Great books will not write themselves.

They demand great lives to be lived before them. They demand challenge and heartbreak, disruption and confusion.

Great lives are not written in trails of gold.

The path to greatness lies not in super-humanity but in raw and real humanity; such a life is paved in loss and tears, pushing on through every fear and ten-million failures that crack and scratch at great walls of uncertainty and unknowning, bit by bit — until, finally, one gleaming slice of light emerges.

Great lives will not live themselves.

Great lives are not lived by the approval of the world.

Great lives do not live by applause, or die by silence.

Because your great life dawns within.

The great life dawns when you begin to choose yourself.

Choose yourself. Choose action, endeavor, struggle and pain. Choose the unknown, uncertain, and dimly lit path.

You glance over your shoulder toward family and friends who stand gathered there with worries upon their faces, and you just smile. And with a bit of a crazy look you say, “I’ll be fine,” because it’s never about where you’re going or how you’ll get there, but that you’re going at all.

The great life dawns when you break your ego after life takes its first swings. Life chips it, beats it, dents it. You’re meant to see how fragile your ego is; how false the false-self is. Identity crisis? You betcha. A gift that invites the beautiful destruction of what was once necessary but no longer is.

And every “I don’t know who I am anymore,” becomes an, “I’ve never really met my true Self,” and suddenly you know that you want that old shell of your false self to crumble, wither and die.

The great life dawns from adversity sought.

From risk of mind and challenge of heart; less gambles of wallet or honor.

The great life is realized from every scar, scrape and bruise. Those scars come from opening your chest to let your heart show; every stitch a new lesson learned. Those scrapes come from your falls upon the path. The blood drawn in the love you share and give to those in need: at times, gratefully received; at others, painfully rejected.

Those bruises are the beatings life wreaks upon that shell of your young self that thought it “knew” the world. What your life was meant to become. Who people are. What’s “right” and what’s “wrong.”

The great life is cut in the trenches while the monarch wastes away in the lap of luxury.

And what I have come to understand about the great life is that when we choose ourselves, our biggest battles and woes become internalized.

There are battles and struggles around us, for certain.

We encounter dissenters and critics. Walls are erected by the status quo’ers. Then there are those who witness our outlandish wishes to be more of our true selves and they stand up before us. They toss a dull sword at our feet and tell us to take it up. This adversary fancies himself a protector of “ways.”

He’ll tell you he’s defending “The way it’s always been” and “The only way we can survive.”

Here’s the crazy thing about the great life: when we begin to live greatly, choosing ourselves and destroying our ego — forgetting what the world has to say because our ears are too consumed by the struggle of self-doubt and visionary wonder of what we strive to achieve — we would rather take up that sword at our feet; rather fight with our fists; rather battle with words to prove this adversary wrong in his opinions than to suffer more and more of the inner debates of self-worth, the struggles of self-loathing, the war of self-doubt that naturally rages in our own heads.

When you choose to live in perfect accord with what your heart demands, the greatest struggles are our doubts.

And many times, you might gladly slay this foe before you if it meant slaying your own uncertainty.

But the great life is perpetually bound by the unknown, the uncertain, the fear, the doubt.

That’s what holds back so many from pursuing the great life at all.

The paradox of the great life is that for it’s isolating nature, so too is it an inviting one.

We feel isolated within our own skin where our fears and doubts run amok.

And yet, when we choose to live our truth with unapologetic fervor, the great life is so ego-shattering that our vulnerability, transparency, authenticity and truth — the glaring cracks of light that shine through the hardened wall which our ego once erected so proudly — invite the entire world around us to live alongside us.

We remedies the isolation we feel within ourselves in the uncertain pursuits of our truth by bonding our hearts and souls to those of the men and women whom we encounter, every day; our love tethers us to them and by their grace, they might pull us from the bowels of our own confusion and heartache and insulated fear.

They save us from our head-bound quicksand.

A hawk looked me in the eye today upon his hunt. He did not stay for long, because he was busy failing. A scavenging chipmunk, his prey, escaped beyond the reach of his talons into the surrounding brush.

We think of “greatness” as we do a regal hawk circling nobly overhead. We think the great life dawns from pureness of expertise and inimitable command; an omniscient presence or unwavering foresight — an embodiment of super-humanity; of perfection itself.

And yet the great life is more true to the life of a scavenging chipmunk — just desperate to find a scrap to eat; to discover some small piece of noble worth that encompasses our dreams and desires while, perhaps, making better the world around us.

Then a foe sneaks up and threatens us with death.

But in living the great life, none can slay us but ourselves. The great life begins with a choice, and is followed by many other things.

But so too is the great life abandoned with but one choice.

Choice is a loose trigger, always at our disposal. That’s what makes choosing so scary to begin with. We become masters of our fate. And far too many would rather not choose anything than to be so brazen as to choose themselves — and be proven right.

The chipmunk emerges from the brush. He lives to fight another day. He chooses to carry on. He chooses to endure. And an onlooker like me wants to beg him, “Just stay hidden, little friend. Why risk so greatly with your one life?”

He looks to me as if to say, “I have only this one life to risk so greatly.”

With a smile he turns away. He scampers down the dimly lit path. Unknown. Uncertain.

Choosing himself, every step of the way.


P.S. – The Literati welcomed new members #14 and #15 of 2013 last night! Is #16 your lucky number?

Flickr photo credit: Dawn Huczek