Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Question of Greatness

Why do I feel like we've just given up on being great?

Why do I feel like the whole country, hell, probably the whole world, has up and said, "y'know, I could try to reach something transcendent, but, man...that's just too hard."

I'm not even talking about art or theater here, but, man. Where are the heroes? If someone steps up and does something extraordinary, sports, arts, whatever, our first instinct is "they cheated," or "they have family problems." Anything, anything else, rather than just flat out admit, "I wish I had done that."

When I look at TMZ, or Perez Hilton, or the internet trolls you see on every website, even right up to Glenn Beck, I see people motivated by jealousy and fear. Jealously because, they, themselves, didn't get up off their asses to do something productive in the world. Fear because other people excelling at life reminds them of their own failures.

It's not like I don't understand it. I go through times of depression and despair, because...what have I done with my life? I get jealous like anyone else, but, damn it, I try, with everything I have, to channel that into something better, something productive. I don't always succeed, that's a fact, and it leads to bouts of bitterness and envy that I am not proud of. I own them, but I am not proud of them.

Why is it that I feel like most of the country is living in that moment all the time?

In 2009, we observed the 40th Anniversary of Apollo 11, and the first moon landing. NASA put up a wonderful website that tracked the progress of the mission in real time, exactly 40 years after the fact. I was really taken by this, and thought it was a moment to inspire and, yes challenge. I started making status updates that read something like this:

"40 years ago, Apollo 11 had separated from the final stage of the rocket, and begun it's trip to the moon. What will you do today?"

I was pretty flabbergasted by the responses I got. People seemed offended at what I had written, as if I was making some sort of passive-aggressive criticism of their lives.

That's haunted me.

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