Monday, November 1, 2010

Biographies of Great Men

Biographies are almost always a great read. In part that's because they are of great people, men or women. Right now I'm reading a book titled Mr. Baruch. It's a biography of Bernard Baruch, who was a Wall Street speculator of humble origins, who eventually became an adviser to Democratic presidents and politicians. I'm reading that book because I found it among books we put up for sale at my mother-in-law's moving sale in January 2009. It was among many books I took from my dad's house after his death, lots of which we intend to sell. The name was familiar, but if what he did was covered in my history classes, I slept through it. I'm close to 1/4 through this 610 page scholarly biography. My conclusion to date: Whatever his politics, Baruch was a great man, a man of accomplishment.

At the same time, in our adult Life Group classes, we are studying Charles Swindoll's Joseph: A Man of Integrity and Forgiveness. It's about the patriarch Joseph, and is a very good book. I'll blog about it eventually, but meanwhile I highly recommend it as either a small group study or even as an individual read. Joseph was a great man of the Bible, a great man in history, a man of accomplishment.

Do you find biographies of great people motivating or deflating? I find them somewhat deflating myself. And, since biographies are only written about great—or notorious—people, most biographies tend to do that to me.

What have I accomplished in life? Unpublished, except for a few articles; lots of work at it, little results. Third string in high school football. Third man in the mile, but barely so. Never rose above third trumpet in band. A generalist civil engineer not really recognized as an expert in anything. A hack home maintainer, barely squeaking by without having to call out a repair man for each little thing. Heck, even most of the water damage we had this summer, which we are still cleaning up from, would have been minimized if I had made the right "diagnosis" of the problem and closed a valve that first evening.

Sorry for the pity party. I just find it all very deflating. Maybe I should quit reading biographies. I've actually written three short biographies. Well, two of them are unfinished. The third is of Lynda's paternal great-grandfather: Seth Boynton Cheney: Mystery Man of the West. It's "finished", though whenever I run out of copies I always update it, adding newly found information, improving the illustrations and printing, etc. I have one copy left, so an upgrading will be coming soon. Of course, it's only about 40 book-sized pages of text, 15 of illustrations and pictures, and 60 or so of genealogy tables and data. It probably doesn't qualify as a real biography.

Well, I guess I'll keep plugging at it. The desire to do something great is too strong to suppress. I'd turn all this good energy to weight loss instead, which would be an accomplishment. But this morning when I weighed in, after a weekend of working my tail off around the house and being reasonably good with my eating, I had gained four pounds since Friday. I guess I'll need to go on my dad's diet: water only, and that just to wash in.

3 comments:

sincerelymsred said...

I don't find all biographies deflating, but some of them seem to have that effect on me.

ronda said...

Hi David,
Bill Cheney, Howard's son, loved meeting you. Your book on Seth was something he dearly loved and cherished. He couldn't believe all that you had found and put together. Bill loved showing off the book to visitors at his home. Howard was the same way about the book. Wish we'd thought to have him, Cecil and Bill "autograph" it for us. Did Cecil have a copy too?
with love,
Ronda

David A. Todd said...

Hi Ronda:

Thanks for your comment. I feel bad that I never called Bill. I hope he recovers enough that I can chat with him one of these days.

Yes, I gave Cecil a copy, and maybe Jacqui as well. One of them may have been sent on to Cecil's other daughter, Jan, who lives in Pennsylvania.

Dave