Everyone loves an inspiration. One of the most popular forms of inspiration is learning from the lives of others. We're able to identify with the trials, tribulations and triumphs of other people, using them as role models to inspire our own actions and keep us going when the going gets rough. A recent book has thus performed for us a great service by compiling and then presenting in an entertaining manner the lessons we can learn about excellence from those people who have truly excelled. The book is entitled Inevitable Grace: Breakthroughs in the Lives of Great Men and Women: Guides to Your Self-Realization (published by Tarcher). Its author is Piero Ferrucci, a psychologist known for his work in psychosynthesis and someone who makes spiritual meals out of the psychological material of ordinary life.
Consider for a moment what Jesus might have learned from studying carpentry. He wasn't destined for a career in house construction, yet studying the ideals of that exacting craft no doubt played a role in His spiritual development. Likewise, our own lives can take valuable lessons and gain strength from the ideals of many vocations. Ferrucci uses this premise to structure his offering as he shows us what we can learn from the world's best artists, dancers, scientists, inventors, mystics, athletes and others who excelled at their craft.
Take, for example, the field of science. We may think scientists too intellectual or "left-brained" to have much to teach us about the life of the spirit. Yet the best scientists were not merely intellectual. Einstein wrote, "This deep intuitive conviction of the existence of a higher power of thought which manifests itself in the inscrutable universe represents the content of my definition of God." From persons of science who have glimpsed transpersonal realities, we learn what the "way of science" has to teach us non-scientists about a certain type of sensitivity. Ferrucci concludes that the "honesty inherent in confronting facts, the discipline of precision and focus, the resolve to never take anything for granted, the ability to see hidden resemblances...and the wonder in the face of mystery" are traits we can all use to our own advantage.
Or consider the value of simple, plain hard work. Today we are so busy that, longing for periods of rest and contemplation, we may forget what work has to offer. A quote from Albert Schweitzer may refresh our memory: "Thought and analysis are powerless to pierce the great mystery that hovers over the world and over our existence, but knowledge of the great truths only appears in action and labor." Studying the lives of the great activists shows us the value of taking action. We also learn the lessons of proper action, acts performed for their own sake rather than for recognition, the paradox of doing by not doing, and the immense value in taking small actions that concern apparently trivial matters. At the same time, we learn from studying these masters of altruism how service to others improves one's own well-being.
The book may read like an inspirational guide to better living, but it is actually a fine work in enlightened social science. Leaders in any field are like pioneers who discover the operating principles we can all use to our benefit.