We humans love to emulate the better traits of our nature as demonstrated by the heroes of history and family legend. Charity, compassion and bravery are only a few of those natures we hail in our dreams. I have always wanted to do something truly grand or be a part of something heroic even if I was only a small part of the endeavor. Most of us have had our Walter Mitty dreams of adulation from our friends and family and even neighbors for a job well done. The truth is most of us never achieve such a feat. We want to climb Everest, be part of a conquering army, sit on the Supreme Court, be the leader of a great movement that affects lives.
We want glory. Sometimes that glory is the type sought by Col. Custer at the Big Horn river or the battle fields of Virginia before that when he was a brevet General. Of course that glory was about self-aggrandizement as much as doing something grand for others. It was more self promotion than a heroic deed. He wanted it to be seen as a heroic deed for sure by others. He loved that adulation. There is nothing necessarily wrong with wanting the praise of others, to bask in the glory of their remarks.
I have wanted to do something brave, bold and influential in my life. Perhaps that is a reason I always had thoughts of the military as a young man but then circumstances and life never opened that door. I would have been like Patton when he remarked how he had spent his entire life wanting to lead an army of men into a desperate battle of good and evil. I wanted to be part of something good, doing good where there were no gray lines about the right course of action. My dad served during the War and he certainly would never have thought of himself as doing anything heroic or filled with glory but he was and it was filled with glory. It was indeed a grand crusade of the forces for good in the world against evil empires in the West and East. He was a tiny player of no significance but he was there, he did participate in that grand crusade. He never talked about it but he must have felt good about having a role in the adventure.
I think it is good to desire glory because that means you have done something that is universally recognized as noble, worthy and beneficial for mankind otherwise there would be no glory attached to the feat. That is not to be my fate and perhaps I would have stumbled even if presented the opportunity for glory. I might have come up short. I have reached that age where I know I will never be an admiral, sit on the Supreme Court or save the family from the burning house. Just once in our lifetimes we should do something completely outside our norm and that brings hope, relief or pure joy to others. There is no question that the lasting glory for the individual is the doing of something that is completely unselfish, it is for others. Alexander the Great achieved great glory but it was more fame than glory because he was feared as much as he was ever loved. He wanted the power and recognition for himself. He did bring improvements for many but he also dominated many to have them bend to his will.
Since at my age I realize I won’t ever achieve that glory associated with public affairs and the roar of the crowd during a Roman triumph I must look for the glory in other places and perhaps better places. It is the glory that comes from within. As wonderful as it is to receive the praise of others we always know whether we have done well or not. The praise of others is really just an echo, a nice one to hear but an echo. There is a true glory in sitting at the Thanksgiving table and looking around at your children and grandchildren. You may not be a Master of the Universe or General but having done your duty well and having the love of one’s family is a glory in itself. You get to bask in it secretly if you choose because that glory will never be a headline story or it might not even make the obituary notice. But that glory in a job well done as a parent is palpable and real. Even if you had achieved the glory of the crowd when the doors close at home it dissipates quickly and it is you and your intimates that matter more than anything. Praise of an unknown stranger is nice, but the love and respect of a son or daughter or wife or grandchild is beyond measure.
Don’t you feel better now that the Washington gang has sent lawyers to La. to deal with the oil spill. Those lawsuits will stop the leak and even get us more oil as an energy source no doubt. That’s all they need down there–more sharks swimming in the water. www.olcranky.wordpress.com