Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Do You Need a Goal?

This posting's title is that of the third chapter of *"Hannibal and Me"*, which I'm currently reading, and which I'd mentioned in my posting of *February 2nd*. It (the third chapter of "Hannibal and Me") could also have been titled "Do You Know What You Want To Do In Your Life?", but it would have been too long.

This third chapter dwells on Hannibal Barca (of course), Meriwether Lewis, Harry Truman and Ludwig Erhard. The first two (Hannibal Barca and Meriwether Lewis) knew, when young, what they wanted to become in life. The latter two (Harry Truman and Ludwig Erhard) didn't.

Hannibal and Lewis were "heroes on a quest", and proactive. They achieved greatness. Truman and Erhard were "wanderers", and reactive. They had greatness thrust upon them. Being myself a "wanderer" and reactive (albeit sans even a soupcon of greatness being thrust upon me), I find Hannibal and Lewis less appealing than Truman and Erhard, who are therefore the ones this posting will talk about.

Having little more than a high school education - and not much of a one at that - but being a lifelong reader of books on a wide variety of subjects above my station, I was gratified to learn that Harry Truman also had little more than a high school education - although almost certainly a much better high school education than mine - and was also a lifelong reader of books on a wide variety of subjects above his station. He was also an accomplished piano player of classical music.

Truman must therefore have felt himself out of place among the men he would have hobnobbed with in the jobs he had as a timekeeper on the Santa Fe Railroad, as a clerk in various places, as a mailroom worker in a newspaper, and as a worker on his father's farm.

Perhaps inwardly he felt destined for greater things, and so decided to acquire an educated mind which would be his weapon in combatting adversaries in a hostile world. No doubt his educated mind gave him the breadth of vision that enabled him, as President, to re-shape the world in the immediate post-war years.

Since I'm an autodidact as Truman was, he is an historical figure I can identify with. While I, too, didn't know what I wanted to become in life, I knew what I didn't want to become, which was the sort of man I frequently came across when growing up, and came across in the places I worked after leaving school.

This was the man, an Organisation Man, who talked only shoptalk about his boring job, and told boring anecdotes he'd been told by others, and bored everyone with his unfunny many-times-recyled jokes. His mind was a mere roomful of old echoes. When young, I looked at this sort of man and said to myself that unless I educated myself, I would become him.

Although I probably did become him, it wasn't for lack of trying not to.

That's enough for today. I see I didn't get to Ludwig Erhard. I'll dwell on him in another posting............


  1. Fascinated to hear your ongoing thoughts, as you read.
    Don't sugarcoat anything, just because the author is following along. ;)

    (Not that you would anyway.)

  2. I'm flattered you would take the time to read my modest thoughts about your book, which is a wonderful book to meditate upon as one reads.

    Regarding not sugarcoating, I noticed this sentence at the bottom of page 25: ".....This he did with great aplomb, winning for the Carthaginian army the right to evacuate Sicily with their arms and dignity....."

    Should your book go to paperback (and I hope it will), tell the printers to change "their" to "its"!!

    Oh yeah, and this (page 60) : "...When World War 1 broke out in 1914, Uncle Lulu, at the age of nineteen, enlisted...."

    Since he was born in 1897, he would have been 17 in 1914 when he enlisted. Unless he enlisted in 1916, when he would have been 19.

    A two year difference in age is usually not important. But it can be for teens, since the emotional changes year-to-year in the teen years are big.

    Back now to reading......!!

  3. Aha, the interesting case of "Englad play France" vs "England plays France." In this, case "the army" is made of many individual soldiers, who would return with their arms and dignity. But you're right that the sentence is sloppy: I could simply have said "the Carthaginians", without "the army".

    Lulu actually did enlist when he was 19, ie in 1916. So here I was sloppy in combining two phrases, the breaking out (1914) and the enlisting (1916) in a confusing way.

    This is an honor, by the way. You're reading this very closely indeed. You'll pick up more than most other readers.

  4. When talking about the English cricket team, you can correctly refer to it as the "England cricket team". So you can correctly say things like, "The England batsmen were terrible", (which they usually are)

    I think it's only with cricket that you can use "England" as an adjective. Odd, don't you think?