Why do great things fail?  Why do men stop trusting something so solid, so ironclad, that in the past it was thought indestructible?

Because a great thing has standards.  A great thing has rules.  It has rules that are harsher by far than the rules the rest of the world lives by, because it made them for itself when it was very young.  It was committed to becoming great, and forced itself to march to the beat of a different drum.  A great reward is balanced by a great risk, and the great risk is these rules, the razor’s edge of a path greatness must walk on.

But when a great thing strays from the path, when it breaks its own rules…

For a time, men will continue to trust in greatness, though it breaks one of its rules.  Perhaps, men will think, this is part of a larger design, and it will make sense.  Its greatness has rewarded it some measure of security, for men realize it is not perfect, and it is not made by those who are perfect.  To err is human.  A great human rarely errs.  But from time to time, it may.  And if it stops erring immediately afterwards, the error shall be forgiven.

And yet…

A boy can only cry wolf so many times before the village ceases to hear him.  A great man who continues to err is no longer great.  He is no longer to be trusted, because a man who was once trusted with much, and lost it, is perhaps even less trustworthy than a man whom was never trusted with much to begin with.  A fall from greatness is a far sadder thing that a fall from mediocrity.  It is more painful, more destructive, more disappointing.  A great man who desires greatness has a responsibility to those who call him great, and when he fails in that responsibility, he proves to the world that he was never worthy of that responsibility to begin with.  Perhaps he never desired greatness, and it was thrust upon him without his consent, but the moment he calls himself great, the moment he relishes in that greatness, he loses all claims to innocence.

Not every great act is done by a great man, though some may call him “great” because of his acts.  And this is the crux.  A great man who fails knows why he failed.  He knows his mistakes, and he learns from his mistakes; he is prepared to make mistakes, though he seldom makes them, because he is at heart great.  A man who is only good at heart, or average, is not prepared.  He will not know why he makes mistakes, or he will not see the mistakes he makes.  He is capable of greatness, but it does not radiate from him, and when the glow of his great acts dims, those nearby can see that he is not very great underneath.

Don’t try to be a great man, just be a man. And let history make its own judgments.”

-Zefram Cochrane, Earth, 2073

{Oh the things I could say about the topic that inspired this.  It is truly a never-ending font of inspiration, thought, and emotion for me.}


3 thoughts on “Greatness

    • Well, it tends to be a different topic every time whenever I do one of these philosophy bits. I often find myself riled up and emotional about something, and to cool down I try and deconstruct exactly WHY I’m all riled up and reach the root of the matter, so I can better understand it, as well as better understand myself. As I’ve mentioned before, I deliberately don’t say on this site what the impetus is, because in doing so I feel it reinforces the point that these philosophical principles are universal and don’t just apply to what I’m thinking about right now.
      {Yes, late response.}

      • Ah, I see, that makes sense.

        (Actually… Come to think of it, I tend to write wonky philosophical stuff when I’m emotional about something too.)

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