I once heard a young woman say, “I wish I could be somebody significant.” Which got me to thinking: Just what is involved in becoming someone significant?”
The first thought that entered my mind is that the urge to achieve significance is (at the very least) a two-edged sword.
On one hand, many of the most beneficial achievements by men and women have been the result of sheer ambition – a natural desire to be outstanding, a big dog, No. 1 in the ratings.
The flip side is that monsters have been created by those same aspirations. Adolf Hitler wanted to be significant. So did Lee Harvey Oswald and John Hinckley Jr. Most recently (some folks say) we have Donald Trump.
The search for significance should be tempered with a matching desire to be honorable. Without that, shameful notoriety is always waiting.
Exactly what does “significance” mean? Only you or I can figure that one out. It’s a tricky question.
One reason: significance can be faked. The history books are filled with accounts of “great men” (and some women) who climbed the slippery ladder of fame and success (and significance) by lying about their attainments.
In our glimmering, show-biz world, there’s a strong tendency for significance to be all surface appearance, with nothing at the center except emptiness and mush.
I have met a number of “significant” people, i.e., persons of status, wealth, renown and supposed attainment. Some of these folks were for real. Many were phonies or dull or shallow.
Even when Charlie or Charlene reach the top of the heap through genuine, unselfish effort, plus talent and energy, their claim to enduring significance will always face one inescapable enemy: time.
There’s a song that says, “Time waits for no one – it passes you by.” Time is a never-ending tide. It keeps coming. And each day it washes away some of our memories, even the ones of glory and success. That’s the way life works. The old is swept away to make room for the new.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Bloom where you are planted.” Maybe that’s what each of us should do if we are to achieve real significance. As a child, Alice McFloon (not her real name) dreamed of being a leading soprano for the Metropolitan Opera. Instead, she grew up to possess the purest voice in the choir of the First Methodist Church of her home town, population 3,447. Did Alice achieve significance? Damn betcha, pal.
Isn’t it possible that a synonym for significance is usefulness? Have you ever known a useful, helpful person whose life was insignificant?
I believe that God or fate or karma tends to help us find where we should be, if only we don’t mess things up with our own pride and egotism. Little by little, we can discover those ideas and actions that are right and good for us. One page at a time, our book will unfold.