In response to yesterday's "Tokugawa’s Generals, and Being a Great Follower," I wrote that greatness is something you define for yourself. I asked, what's your definition of greatness, then? We can think about it. The reader clarified -
I wrote down a list of great men and realized what I meant by greatness. Glory, recognition by other human beings. From conquerors, to musical virtuosos, the great men are those that are supported by the wave of existing people. Great men are those who did something that is today recognized as valuable. Great men are those that are known by "everyone". That is how I think fame should be seen. That is how I am seeing it as of now.
Something that jumps to the eyes is that it requires other people. If you are great then at least someone must be not great. I guess being successful in life is different from being great. If living a successful life is minimally having 2 kids with more opportunities than you had and a strong family then once achieved, your are successful. Greatness I think could be seen as recognized success. Perhaps self-recognized success can make you see yourself as great...
If everyone is successful and recognize that their success and others are great, then everyone is great, hence no one is great. (or otherwise said, to my belief, the word "great" loses value as "awe-some" did) Well that is how I see it. Everyone is successful in something, not all are The Great. Where were the risk-taking warriors? As I now understand, they were fearful. Then again I suppose they had to stop someday throne or no throne. Having acquired the belief that to rebel is a bad ROI.
"Persuade thyself that imperfection and inconvenience are the natural lot of mortals, and there will be no room for discontent, neither for despair." - Tokugawa Ieyasu, Unifier of Japan, Founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate
I've studied the Sengoku Era of Japanese history a lot. There are so many lessons in it - about courage, about restraint, about going too far, about not going far enough... about honor, about idealism, about pragmatism... about trust and distrust, love and hate, loyalty and betrayal...
It's rare that an era of history has so many unique and varied lessons to teach. The only thing that comes close, in my mind, is the Italian Renaissance. Certainly, there's been eras with a great many lessons to learn from them, but not so many with such a wildly diverse range of views. Sengoku was the crossroads that created Japan. The victors of the era were those who could appeal to tradition while using the most modern advantages - tapping into the samurai culture and spirit, while simultaneously beginning to employ firearms and other newly emergent technologies in war.
Out of Sengoku came Japan's "Three Great Unifiers" - Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu. It's a long story and you can read the history article I wrote on Sengoku that I linked if you're curious to see the whole thing.
But the basic idea is, Nobunaga and Hideyoshi were both probably more remarkable and more brilliant men than Ieyasu. But in the end, Ieyasu won and his family and administration ruled Japan for the next 250 years.