Who are your heroes? Who are your icons? Do you practice the worship of heroes that will do you no good in life?
Below is a powerful chapter by Will Durant that claims we should worship the geniuses of human history. I agree. Somewhere along the way we forgot about that, and decided to worship icons that do nothing for us. The Jersey Shore cast, Kardashians, sports teams (even my precious Los Angeles Lakers) and the lifestyle that rappers/ musicians sing about. A little of all that is cool, if you must, but worshiping rap lyrics and TV characters can’t be good for your life.
How about the worshiping of heroes, such as Aristotle, Voltaire, Seneca, Franklin, Lincoln and Einstein? Where did that go? Those guys will do you tremendous good if you were to worship them and follow their advice regarding how to live life. Like Will Durant talks about, somewhere along the way we forgot about that. We lost touch on what’s truly important. We lost touch on the true matters of life. Forget what the television is peddling, or what the politicians peddle for you to learn in school, how about the geniuses that shaped our modern world?
Imagine how great our lives would be if we all worshiped the geniuses of human history. Would we even have a ghetto part of town? Would we have mass shootings and terrorist attacks? Would people commonly use drugs to escape their miserable lives?
It’s hard to factually say, but all those cases would probably be much much much much much less.
Do you want a better life? How about learning from some of the greatest thinkers who have dedicated their entire waking hours to thinking about what constitutes a better life.
Do you want to be rich? There are geniuses who have mastered that as well. Do the names Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger ring a bell?
Do you want to be fit and/ or really healthy? How about checking out what the cutting-edge researchers are saying about sugar, exercise and the other health areas.
Below is the exact chapter by Will Durant. The entire, short, paragraph has been copied below. Enjoy it, and I hope it sparks something in you.
“Of the many ideals which in youth gave life a meaning and radiance missing from the chilly perspectives of middle age, one at least has remained with me as bright and satisfying as ever before – the shameless worship of heroes. In an age that would level everything and reverence nothing, I take my stand with Victorian Carlyle, and light my candles, like Mirandola before Plato’s image, at the shrines of great men.
I say shameless, for I know how unfashionable it is now to acknowledge in life or history any genius loftier than ourselves. Our democratic dogma has leveled not only all voters but all leaders; we delight to show that living geniuses are only mediocrities, and that dead ones are myths. If we may believe historian H.G. Wells, Caesar was a numbskull and Napoleon a fool. Since it is contrary to good manners to exalt ourselves, we achieve the same result by slyly indicating how inferior are the great men of the earth. In some of us, perhaps, it is a noble and merciless asceticism, which would root out of our hearts the last vestige of worship and adoration, lest the old gods should return and terrify us again.
For my part, I cling to this final religion, and discover in it a content and stimulus more lasting than came from the devotional ecstasies of youth. How natural it seemed to greet the great Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore by that title which so long had been given him by his countrymen, Gurudeva – (“Revered Master”) – for why should we stand reverent before waterfalls and mountain tops, or a summer moon on a quiet sea, and not before the highest miracle of all: a man who is both great and good? So many of us are mere talents, clever children in the play of life, that when genius stands in our presence we can only bow down before it as an act of God, a continuance of creation. Such men are the very life-blood of history, to which politics and industry are but frame and bones.
Part cause of the dry scholasticism from which we were suffering when James Harvey Robinson summoned us to humanize our knowledge was the conception of history as an impersonal flow of figures and “facts,” in which genius played so inessential a role that histories prided themselves upon ignoring them. It was to Karl Marx above all that this theory of history was due; it was bound up with a view of life that distrusted the exceptional man, envied superior talent, and exalted the humble as the inheritors of the earth. In the end men began to write history as if it had never been lived at all, as if no drama had ever walked through it; no comedies or tragedies of struggling or frustrated men. The vivid narratives of Gibbon and Taine gave way to ash-heaps of irrelevant erudition in which every fact was correct, documented – and dead.
No, the real history of man is not in prices and wages, nor in elections and battles, nor in the even tenor of the common man; it is in the lasting contributions made by geniuses to the sum of human civilization and culture. The history of France is not, if one may say it with all courtesy, the history of the French people; the history of those nameless men and women who tilled the soil, cobbled the shoes, cut the cloth, and peddled the goods (for these things have been done everywhere and always) – the history of France is the record of her exceptional men and women, her inventors, scientists, statesmen, poets, artists, musicians, philosophers and saints, and of the additions which they made to the technology and wisdom, the artistry and decency, of their people and mankind. And so with every country, so with the world; its history is properly the history of its great men. What are the rest of us but willing brick and mortar in their hands, that they may make a race a little finer than ourselves? Therefore I see history not as a dreary scene of politics and carnage, but as the struggle of man through genius with the obdurate inertia of matter and the baffling mystery of mind; the struggle to understand, control and remake himself and the world.
I see men standing on the edge of knowledge, and holding the light a little farther ahead; men carving marble into forms ennobling men; men molding peoples into better instruments of greatness; men making a language of music and music out of language; men dreaming of finer lives – and living them. Here is a process of creation more vivid than in any myth, a godliness more real than in any creed.
To contemplate such men, to insinuate ourselves through study into some modest discipleship to them, to watch them at their work and warm ourselves at the fire that consumes them, this is to recapture some of the thrill that youth gave us when we thought, at the altar or in the confessional, that we were touching or hearing God. In that dreamy youth we believed that life was evil, and that only death could usher us into paradise. We were wrong; even now, while we live, we may enter it. Every great book, every work of revealing art, every record of a devoted life is a call and an open sesame to the Elysian Fields. Too soon we extinguished the flame of our hope and our reverence.
Let us change the icons, and light the candles again.“ -Will Durant, Chapter 1 – The Greatest Minds And Ideas Of All Time