Rosicrucian Writings Online
THOUGHT OF THE MONTH
HONORING EMINENT MEN
By THE IMPERATOR
[H. Spencer Lewis]
[From The Rosicrucian Digest February 1936]
THE MONTH of February, although the shortest month of the year, and one which should be long in order to help business men recover from the many holidays which came so close together at the end of the preceding year, is filled with official and unofficial holidays for the celebration of the birth and life of eminent men.
It is unquestionably true that the average reader of serious matter, or books and pamphlets of an instructive nature, sooner or later find great joy in the reading of biographies, or the analysis of the lives of great men and women of the past. Wherever you find a home library that is not composed merely of sets of books that have been sold on the subscription plan, or given away with subscriptions to magazines, you will find some biographies. The more prolific and enthusiastic is the reader in the home, the more sure you will be to find these books dealing with the lives of men and women.
After all, there is no more fascinating pastime and instructive pleasure than that of reading of the experiences of those persons who have contacted life and made something of life in the years of their past. We do not have to delve into the histories of the lives of the ancient philosophers, nor of ancient statesmen, rulers, and potentates; we do not even have to delve into the lives of outstanding characters to find many interesting facts that will create word pictures and images in our mind of an interesting form. The more varied or important the life of the individual, the more benefit the biography will be to us as we study it. It is from the lives of great men that we learn how human existence is fraught with possibilities along with temptations, sufferings, and rewards. By analyzing how others have thought and acted in times of stress or strain, and how they have reacted to certain fundamental emotions of life, we will be guided in our thinking and acting. We discover through the reading of biographies that the human equation is the same in all lands among all races and in all periods of time. By noting the failures of the lives of great men--and the greatest of them have made mistakes that brought about serious failures at times--we learn what to avoid, and what points in our own affairs to strengthen and accentuate.
Devoting ourselves to the study of one great character at a time is not hero worship, as some have claimed. To read but one book on the life of an individual--even when it is an autobiography written by the individual himself--is not sufficient to secure a complete or nearly perfect picture of that person. Every author's view-point, including the individual himself, is different. For this reason, the proper way to really become acquainted with the life of any interesting character of the past or present is to read several books, a number of them, by different authors, dealing with the same person.
For instance, we celebrate on the 22nd of February the anniversary of Washington's birthday. Like all other national or international heroes, the average or the popular story of his life is filled with fiction and figments of imagination. The story told of him in the average school book is far from being true, for it merely idealizes some of the good things he did and presents an imaginary picture of the greater things he should have done. It wholly ignores the errors he made, his weaknesses, and follies. A true analysis of the life of Washington shows that as a warrior, a strategean in warfare, and as a great general, he was a failure, for he was greatly lacking in the necessary elements to become a great general and warrior, and lost far more battles than he won. He should have remained, so far as profession and life's work is concerned, a surveyor. If, however, he wanted to serve his people best, he could have done this as a part-time statesman, but never should have attempted to glorify himself or protect his nation as a warrior. It so happens, however, that several of the battles in which he was engaged, and in which he was victorious, were pivotal ones, or crucial ones, and while in and of themselves were hardly worthy of nation-wide acclaim, did have a very great effect upon the ultimate results which were being sought by his nation. In his personal, private life, the real facts are considerably different from those that are so popular. Even a visit to his old home in Mount Vernon immediately takes away fifty per cent of the glory and colorful traditions that have been wrongly associated with him. Portraits of him by various painters, sculptors, and photographers show that he was very greatly different in appearance from that shown in the most popular of the idealized portraits. But Washington was a symbol. He still is a symbol in the minds and hearts of the American people of a great ideal, and it is that symbolized idea that we honor and respect on Washington's birthday.
On the other hand, on the 12th of February we celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Lincoln. Here, too, was a man whose thoughts and deeds have been presented in ideal form for our admiration, but if we analyze his life we find that long before his transition there were stories about him, charges made against him, and opinions recorded that were far from complimentary. While we now believe that many of the unkind and critical things said against Lincoln in his lifetime were untrue, and deliberately manufactured by his political enemies, we cannot help but admit that many of the beautiful stories told of him were also manufactured by his friends. But he, too, represented an idea and became a symbol in our American history, and it is Lincoln's symbol, Lincoln the ideal, that we honor and respect. His life was filled with lessons for all of us to learn, and out of his struggles and the realization of his ambitions we can find much to emulate.
On the 11th of February we can also celebrate the birth of Thomas Edison. Here we have our national hero in the form of a scientist. The records show that much has been credited to him unjustly, both good and bad. But in the scheme of things he was a symbol representing the ideals of scientific research and invention, and while undoubtedly a very great majority of his dreams and invented schemes became failures, a sufficient number of them became successful to revolutionize a large portion of our modern way of living. So we honor him and what he accomplished that was good, and for the ideals he held and expressed, and not for his actual life in every intimate manner. It is much like reading a fairytale to read the life of Edison even when it is reduced to actual facts, and all of the fiction eliminated. There is a lesson in persistency, endurance, determination, and glowing faith that each one of us should learn.
Among other birthdays that can be celebrated in February is that of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on the 27th, 1807; James Russell Lowell on the 22nd, 1819; and Charles Dickens on the 7th, 1812. And, of course, there are many others whose birthdays are celebrated in this month such as that of Kit Marlowe on the 6th, George Dorsey on the same day, and George Jean Nathan on the 14th.
Then there is the symbolical holiday on the 14th known as St. Valentine's day, and which, incidentally, is the anniversary of the birth of our Supreme Secretary. Altogether the month is one of celebration and interest because of the diversified memorials it brings to our list.
Many of us can make this month of February an outstanding month in our own lives through our accomplishments in the twenty-nine days which this leap year allots to it. Beginning on a Saturday, the month ends on a Saturday. In its four weeks there is ample opportunity to change the entire course of life of an individual and start it upon a career that is upward and onward, and glorious. The whole month can become a memorial holiday in your own life, by the attitude you take toward it and the things you do and accomplish. Later historians--perhaps only relatives and friends--who may write of your life may refer to February of 1936 as the month in which your life changed from what it now is to what you have hoped and prayed for. In this regard you are the sole arbiter and the only captain of the ship. I hope for each one of you that it will truly become a birth month of a new cycle of life.
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