They are all hard to accomplish, said one.
They are all impossible if we are realistic about the human endeavor, said another.
They are all cruel ideals to make each of us feel inferior, said the third.
And yet, I wonder. Surely, one can forgive those who offend. Some can run the marathon. I know someone who finished the Boston Marathon nine years in a row. And contemplating great art is feasible as long as we let the beauty speak to us rather than our trying to define it and therefore reduce it.
Forgiveness, running the marathon, and contemplating great art all stretch us, ask us to see farther down the road, challenge us to grow beyond our current self.
They all awaken in us the call to greatness. They all challenge us to see that life is more than going to work, collecting a paycheck, and kicking back on the weekend, only to repeat the cycle seemingly endlessly until we retire.
Forgiveness is a heroic virtue because it asks us to so stretch ourselves that we are good to those who are not good to us. The marathon shows us that we can go beyond our expected capacity, that we have a reserve that can be discovered by the strong will. The contemplation of inspired works of art challenges us to see that there is more to this world than we can see and hear and taste and touch in our ordinary surroundings. There is a greatness awaiting us, if only we have the courage to look.
We all can begin by forgiving a loved one for a minor injustice. We all can start to walk and then run and lift that weight even if it does not translate into over 26 miles of challenge. We all can create and contemplate what others around us create even if none of these will see its way to a Florentine gallery. And we can keep raising the bar on whom to forgive, what exercises challenge us, and what magnificent art really is.
We all can start stretching ourselves today. Forgiveness, the marathon, and inspired great art are all calls to us to move forward, to be better than we are today, to reach and then achieve.