In our advanced times, that adage invites correction to read: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some thrust greatness upon themselves. Whereas it must always remain a Freudian puzzle as to how and why anybody is born great, the most credible forms of greatness are clearly those that are achieved over strenuous spans of time and effort. At least so we thought. Merrily, however, technology now makes it possible for the smart ones to circumvent those laborious spans of time and effort, and to generate what may properly be nomenclatured selfie forms of greatness.
Imagine that someone who seeks to climb the Everest and is obliged to climb back down from a few hundred feet below the summit owing to life-threatening weather conditions is mollified to read in the newspaper the next day that such and such “failed” to conquer Everest. Contrarily, however, were one to eat a certain number of boiled eggs in a record number of minutes at a Guinness competition, one might find both instant greatness and wads of lucre to boot. The man seeking to climb the mountain might be a vainglorious idealist attempting to build socialism, hopelessly doomed to fail; the egg-eater an entrepreneurial hero of a capitalism that scorns older forms of greatness and makes new instant ones possible without loss of time.
The possibilities here are endless, as the new media teaches us everyday: you can stand next to a very dangerous animal for a mini second, take a selfie and thrust greatness upon yourself, make a multi-storeyed cake or a mile long hot dog and be similarly inscribed in the annals of new greatness until somebody comes along to improve those dimensions. Or, you may stand on your head in the middle of a busy road for an hour or two, dare the traffic, call out the curious including a bevy of reporters with cameras on the ready, and be immortalized to profitable effect. Or you may forge the largest kite with a tricolor logo, fly it for a bit and win plaudits for having done the “nation proud.” As is evident everyday, most such things nowadays are done by selfie stalwarts to make the “nation proud.”
Then there are varieties of plagiarisms that can sustain selfie greatness over personal lifetimes; think of the look-alikes of many famous personalities who assiduously nurtured their god-given likenesses to carve useful greatnesses for themselves, be it in the movies or in walks of public life, or in wartime exigencies—Churchill’s double and so forth.
In our context, you may draw from a line in Macbeth, dress yourself in “borrowed robes,” sit next to a charkha, and inflict the most massive of greatnesses imaginable upon yourself.
It remains to be seen whether Mr.Trump may in due course have Lincoln erased from Rushmore mountain to install himself as his most self-deserved contemporary incarnation. Interesting times.