Wednesday, November 5, 2008

In Memory of Will Durant

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Will Durant (November 5, 1885-November 7, 1981)
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

My literary calendar informs me that today is the birthdate of Will Durant, writer, historian and philosopher. Whether we know it or not, we all need genuine and wise heroes to show us how to lead worthwhile, ethical lives. We need to know human history to prevent us from repeating catastrophes. We like to say that we learn best from our own mistakes but what an arrogant, colossal waste of our lives, considering that we could have learned from someone who walked the path just ahead of us.

Sorry Tina* but we do need another hero; real ones; not self appointed saviors. One way to learn how best to conduct our lives is to read the writings of such cultural heroes as Will Durant. As he himself said regarding the influence of books and heroes:

It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon, but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept.

Dr. Durant and his wife, Ariel Durant, were scholars who co-authored books and were both awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the Medal of Freedom. While that's impressive, what I admire as much as their scholarship is that they were unabashedly and passionately in love. And you know how we all relish love stories.

So, I'm in search of their book, A Dual Autobiography, in which their love story is told. Even at my vintage, I bet I could learn a thing or two from Will and Ariel.

*Tina Turner, one of my heroes, sang We Don't Need Another Hero , written by Terry Britten and Lyle Graham.

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