Everyone is Worthy of a Biography

Jul 12, 2013


In college, I took a course on 18th century English literature that focused on works by Samuel Johnson, and I was profoundly struck by an essay he wrote about biographies, which I keep in mind to this day. Johnson writes:

“I have often thought that there has rarely passed a life of which a judicious and faithful narrative would not be useful… It is frequently objected to relations of particular lives, that they are not distinguished by any striking or wonderful vicissitudes. The scholar who passed his life among his books, the merchant who conducted only his own affairs, the priest whose sphere of action was not extended beyond that of his duty, are considered as no proper objects of public regard, however they might have excelled in their several stations, whatever might have been their learning, integrity and piety. But this notion arises from false measures of excellence and dignity, and must be eradicated by considering that, in the esteem of uncorrupted reason, what is of most use is of most value.”

I take from this the fact that everyone has something meaningful to contribute to the world. It challenges us to look at every person with whom we come into contact and appreciate their value. Everyone has a story or something to share, and something from which we can learn.

In a society where fame and fortune take center stage, this writer reminds us that true value can be encountered in our daily interactions with others. We can generate value for others through our jobs, family and other responsibilities and others can generate values for us as well.

If we adopt this sort of outlook, I bet our world will look a lot brighter. I would love to hear about people around you whom you value and why.

Photo credit: by lukar14, via Flickr

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