The Pen is mightier than the sword, but the Pen must sometimes move the sword against corruption if the corrupt are not moved by the pen.. An idea without an implementer is useless. "The Rulers do not carry the sword in vain"Rom 13:4

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Psychology of Greatness.

Have you ever wondered.. "what makes people 'great' ?"  Let's take a step back first and ask.."what is....greatness?"
There are many types of 'greatness'.. economic greatness.. Bill Gates.  Is greatness measured by the dollars of ones fortune or.. by how that fortune is used? Perhaps by either depending on the values of the person considering the issue.  How about George Soros ? "The man who broke the bank of England"....

Time Magazine seems to measure it by impact, either good or bad.  But I sense that the popular mind associates greatness with goodness. 
And what, we might ask.. is "goodness"?
This could easily be the beginnings of an introduction to Buddhism and it's various ways and paths.. where such ideas are mentioned a lot.  But that isn't where I'm going with this.

Coming back to 'great'-ness...  the direction we go with this discussion depends on our starting point and the dimensions of our objective. Let's consider some figures from history, their impact and their objectives.

1/ Napoleon.    He had vast influence on France first, then Europe until he met his  Wellington at Waterloo.  His objective was to spread "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity", at the point of a gun to all states and nations and kingdoms of the world.  As they say, no one likes armed missionaries and he met his end one fateful day at that place now proverbialised.."Waterloo"

2/ Mahatma Gandhi.   His objetive was to liberate India from the British colonial yoke.  He sought to do this by non violent resistance and civil disobedience.  He got his wish, Britain receeded, and then one of the bloodiest, ugliest manifestly cruel wars occurred as the direct outcome of lifting that British Yoke which kept the Hindu and the Muslim from slaughtering each other. Even to this day, they are at each others throats in various places such as Kashmir.

3/ Abraham Lincoln.  was a man with a mission to abolish slavery and keep the United States "united".  It's clear that he made careful choices in appointments and his objective was succesful.
One of his great contributions was the 'Emancipation  Proclamation' which declared slaves to be free.
Another consequence of this would have been the immediate crash into poverty of many blacks.  Their livelihood and wherewithall was tied up with the plantations, but now.. 'where to?' was the question in people's minds. "What now..and with what?"

4/ Hannibal.  This man arose out of Carthage in pre Christian times, and slashed and bullied his way all across Europe and down into Italy defeating and denuding the countryside of a number of Roman Armies, only to meet his demise at the very gates of Rome at the hands of Fabius Maximus who refused to come out and meet Hannibal in open battle. Maximus used stealth, gradual attrition and denial of resources to undo Hannibal's advantage and send him packing back to Carthage, which Rome then sacked.

5/ Adolph Hitler.  A desperate Nationalist, fuming at the oppressive and disproportionate treatment of Germany by the Treaty of Versailles,  enraged at the coup led by Kurt Eisner a Jewish union agitator who declared Bavaria a "Soviet Socialist Republic' in 1919 and himself as it's Premier...embraced a vision that included a pathalogical hatred of all Jews, and  territorial ambitions for a greater Germany at the expence of Poland and Russia and their peoples.  His goal was a '3rd Reich' a millenium, so to speak, of German dominated Utopia.  (The reader is advised to fill in the gaps here with some reading on what the 1st and 2nd Reich's were.)
His objective was partially fulfilled.. but short lived. He took much territory and dominated smaller countries, even part of the Soviet Union/Russia....but ultimately he made some poor choices as Napoleon had.... and had an ignominous end in a bunker of death at the end of the war.
The 'great'ness of Hitler is seen (for good or evil) in his rise from complete obscurity, with very little formal education, to the supreme leadership of the Nation.  The process by which this took place is a most interesting and challenging saga.. and is worth some extra reading to flesh out these few words.

6/ Bill Gates.  Microsoft.  His fortune is almost uncountable, and up until he was dragged over the coals and through the courts for anti trust (monopoly) activities his fortune seemed robust and in tact.
But after his name became sullied and scorned because of what appeared to be his greed.. suddenly he changed his tune and is now aiming at becoming the worlds 'greatest'....philanthropist.  That greatness will be measured by how much he gives rather than how much he makes.

