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GREATNESS
 

                                                 

 

 

“Modern psychology was an attempt to make man conform to the scientific world view. Great passion, or desire or intent – or genius – did not fit the picture. The idea of achieving greatness was considered highly improper.”  Seth

“If I see further, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants.” Newton

 The title of this painting of Friedrich’s is commonly translated as ‘Largeness’ or ‘Large Enclosure’. A more appropriate translation would be ‘Greatness’ -  the words for ‘large’ and  for great  - in both connotations of the latter  - being the same in German. The painting offers us a mirror of the sheer scale or ‘greatness’ of our own being. The ‘lake’ in the foreground, though it seems enclosed within a landscape, is a landscape of our own larger or greater self. For it curves like the surface of the earth itself, offering us a likeness of our planet as a whole, with its sea-surrounded islands and continents. If the ‘smaller’ self we identify with is literally no greater in scale than a single body dwelling on the surface of the planet, then our inner being – our Greater Self – would have to be compared in scale to the planet as a whole. And just as we each live on a small region on the surface of the planet, so do we also inhabit only a small psychical region on the surface of our own Greater Self. No amount of travel around the surface of our planet - by any present or future means of transport - will ever enable us to explore the planet as a whole. Nor will it enable to us to explore all the expanses and depths, seas and continents of our Greater Self. Modern science knows nothing of these great psychical expanses and depths of our being. Therefore notions of ‘greatness’ – and of great genius – have become “improper”. Worse still, they are seen as ‘politically incorrect’ or even ‘impossible’ to achieve in our ‘post-modern’ culture. Ideas of greatness and genius – and human beings of great genius - are seen as belonging to the past. That is sad. For without the capacity to appreciate and affirm the greatness and genius of other human beings – human beings living on our planet right now - we cannot cultivate our own greatness and genius. For any of us to “see further”, we must, like Newton, “stand on the shoulders of giants.”

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