Searching for Greatness and Finding It

David Orr raised the question in Sunday's Times Book Review of what constitutes “greatness” in poetry, writing, “our largely unconscious assumptions work like a velvet rope: if a poet looks the way we think a great poet ought to, we let him or her into the club quickly—and sometimes later we wish we hadn’t.”

But why not take Orr’s analysis of, as it were, The Principles of Admission in the Poetry Game, and apply it across the board—to bankers, Presidents, Oscar nominees and their couture? It's almost axiomatic.


That nagging sensation of it’s all gone to hell and why can’t we read Robert Lowell rather than US weekly is not only how it works, it’s what we need. Obama knew this. We need Greats, and we need the idea of greatness. Robert Browning put it well: “a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a Heaven for?” 

So, while we might have taken Orr’s piece and thought this analysis of greatness could be applied broadly but not to our elected officials— Let’s. 

As America needs her Obama, Obama needs his Lincoln. The key is in choosing wise models and in retaining models a bit out of reach. Recently, the man from Hope, Bill Clinton, reminded the campaigner of Hope, Barack Obama: we need more hope and optimism! Even as, intellectually, we see its risks, it’s a far better choice than all the options—especially in a time of crisis. Hope is the opium of the masses and we like it.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Dead – yes, dead – tardigrade found beneath Antarctica

A completely unexpected discovery beneath the ice.

(Goldstein Lab/Wkikpedia/Tigerspaws/Big Think)
Surprising Science
  • Scientists find remains of a tardigrade and crustaceans in a deep, frozen Antarctic lake.
  • The creatures' origin is unknown, and further study is ongoing.
  • Biology speaks up about Antarctica's history.
Keep reading Show less

If you want to spot a narcissist, look at the eyebrows

Bushier eyebrows are associated with higher levels of narcissism, according to new research.

Big Think illustration / Actor Peter Gallagher attends the 24th and final 'A Night at Sardi's' to benefit the Alzheimer's Association at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 9, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
popular
  • Science has provided an excellent clue for identifying the narcissists among us.
  • Eyebrows are crucial to recognizing identities.
  • The study provides insight into how we process faces and our latent ability to detect toxic people.
Keep reading Show less

Why are women more religious than men? Because men are more willing to take risks.

It's one factor that can help explain the religiosity gap.

Photo credit: Alina Strong on Unsplash
Culture & Religion
  • Sociologists have long observed a gap between the religiosity of men and women.
  • A recent study used data from several national surveys to compare religiosity, risk-taking preferences and demographic information among more than 20,000 American adolescents.
  • The results suggest that risk-taking preferences might partly explain the gender differences in religiosity.
Keep reading Show less