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Perseverance (08.11.21)

Published 8/11/21

Recently, I met a man who had the misfortune of being blind in one eye.  I noticed how it did not seem to stop him from doing anything that he wanted to do.  I was shocked that he told me he can still drive.  It reminded me of my great grandfather on my mother’s side.  My mother’s grandfather had a glass eye.  As a child he thought it was funny to pop his glass eye out and play catch with me.  I personally never saw the humor in it.  I guess he was making fun of his pain.  

Everyone has their own way of dealing with their pain. Watching the Olympics, we saw great success and great pain. When you think about the misfortune of losing an eye in an accident that may at first seem a terrible catastrophe.  However, I am told that life in a one-eyed world is not as bad as is imagined.  Eye specialists point out that a person with a single eye eventually gets along almost as well as ordinary folks.  Indeed, losing an eye has no effect whatever on its remaining fellow, and contrary to general belief, the single eye has no more work to do just because it is the only one.  Even though I would not wish it on my worst enemy, it is said that the chief difference experienced is the sudden loss of the sense of perspective and the power of three-dimensional vision.  

Nevertheless, this difficulty is swiftly overcome by learning the necessary visual tricks to judge distances and perspective.  Pain has a way of changing someone’s perspective.  What is most heartening to the one-eyed person is finding out that this lack is not unique.  Aside from appearance (and modern artificial eyes, made of plastic, not glass, are incredibly realistic), they find out that all was by no means lost for many others in the same situation.  In fact, it is very revealing to discover just how many great leaders have gone through life with this disability.  The left eye of the poet, John Milton, failed him when he was 40.  But that did not dampen his inspiration, and much of his finest work was written afterward.  Lord Nelson lost his right eye at the age of 36 at the Battle of Calvi in Corsica.  

Yet, the injury did nothing to upset his brilliant career as Britain’s greatest admiral.  In fact, it enhanced his reputation for self-will and sheer courage.  Lord Morrison of Lambeth, distinguished labor politician, lost the sight of one eye in early childhood, but his grasp on life was never lessened by it for one moment.  His last official job, which he reveled in and took very seriously, was one that depended heavily on use of his eye.  He was Britain’s chief film censor!  Joe Davis, the world snooker champion, has only one serviceable eye.  Yet his precision with a cue remains unmatched.  The gentle Irish author, Stephen Gwynn, careless when chopping firewood wrote: “Still, I was thankful to Providence for what it provided.  Sight, even with one eye, is a very wonderful thing.”  The leading British bird photographer, Eric Hosking, had one eye closed by a tawny owl he was photographing in Wales in 1937, but that dramatic loss never interrupted his highly successful career as a wild-bird portraitist.  Not one of these men despaired of facing life in a one-eyed world—and neither need anyone else. 

            Perseverance is important in any successful person’s life. We cannot always control what happens to us, but we do control of what happens in us.  That’s why perseverance is so important in all other spheres of life as well. Looking at the Olympics was so encouraging.  Many who were ready for the Olympics last year in 2020, had to wait and persevere for an extra year still in the midst of a pandemic.  No wonder it is said, that about ninety-nine percent of all success the people of this world have enjoyed is due to persistence or perseverance.  Genius has been described as 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration!  However, we don’t generally like to think like that. No matter how true it maybe.  It was ninety-nine percent sweat, persistence and perseverance that did it. It is very easy on our part to say, “Oh, isn’t that just wonderful!  They were marvelously gifted.  I am sure that if I were gifted in a similar way I, too, would be great.”  Talk like that is just used as a cop-out to avoid the long arduous task of persistent study, practice and preparation. How many testimonies did we hear of the athletes of the Olympics talk about the lonely hours of practice for a few seconds of glory? 

            Benny Friedman, (3/18/1905 – 11/23/1982), born in Cleveland, Ohio, went to Glenville High School, (same school as my mother, years later), was a famous quarterback of the New York Giants.  He is said to have pioneered the forward pass in professional football revolutionizing the game.  Friedman was an All-American at the University of Michigan.  He was as famous as Harold (Red) Grange in the 1920s.  After leaving the Cleveland Bulldogs (1927) and Detroit Wolverines (1928), he quarterbacked the New York Giants between 1929 and 1931, coached City College from 1934 to 1940, and after World War II, operated several camps for football players.  Friedman was never inducted into the Football Hall of Fame during his life because he was known primarily as an offensive player in an era when most great players starred on both offense and defense, an official of the organization said.  The official called Friedman “the first pure passing quarterback” in pro football.  As a Giant in 1929, he first unleashed the pass as a real weapon, and within a few years the ball was restyled for passing.  Former Giant teammate, Saul Mielziner, said, “If Benny threw the ball they have today, he would have been the greatest of all time.” 

            He died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound thinking perhaps that his contributions were never really appreciated. Some think an added cause were some of his health concerns. Regarding his suicide, police said that Friedman, always proud of his physical condition, apparently had become despondent over ill health in recent weeks.  A year and half before, he suffered a blood clot in his left leg and lost it through amputation.  Just a few months before his death, Friedman developed heart trouble. Although he was part of the inaugural class of inductees into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951, he was posthumously inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005.  For whoever will listen, “Don’t give up, it’s not over yet! Persevere!! It’s when you are hardest hit, you must not quit!”