacrificed much but somehow it’s them that stole the limelight or struck at the right time. You hear of the unsung heroes but that’s where it ends, they stay unsung! History chooses to remember them as footnotes. All they did was do the donkey work, making it a smoother landing for the predestined hero.
We all can’t go down in history as great but we all surely can be great to someone in our own simple way. If in some way you have a positive impact on a fellow human being that alters their life path, that’s greatness. If you haven’t at one point in time compromised, sacrificed, or simply left your comfort zone for the sake of another, then yours is a wasted life. At the end of this life if it’s written on your tomb stone with sincerity “Loving husband or wife and father or mother,” then you’re a great person.
Ironically, this is where most so called greats fall short; for many their families never shared the world’s perception of the man or woman. Its either the price they paid to reach such heights of greatness or they just got their priorities wrong. Personally I would rather greatness to my family than adoration of millions, that’s if I have to choose. True greatness should be owed most to the ones closest to you, they should never come second. So love fiercely, fight for what you believe in, stand up for a less fortunate, live on the edge, be fearless, don’t settle, stand tall, inspire and aspire and above all have faith and trust in the almighty. If all fails, at the very least your life would have been fully lived. Be great.