This year I've spent a lot of time thinking about how fleeting life is. In the eternal stream of things, our individual existence is a tiny blip. The one thing we all have in common is that we're going to die (some sooner than later) and none of us really knows what happens next.
Does this sound dark to you? It's not meant to. This is actually a really wonderful thing to ponder. Only our infantile egos believe that we should somehow have more of an existence than anyone who ever came before us; or that we should have some special knowledge about what happens next. It is the ephemeral quality of our existence that, once realized, makes everything in our lives come into focus and become sweeter - even our grief or despair. To recognize that we are living, working, loving and creating within a very limited window of time is what helps us find value in the people and things that surround us. Nothing can be taken for granted. No one is expendable.
It is our egos that keep us distracted from this reality by allowing us to waste precious time and resources defending and promoting our self-defined identities and building monuments to our own individual and collective 'greatness'. The pharaohnic impulse to build pyramids in our own honor, with the hopes that our individual greatness will have to be acknowledged by people long after we are gone is what consumes us during the precious years we are alive and conscious here.
True greatness is rarely understood, recognized or celebrated. But I see it. I see humans who are quietly working in their tiny corners of the world, sacrificing their selves to do what needs to be done for family, friends, and community. I see those who toil on behalf of others with no expectations of greatness, and it makes them even greater. They stand in stark contrast to the "professional do-gooders" who promote themselves as a brand, desiring their very own cult of personality.
Any good done by the ego is only done in trade. It is tainted, and can never change the world for the permanent better of all. To detach from ego, to do work or to create in a state of pure surrender to our shared humanity - this is a rare and beautiful thing. We may not be able to live in this state all the time, but to strive for it, to make it our goal, to practice the surrender - this is the place from which the very best of humanity springs.
Surrender your ego and allow the universe to work through you. That is how one becomes 'great'.
To those who are doing good by and through eschewing their egos: know that you are seen. I see you: caring for your elderly parents. Volunteering to clean and cook for those who are ill. Confronting the mistakes your children make and teaching them hard lessons when it would be easier to ignore them. Making sure resources are allotted for the education and support of those who have far less. Teachers. Public Servants. Healers.
Those of you who do what's right even when there is no audience to applaud you. Those who stand out of the limelight, even when others beg you to take center stage, because you know it's not about you.
I see you, and I think you're Great.