Yesterday, I started reading the lengthy biography on John Adams by David McCullough. So far, it’s an intoxicating read.
I am only 33 pages in – the penmanship is remarkable and I can hear Paul Giamatti’s voice as I read through direct quotes of John Adams. It’s amazing to read through this history and know that my place in time right now is very much a consequence of this man and many others from his day. I am eager to work through this six hundred some page book to learn more about one of our nation’s Founding Fathers. I suppose, you can say it was the HBO miniseries that enticed me to read this book.
Anyhow, there is a central theme from the show that is also appearing early in the book.
You cannot be, I know, nor do I wish to see you, an
inactive spectator… We have too many high sounding
words, and too few actions that correspond with them.
John Adams had a penchant for greatness. Undoubtedly, he was a great man. And like the many men of his day, and ours today, Adams wrestled with becoming great for fame’s sake or becoming great for duty’s sake. Fortunately, as evidenced by history, Adams is great because of his perseverance, commitment, and duty. None of which were cradled on the back of his pure might. Many people in his life made Mr. Adams the man he was – mostly his wife, Abigail. And he knew it. He was never ignorant of his need for help.
Great men seldom accomplish much on their own. Rather, they see their limits and request the aid of those who are better equipped. Great men recognize the Common needs and their own; and choose the course that meets both. When neither can be met with full satisfaction, great men forgo their own needs. Consequently, cultures change as a result of these great men’s actions – actions that are shaped and developed by the ones they love; actions that are the result of the help they received; actions that enable communities to share in a worthy vitality that expands far beyond the life of just one man or one woman. It’s a vitality that sees the necessity and value of all human life and recognizes the Greatness that each person is ultimately called to: to serve and not to be served.
It is happier to give than receive. John Adams was a great man because he knew this.
Under the order of God this makes sense; in that the Greatest Man, the God-Man, chooses to advance his kingdom primarily through the employment of his children. For whom He has given abundant life. We, his children, are mere shadows of our Creator. Great men, therefore are not fear mongers or task masters, but enablers. They are rousers of men to great expectations, great triumph, and greater rewards.