“Lives of great people remind us we can make our lives sublime and, departing, leave behind footprints in the sand of time.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
There are people who look at themselves and admonish any notion of becoming a person of substance or value, simply because of their circumstances. They adjust their goals and ambitions solely based on the achievements of others in their family or their financial situation. They automatically discount the notion that they too can one day become great, before their lives have really begun.
Greatness isn’t something that’s thrust upon you. You become great by the type of person you are, and what you accomplish during your time here, not by whom your parents are or how much money you’re born into.
You become great by living a sublime existence: by leading a life of high moral and intellectual value. You make your life sublime by inspiring awe and admiration in others, from your deeds and words. You live an existence that’s elevated in nature.
Being famous, rich, or even a leader doesn’t aspire someone to greatness. Throughout history, there are many more rich and famous who’ve been forgotten than poor ones who are remembered.
There are some who are remembered by what they did. That doesn’t mean they’ve become great. It simply means their actions, good or bad are remembered. Their name is associated with those actions.
The truly sublime are remembered for who they are. What they accomplish becomes secondary.
The sand of time is history. When someone leaves behind footprints in the sand of time, they are leaving behind imprints, of themselves or their actions, in history. These imprints, or footprints, last for generations. They become memories, footprints, which may never disappear, or take centuries to disappear.
All of us can leave behind a piece of ourselves to be remembered after we die, by acknowledging the fact that it is within our means to do so. You do so by leading a life whose main purpose is to benefit humanity. When you put humanity before yourself, the path to greatness will open itself to you. When you take that path, you too will leave behind footprints in the sand of time.
This quote is an excerpt from a poem Henry Wadsworth Longfellow first published in 1838 in the Knickerbocker Magazine called ‘A Psalm of Life”.
From Wikipedia: Longfellow wrote the poem shortly after completing lectures on German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and was heavily inspired by him. He was also inspired to write it by a heartfelt conversation he had with friend and fellow professor at Harvard University Cornelius Conway Felton; the two had spent an evening “talking of matters, which lie near one’s soul:–and how to bear one’s self doughtily in Life’s battle: and make the best of things”. The next day, he wrote “A Psalm of Life”.
A Psalm of Life
What the Heart of the Young Man Said To the Psalmist
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act, — act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.