Tarnished heroes depress one, yet great people inspire gossip
"I'VE BEEN FEELING VERY DEPRESSED LATELY," said my friend Max the other day. "I'm starting to wonder if life isn't an empty dream after all." He stared off into space for a while, then bit savagely into a Twinkie.
"Have some coffee, Max," I said, "and tell me how it all started."
"I take it black now, no sugar," sighed Max. "It all started a few years ago, when I stumbled across lines from Longfellow's 'Psalm of Life':
'Lives of great men all remind us
I decided to make that my credo, and for a while I was very happy. Lately, however, my life has been an endless search for greatness."
"That sounds very noble, Max," I said. Why does it depress you?"
"There are just no heroes left anymore," he continued. "As soon as I choose an idol, somebody writes a gutsy book about the man behind the myth, and it's all over. You wouldn't believe the stuff I've read lately about George Washington. And Ike. And HST, and FDR, and even Mickey Mantle. I don't know where to turn."
I patted his arm. "Max, I know it's disheartening, but you don't have to believe everything you read. Besides, do your heroes have to be perfect? Couldn't you merely admire a man for his competency in one area? Does he have to be spotless?"
"Sure," snorted Max. "I suppose if you were Longfellow, you'd have written,
'Lives of competent men
Terrific." He laughed bitterly and drained his cup, and then he just sat there, brooding. I scratched my head.
"You know, Max," I said, "I can think of lots of great men about whom I haven't read anything scurrilous lately. No shocking revelations, no titillating questions in the Sunday magazines, nothing. Let's see,
"Forget it," sighed Max.
"I figure if a man's not great enough
I think I'm beginning to understand why Max gets depressed so easily.
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