Have you given yourself a break today from trying to be great? If you did, you might just find out you’re a leader anyway, ordinary as you are! I’m so grateful for the reality check of Michael Blumenthal’s charming poem about ambition, greatness, and the bummer of impossibility of being all that, all the time.
When you read the poem, see if you can answer these question: what would happen if you decided it is OK to be a person, not a mythic hero?
I Think Constantly of Those Who Were Truly Great
by Michael Blumenthal
and, to be perfectly honest, it bums me out.
So many great ones! —libidinal heroes,
idealists, warrior-chieftains, revolutionaries,
fabulists of all sorts, even the great Irish pig farmers
and Armenian raisin growers —and who,
I ask myself, am I by comparison? Calmed
by Valium, urged on by Viagra, uplifted
by Prozac, I go about my daily rounds,
a quotidian member of the quotidian hierarchy,
a Perseus with neither a war nor a best friend,
and sink to the depths of despair
on the broken wings of my own mundanity.
If only some god had given me greatness,
I surely would have made something of it—
perhaps a loftier, more humble poem than this,
or some übermenschliche gesture that would reveal
my superiority to the ordinary beings and things
of this world. But here I am now, one of
the earth’s mere Sancho Panzas, leading
those heroic others through the world on their
magnificent horses, merely turning the page, dreaming
my own small deeds into their magnificent arms.
What do you think? If you step away from the mythic impossibility, do you get to be a better leader? A real leader, not an imaginary, ego driven one?
I love the wry humor of this poignant poem, which points out, indirectly, that we should revisit our disappointment and turn it around. We might just have to accept that being Sancho Panza is pretty darn fabulous! After all, didn’t he save Don Quixote’s ridiculous life more than once!? In fact, you might argue that Sancho Panza was the real leader — although there wasn’t much obviously heroic about him. In the end, Don Quixote needed Sancho Panza far more than Panza needed his “master’s” mad dream of tilting at windmills!
Here’s to sanity, grounded vision, and poetry that reminds us that we are who we are — and maybe that’s not such a bad thing!
POEM CREDIT: “I Think Constantly of Those Who Were Truly Great” by Michael Blumenthal, from No Hurry: Poems 2000-2012. © Etruscan Press, 2012.