Es liebt die Welt, das Strahlende zu schwärzen
Und das Erhabne in den Staub zu ziehn.
The world delights to tarnish shining names,
And to trample the sublime in the dust.
-Schiller, Das Mädchen von Orleans
If this is true of the world, then it is true of the men and women who compose it. I imagine most would agree that the habit of snuffing out radiance is well established, despite it being an irrational approach to living. Progress favors the fit, and radiance is the evidence of the presence of fitness, but few there are who are willing to let brilliance shine on uncontested.
Consider the great prophets to whom so many look for answers in our day. Their lights and lives were typically violently and publicly extinguished with haste by the selfish and fearful proponents of mediocrity, almost as if their despatch was sign to anyone else who might wish to rise above the common herd.
Or consider how you’ve acted when momentum was building in your life, or when success in a particular endeavor was imminent. I cannot tell you how many people I’ve seen sink themselves in the 11th hour, regardless of how many people were pulling for them. The forces at work in the world, which is the sum total of the forces at work in the hearts and minds of individuals, loves to “trample the sublime in he dust.”
Think of talented children, moreover, whose musical, athletic or theatrical talents thrust them onto the world stage. The stage is lit by radiance, but wolves wait at the doors. Rare is the child who escapes being chewed up and spit out by their adoring fans, opinionated critics and loyal retinue.
This habit, once poetically described as a dragon standing before a woman waiting to be delivered, to devour her child as soon as it was born, is well entrenched in humanity. That said, anything well established in humanity can be changed, but such changes always begin with an individual, or at the individual level.
If one can overcome, then many can overcome. So rather than bemoan humanity’s foolishness, take a close look at your personal habits. Ask yourself questions such as: “Do I tend to tarnish and trample the wonderful things in myself and in others when they appear?” Or perhaps, “Do others’ successes intimidate me or pique my shame?” Look at the pattern of your living and see if you’ve had a habit of belittling the shining moments of others or conversely, of disparaging yourself or scrambling for cover when the radiance coming from others shines brightly on your bad side.
Love the light. Seek the light. Share the light. Don’t fear the repercussions, but know that the dragon will seek you out. Stand tall. Stand strong. Eschew mediocrity and embrace excellence. Be radiant. Be yourself. And for God’s sake, live every day as if it were your first day and your last!