7/ Jesus..the Christ.  In comparison to the others, Christ stands out. (Gandhi admired his 'non violence' and modelled his mission after Christ.) Think of it.  He began his 'mission' at 30, and it lasted only three short years.  He never raised a weapon of military violence, nor formed an army for conquest, nor proclaimed his intention to take territory, though he did say "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth"  His message and mission were of peace, and reconciliation and while the masses flocked to him, the magistrates and leaders flogged him and ultimately crucified him. Even that was entirely within his control and choice. "He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again." 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
Jesus trained just 12 people..one of whom betrayed him.  He died..and rose again. Within 300 yrs, this man of mystery, this mission of the Messiah this message of  reconciliation and forgiveness had moved so many hearts and become manifest in  so many minds  in the Roman Empire  that the Emperor Constantine concluded that it would be politically expedient to firstly make the Faith lawful and secondly to (ostensibly) embrace it.  From that day to this, the faith which so many tried to destroy has become known and practiced world wide.  Even in the Islamic Arab States there are Christians who have become so without any missionary.

-Napoleon came and went..as did his idea's.
-Gandhi stove for peace and brought instead war.
-Lincoln freed the slaves but created a new poverty class.
-Hannibal came and was sent packing... he brought no lesson, no message, just brute force.
-Hitler came and rose up..and 78 million human beings all up died as a result, and he only left a message (Mein Kampf)  that if followed, would only end up for the adherents in the same way.

-But Christ? He came.. spent 3 short years proclaiming the kingdom of God, preparing 12 men, and then being killed,  if that had been the finish of it... I think his impact would have gone the way of previous so called "Messiah's" such as Judas Maccabeus, Johnathon Macabee  or.. Judas The Gallilean.  None of them had any lasting impact. But Jesus ? He rose and enabled his fragile  flock with renewed vigour and vision, but not only 'vision' ..that is common place and any good orator can inspire that..no..what Jesus gave was unique as he described here:

15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
He spoke thus during his earthly ministry, of what is to come.. but after he had risen he imparted that living Holy Spirit as follows:

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

This is from cowering cringing fearful , failed, flawed Peter.. the Peter who denied Christ after his death, this  Peter who even swore to enquirers that he did not know Christ...not once but three times... this Peter who was bold when things were easy and on a role..but a scared rabbit when things got tough.  Now..that same Peter, when facing the power and authority of the magistrates and religious leaders who organized and demanded the crucifixion.. he is saying with an uncommon  boldness in the apparent chaos and pandemoneum of the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, 

“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

and except for the one who betrayed him, they went to the world with his way, they persuaded and proclaimed and were persecuted, but they persisted.
John the baptist came fasting and they called him a demoniac, Jesus came feasting and they called him a degenerate, His disciples went preaching and they were persecuted.  Let history be the judge.

Today the world is stamped with the mark of this truly great man of history.  But of Him it must be said, in the words of the Roman soldier witnessing his death.. "Truly, this man was the Son of God."
Perhaps true greatness is not what comes from our natural selves, but what comes into us from outside and then emerges as it's imprint on our hearts declares "Under new management"?
To be 'Christian' means in it's deepest essense "I am crucified with Christ ,It is no longer 'I' who live, but Christ who lives in me"....

Jesus even defined 'greatness' specifically. When confronted with the carnal earthly humanity of his followers said:

whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve*, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

that seems to be the greatest of 'great'-ness.

* A most unusual life was King Frederick the Great of Prussia. 1712 -1786.  Leaving aside most of his biographical background, there was one notable attitude that set him apart from every other monarch of the time and up to that point. Monarchs ruled by 'Divine Right' and saw themselves as the pinacle of human greatness.. to be respected by the masses as "Master".. Frederick declared himself "The first servant among the people" and had determined he should be buried simply  in the ground, near his Greyhounds.  His life is a most interesting one, with many conflicting and turbulant aspects. But on this one issue, he was entirely Biblical and being an educated man, would know that in this one thing, he was obeying Christs command and example.

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