I have been watching a series, that some of you may have seen.  It is called “The Men Who Built America.”  The series is pretty much what the title suggests, the story of certain men who were at the forefront of certain technological advances in our nation’s history.  I take some of these programs with a grain of salt.  I look at them with a skeptical eye because, so many of the historical documentaries or histories promise to put things in perspective, but they usually lapse into this man’s or that woman’s view of just what happened in history and leave a lot out; they distort the facts to fit their agenda; they present a limited perspective; they gloss over achievements of lesser people; or they fail to recognize the influences and people who propped up these "great" people, making their efforts possible.  This particular series, while entertaining, goes by the same old ridiculous refrain that “great men” drive history.  If this were true, when misfortune strikes those great men, they would be able to “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps,” an ironic and physically impossible feat.  But there are so many stories of such men, and I will add in women, that just fall to pieces when the storms of life overwhelm them.   Additionally, as the title of the series suggests, it only tells the impact of certain men on our history and leaves out women and so many people from minority groups outside of the power corridors that add to and support the efforts of these supposed "saviors" of us all.  I do not mean to sound like a "liberal" or "progressive" or whatever label people may place on me, but I try to communicate truth in as pure a form as it is granted to me by God.  Many times my opinions may seem to be outside of the bounds of whatever labels or boundaries the "crowd" may set.  But you can rest assured that I am ever wrestling with truth to get it down to its deepest roots and to process and clarify it so that we all may enjoy its benefits. 

The great Russian author Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, or Leo Tolstoy as he is known in the English-speaking world, was on the right track in being suspicious of the mainstream interpretations of history.  As noted above, the approved versions of history tell us that great men drive great developments.  But in War and Peace, Tolstoy exposed this very idea as fallacious.  For those who have not read the book, it is historical fiction about the Napoleonic Wars told from the Russian perspective.   What apparently intrigued Tolstoy was the disintegration of Napoleon’s army once he reached Moscow.  In his march on the Russian capitol, Napoleon was at the height of his game in his power and his understanding of war, men, and tactics.  If history is driven by great men, then Napoleon should have been able to march into Moscow triumphantly, stake his flag, then march triumphantly back to Paris.  But the story of his army’s disintegration after the point of their highest achievement is an incomprehensible wonder to historians and a reminder of the limits of any human being, no matter how smart, strong, tough, or great, to control nature and people.  By the time he reached Paris, Napoleon had already started losing control of his armies, thus starting the long slow decimation by nature (God), by confusion, by fatigue, by the cold of Winter, by disease, and by the guerrilla warfare inflicted on them by common Russians.  His glorious army was worn down by a thousand cuts in a very ignoble and humiliating spectacle as they made their horrendous march back to Paris. 

History is full of such stories of great men and women that reached their apex in life only to fall apart or to find that it was not enough.  Alexander the Great is reported to have wept when he discovered that there was nothing left of significance to conquer.  He had staked his entire life on the idea that conquest is what life is all about.  But he found an end to conquest, and therefore, found an end to himself, and was grief-stricken to finally understand that this, like all things in life, was not enough.  There are not enough people, and there is not enough pleasure, glory, wealth, or fame in this world to satisfy our hunger for something higher, greater, and more meaningful than ourselves and better than the world around us.  Only God is big enough and powerful enough to fill this gaping jagged hole of desire in the human soul.  And no man or woman is beyond that desire, no matter how high, powerful, wealthy, talented, creative, etc. 

 


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    I'm a retired soldier, having spent 23 years of my life serving our country, actually 30 years when you count the reserve and National Guard time as well.  I believe in servant leaders, following the example of our Lord, and I believe in giving back to the troops once one has attained a certain status or level of success in life.  But I also believe in fighting back against corruption and incompetence wherever you find it if it hurts people.  Our national values were worth dying for.  They are also worth living for.  A man or woman can actually live a life by these principles of humility, service, love, duty, and honor, and have a significant impact on the world around them...if you have the dedication to see it through. 

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