I’m a bit of a curmudgeon. I guess I’m one of those crazy mystics bothered by the prospect of spending the next 50 years or so in a world of sleepwalkers. I admit, I occasionally wish for a giant asteroid to crash into the Earth and end all the world’s suffering. Yet, despite all that, I do like people – some people. This is a list of a few of my favorites.
1/ Jesus Christ
There are no good, complete biographies of this man despite the fact that there have been more books, articles, lectures, movies, TV Shows, documentaries, plays, musicals, paintings and every other kind of media generated about Him than any other person in history. Even the Gospels lack real depth about His life and activities. To know Him, requires a personal experience of Him and that requires meditation and prayer as well as reviewing all the available data. It is definitely worth the effort. Jesus is one of the True Lights of the world.
As with Jesus, it is difficult to find a good, single source of information about this man. But as with Jesus, it is worth the effort to try. Buddha lived a long life and taught much, so, through study and meditation, it is possible to gain some insight into the thoughts and career of this other True Light of the world.
3/ Benjamin Franklin
I see this man as everyone’s favorite uncle or grandfather. He kept busy all his long life doing fun and amazing things. A true genius, he worked in business, politics, philosophy, science, social commentary, music, activism, community service and was a true revolutionary to boot. An all-around great guy.
4/ St. Joan of Arc
Not some namby pamby, wimpy saint – Joan was a fighter, a leader, a champion. Devoted to God, she followed her vision to the end. Abandoned by her friends, she was martyred at the age of 19 after a stunningly successful military career. She’s the saint for me.
5/ Van Gogh
I’ll make it simple – this is the greatest painter that ever lived. If you don’t love his work, there’s something wrong with you.
I suppose there are some better all-around composers – Mozart comes to mind. But Beethoven did something that no one else in any field has ever been able to do before or since his time. Beethoven generated the entire story of humankind – all the fear, anguish, love, passion, potential and joy of our crazy species in one breathtaking presentation – the glorious 9th Symphony. The music is our greatest achievement. Nothing comes closer to truly representing humanity than this work. If aliens ever come to Earth and ask us what we’ve ever done to deserve life, we can confidently play them the 9th Symphony and they will go away satisfied and awestruck.
An unparalleled genius. The greatest writer of all time – period. Yeah, some of his plays are weak and at times the writing seems rushed. But his weakest work is better than most peoples strongest. His choice and development of theme, his insights and understanding of the human condition, his use of imagery and language mark him as an immortal. If he had worked in ancient Egypt, Greece or Rome, he would have been declared a god.
Shakespeare is the greatest writer in general, but Dostoyevsky is by far the greatest novelist of all time. Reading Dostoyevsky is like talking to a god – you just sit back and marvel at the supreme brilliance of thought and word.
9/ Jacques Cousteau
Not a super genius, not an immortal, not a world savior – but holy crap what an interesting, exciting and original human being. A combination scientist, inventor, philosopher, adventurer, conservationist, humanitarian, educator – with a burning passion for his subject – the ocean. There has been no one else that combined such an extreme level of expertise with such brilliant communication skills. He showed us clearly and spectacularly the beauty and mystery of the sea. Some of the greatest pleasures of my life involved watching his TV programs and dreaming of joining him on the ship “Calypso” in a life of adventure.
10/ T.E. Lawrence
Soldier, poet, archaeologist, adventurer, maker of nations – he packed a lot of excitement into his short life. Maybe not as brilliant as Franklin or as passionate as St. Joan – but he truly lived a life worth living and gave the world much to think about.
11/ Jane Austin
She’s not Dostoyevsky. She’s not really even a Dickens or Hardy. Her books are not those big ponderous, “important” works of literature. But, damn, she’s a good read! And more than any other author I find myself going back to her books year after year, just to enjoy the pleasure of her company. She is genuine, imaginative, and confident and gives the reader exactly what she promises. I always read her books with a smile from beginning to end. Maybe more than all the people on this list she is someone I wish I could have met and talked to.