During my elementary school years, I was influenced positively by reading the biographies of great Americans, as well as Christian missionaries. I still enjoy a good biography from time to time. I prefer it over a novel because it’s true. I can learn from the real-life experiences of others. Plus, it broadens my view of the world and human nature.
Sam Blumenfeld writes in Practical Home Schooling:
“The reason why young people should read biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, and diaries is because they provide the most valuable lessons in life. People who write their autobiographies usually have an interesting story to tell about the trials and tribulations of their own lives. Every life has a beginning, middle, and an end, and how one has lived one’s life should be of great interest to those who are still at the beginning. It’s instructive to know how others, both famous and not so famous, handled the crises in their lives, found their life mates, raised their families, and pursued their interesting careers.”
Malcolm Muggeridge: A Life, written by Canadian law professor Ian Hunter, is the story of a fascinating man with whom I have little in common, except for the fact that we’re both twentieth-century Anglo Saxon Christians. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed the book – it helped me get into the head of an intellectual, artsy, but also moody and cynical person … much like some acquaintances I’ve had over the years.
Muggeridge (1903 –1990) was born into a Fabian socialist family in England. During his long and intriguing life, he was a journalist, author, media personality, satirist, and for some years the editor of Punch magazine, the British equivalent of The New Yorker. During World War II, he was a soldier and a spy. In his early life, he was a left-wing sympathizer, and later, he became a forceful anti-communist. He is credited with popularizing Mother Teresa, and in his later years, he became a Catholic and moral campaigner.
He was the author of numerous books, poems, and articles, including one near the end of his life – Jesus Rediscovered – that was described by a blogger as “a collection of some of his answers to some deep questions regarding Christianity, religion, and life, and while it sometimes feels written ‘stream of thought’ or whatever, the book definitely feels like a conversation with a wizened, if slightly cynical, old sage.”
Muggeridge was not a person that I would particularly desire to emulate. He drank too much, was a womanizer until the later years of his life, and at times just appeared lazy to my Protestant work ethic. However, whatever you say about Malcolm Muggeridge, he did know how to enjoy life. He valued many important things, including beautiful literature and deep ideas. What I took from this book for my life was the way he took time “to smell the roses.” Often in his biography, we see him simply walking around, observing, and thinking. In addition, he valued conversation with a few deep-thinking friends. Can’t we all learn from these qualities?
It’s appropriate to conclude with a Muggeridgian quote, written undoubtedly near the end of his life:
“… Yet it is truth, not power, which endures and which provides individuals with whatever security is ultimately attainable. For western Europeans, Christianity expressed that truth. Undermine Christianity, venerate humanism in its place, and a true, immutable foundation, capable of withstanding the buffeting ideas of history, has been replaced by a false shifting one.”