We used to look up at the sky and wonder at our place in the stars, now we just look down and worry about our place in the dirt.1
I've always dreamed of doing great things. Although it was more often dreams of being a knight of the Round Table than of being an astronaut. When we were children, grandiose dreams were commonplace for us. Imbued with youthful optimism - and a healthy dose of what some may call naiveté - nothing seemed out of reach. It could have been the presidency, or space, a cure for cancer, or a happy family; no matter how lofty our vision, we wanted it.
These days, If I could do everything I wanted to, I'd build things. I'd design and engineer elegant, beautiful and efficient things that would help bring people together in an unimaginable number of ways. I'd serve in public office because I love my community and want to help people realize their fullest potential. I'd let the magnificence of this world wash over my soul and overflow into art, music, photography, writing - every true, good and beautiful thing. I would let a fierce, selfless, and magnanimous love of family and friends and people consume me.
But it's easy to become jaded, isn't it? Somewhere along the way, bright and shiny dreams begin to tarnish. "This is real life. Better get used to it." "Don't rock the boat." "Just do as you're told." Doubt takes hold, and reality sets in. The problem is that it's the worst of reality, and not the best of it. People have commented multiple times that, "uh, don't you know how many years that'll take?" when they hear of my educational ambitions. I can't even begin to count the number of times that I've heard something along the lines of, "The government is pretty much entirely corrupt anyways; doesn't matter how pure your intentions are. You'll end up just as power-hungry and compromised as all the other politicians." Goodness knows it's tough to make a living as an artist. And to love other people when they can be so aggravatingly unlovable? It is terrifyingly easy to give up and let things be.
But we can't. Or shouldn't. The world is a little less bright whenever someone decides to stick with the status quo. Doing so deprives family, friends, community, nation, and world of something that is utterly and irreplaceably unique about that someone. It could be a process or an idea, a perspective or an enthusiasm. It could be as simple as a smile that is passed on and on and on by people whose spirits have been lifted just enough to change their entire day.
You and I have something to offer. You can give things, and in ways that are so you that you can make an impact that no one else in the past, present or future could ever hope to replicate. But doing so requires that we push and pull and challenge ourselves to be the best version of ourselves that we can be. As one of my professors is fond of saying, "comfort is the enemy of achievement." Don't be afraid to strive to be greater than you are right now. Don't be afraid to want more than to simply get along. We must never just get along.2
No, it isn't easy. I often find myself aimlessly, mindlessly, scrolling through Facebook - not even with the intention of reaching out to people, but just as a filler because I'm bored and my mind needs stimulation. I'll find myself skimming through horribly written fanfiction just for the sake of doing something. Not the most productive use of my time, but it's these things that force me to ask myself, "where is this taking me?"
If I intend to be a great engineer, should I not be diligent in studying for my classes? If, when I must lead, I want to be a great leader, then don't I have to learn how to follow in order to learn what good leadership is? If I want to be an artist, do I take the time to breathe in beauty and share it with others? And if I desire to be a husband and father, can I do anything less than cast aside everything in the here and now that would cripple my ability to love so deeply and nobly as to be worthy of such a vocation?
We may long for great things, but we often forget the things that are no less necessary on the way there. But our great comfort should be in the fact that wherever we are in life, we have the opportunity to glorify God in everything we do. If I say, I must be a saint and a great saint,3 perhaps a sub-statement of that is, "I must be a student and a great student." If we've been given opportunities and talents, how can we do anything less than to make the most of them? Don't lose that greatness of spirit that drives us to ever higher things. Don't be afraid to dream. And don't be afraid to act on those dreams.
Allow your soul to be consumed by desires — desires for loving, for forgetting yourself, for sanctity, for Heaven. Do not stop to wonder whether the time will come to see them accomplished, as some pseudo-adviser might suggest. Make them more fervent every day, for the Holy Spirit says that he is pleased with men of desires.
Let your desires be operative and put them into practice in your daily tasks.4
Dare great things | ad Jesum per Mariam!
Pax Christi +JMJ+