As a writer I draw inspiration from many other writers. I could probably write an entire book on historical people who have inspired me in one way or another. As a writer, they fall into such categories as writing styles I have learned from and may even emulate; the ideas themselves that I think are useful, such as in politics, religion or systems of belief; there are strategy writings, either with applying useful ideas of politics, religion, or how to write well; and of course combinations of one degree or another of those mentioned.
One writer I’ve often enjoyed reading is Thomas Jefferson. His best writings were from his letters where he could write honestly about the people he had to deal with in the mid 1700s, both before and after his presidency. There are many Marxists who hate the idea of “liking” Jefferson for any reason, because he was a racist, and some people still take his capitalist ideas seriously today. I like the fact that he was not religious; he had an almost Epicurean view; was well educated compared to some of our other yahoo forefathers, such as Alexander Hamilton and fully understood the Republican movement of that time period and its significance.
I’ll never forget what he wrote comparing Hamilton to John Adams in his letters:
“Another incident took place on the same occasion, which will further delineate Mr. Hamilton’s political principles. The room being hung around with a collection of the portraits of remarkable men, among them where those of (Francis) Bacon, (Isaac) Newton and (john) Locke, Hamilton asked me who they were. I told him they were my trinity of the three greatest men the world had ever produced, naming them. He paused for some time: “the greatest man,” said he, “that ever lived, was Julius Caesar.” Mr. Adams was honest as a politician, as well as a man; Hamilton honest a man, but, as a politician, believing in the necessity of either force or corruption to govern men.”[i]
I would have drawn about the same conclusion about Hamilton, accept I may have been harsher on him. He seemed a bit of a dolt, to believe the Caesar was the greatest man who ever lived. Caesar was a tyrant and an imperialist. He had some good qualities, but comparing Jefferson’s favorites to Hamilton’s was like comparing a Harley Davidson Sportster to a tricycle. Hamilton was clueless as a revolutionary. I don’t share Jefferson’s enthusiasm for all of those theoreticians, but at least they are people with theoretical modern ideas and scientific views as opposed to a political brute.
Jefferson’s choices aren’t that bad considering what he had to choose from at that time period. But who would I pick? To pick three of the most important people in history is difficult, because there are many who wrote very little but did a lot. Both Jiang Qing/江青 and Salvador Allende both faced death for ideals they believed in. Allende didn’t write a lot and was not all that theoretical, but he was a hero in my opinion. I could say similar things about Jiang.
But suppose I had to choose three books, out of the many that I have been inspired by!? Who would they be? If I had to narrow my choices to three, they would be writers of course, so I have narrowed them down to my three main ones.
First there is the politically obvious Mao Zedong/毛泽东. He is clearly my favorite political writer of all times. I also learned some things about style and composing written pieces from his work. Then there is Hunter S. Thompson. He was like my mentor when it came to learning about writing and style. He was the grand master of writing in my opinion. The third was the trickiest. Epicurus’/Ἐπίκουρος, theories have had a profound effect on me. But one of his followers, Titus Lucretius Carus was by far a better writer. So did I go with the original ideas, or with the person who could better write them in an interesting and entertaining way? I finally chose Epicurus. The ideas are important. Outside of my politics, he is my favorite philosopher. So there is my own trinity. By no means is it complete. By no means is it so set in stone that I can’t occasionally put Lucretius over Epicurus because I like biting satire. I’m a writer and a political activist and those two things are sometimes separate.
And I can still admire Allende even if he wasn’t the best writer.
So who would you choose for your “trinity of writers?” Or maybe your heroes are men or women of action? Or maybe they are musicians instead? They’re your three heroes. Leave a message if you please.