Everyone has a name, and everyone wants to be proud of his name. Each person also wants to be proud of all the parts of his body-his limbs, his eyes, and all his faculties. Someone who doesn’t think he is attractive wants to find something which he thinks will make him more attractive. A woman might wear accessories, like earrings, rings, necklaces, for instance, to make herself look more beautiful.
People want to extend their sense of pride to include their parents, wanting to be proud of the way they look and behave. They count their merits by the ways in which they are good or not so good. They also want to be proud of their brothers and sisters and other relatives.
After that, we want to be proud of the things we own, such as our home or automobile. We also want to be proud of our country. Most people stop right there at the level of the country; they don’t know how to think beyond that level. Today many people feel they cannot think about anything other than themselves, not even their parents, and certainly not their country. But if the world is one, then that world should be their country. In that case, Americans would not only be proud of Niagara Falls, but would also take pride in the great falls in South America and Africa, which are even grander than Niagara. Americans could be proud of the Himalayas, as well as the Rocky Mountains.
The greater a person is, the longer is the list of things in which he takes pride. A person of narrow vision cannot see far away, no matter how much he may want to. Naturally he will have to find a source of pride close at hand. But when a person has broad vision, he can look out to far distances and can have more things to be proud of.
What kind of people can we be proud of in history? No matter how great or how unimportant people may be, the basic pattern of life is about the same for everyone: we eat three meals a day, we sleep so many hours, we get married and have children. Great or small, people all live according to these same basic patterns. Then how do we decide who is the great person and who is the lesser person?
Comparing a person who lives for his country with a person who lives for the world, which can we say is the greater person? Even though we do the same work side by side with each other, if one person is thinking about a larger purpose then he is certainly greater than the others.
People can be proud of things higher and greater, or wider and deeper than themselves. People talk about the Rocky Mountains as the highest part of America, and of Death Valley as the lowest point. Someone who hasn’t been there might imagine that it is some extraordinarily deep gorge, but it is not very impressive when you actually see it. This is one example of how people want to be proud of something which is high and deep, or wide and great, something which lasts a long time.
What is it that you would like to have pride in as Americans? Perhaps you are proud that America is such a big country, but bigness has very little value when you realize that here many people are fighting each other. Families fight amongst themselves, communities are divided according to income, and black and white people don’t trust each other. When you find these things, then the size of the country really doesn’t matter. What kind of people are living in America, then-big people or small people? Are the majority of Americans only concerned with trifling things?
Before you speak of any person as being great, you have to think about the meaning of greatness. Of all the people throughout history, we can speak of only four greatest saints, Jesus, Mohammed, Confucius, and Buddha. Did they have big, fancy houses and lots of possessions? No, all of them were persecuted and despised in their own time. Jesus said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have their nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” Is that characteristic of a great man? During his time Confucius was like a “nameless dog” as he put it, the way people pushed him around. He didn’t have a regular job, but chose to beg for his food and to travel, teaching and learning. Buddha was born into a palace as a great prince, but he gave up all that and embraced hardship instead. He went to the mountains to pray and discover spiritual truth. No one really wants to live a difficult life, but these four men chose such a life, and today everyone considers them great.
Does the definition of greatness change according to the times? Is it guaranteed that the criterion for greatness will never change simply because Americans vouch for it? Who is the central figure, the master of America? If it were God, would America be as it is today? It must be someone other than God! Maybe you say that the media is the master of America, but does anyone want to live for the sake of the media? Is money the master? Even the almighty dollar goes up and down in value. Do you want a master which changes morning and evening?
The Things We Want To Be Proud Of
Reverend Sun Myung Moon
October 25, 1981