Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ben Stein's last column

Someone who works with me gave me this article to read. I thought it was so good that I wanted to share it with you. I did check to make sure it was something that was actually written by Ben Stein and found that it was. He wrote this last column in 2004 and although it is 5 years old, it's still true. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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For many years Ben Stein has written a biweekly column called 'Monday Night At Morton's .' (Morton's is a famous chain of Steakhouses known to be frequented by movie stars and famous people from around the globe.) Now, Ben is terminating the column to move on to other things in his life. Reading his final column is worth a few minutes of your time.

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How Can Someone Who Lives in Insane Luxury Be a Star in Today's World?As I begin to write this, I 'slug' it, as we writers say, which means I put a heading on top of the document to identify it. This heading is 'eonline FINAL,' and it gives me a shiver to write it. I have been doing this column for so long that I cannot even recall when I started. I loved writing this column so much for so long I came to believe it would never end. It worked well for a long time, but gradually, my changing as a person and the world's change have overtaken it. On a small scale, Morton's, while better than ever, no longer attracts as many stars as it used to. It still brings in the rich people in droves and definitely some stars. I saw Samuel L. Jackson there a few days ago, and we had a nice visit, and right before that, I saw and had a splendid talk with Warren Beatty in an elevator, in which we agreed that Splendor in the Grass was a super movie. But Morton's is not the star galaxy it once was, though it probably will be again. Beyond that, a bigger change has happened. I no longer think Hollywood stars are terribly important. They are uniformly pleasant, friendly people, and they treat me better than I deserve to be treated. But a man or woman who makes a huge wage for memorizing lines and reciting them in front of a camera is no longer my idea of a shining star we should all look up to. How can a man or woman who makes an eight-figure wage and lives in insane luxury really be a star in today's world, if by a 'star' we mean someone bright and powerful and attractive as a role model? Real stars are not riding around in the backs of limousines or in Porsches or getting trained in yoga or Pilates and eating only raw fruit while they have Vietnamese girls do their nails. They can be interesting, nice people, but they are not heroes to me any longer. A real star is the soldier of the 4th Infantry Division who poked his head into a hole on a farm near Tikrit, Iraq. He could have been met by a bomb or a hail of AK-47 bullets. Instead, he faced an abject Saddam Hussein and the gratitude of all of the decent people of the world. A real star is the U.S. soldier who was sent to disarm a bomb next to a road north of Baghdad. He approached it, and the bomb went off and killed him.A real star, the kind who haunts my memory night and day, is the U.S. soldier in Baghdad who saw a little girl playing with a piece of unexploded ordnance on a street near where he was guarding a station. He pushed her aside and threw himself on it just as it exploded. He left a family desolate in California and a little girl alive in Baghdad. The stars who deserve media attention are not the ones who have lavish weddings on TV but the ones who patrol the streets of Mosul even after two of their buddies were murdered and their bodies battered and stripped for the sin of trying to protect Iraqis from terrorists. We put couples with incomes of $100 million a year on the covers of our magazines. The noncoms and officers who barely scrape by on military pay but stand on guard in Afghanistan and Iraq and on ships and in submarines and near the Arctic Circle are anonymous as they live and die. I am no longer comfortable being a part of the system that has such poor values, and I do not want to perpetuate those values by pretending that who is eating at Morton's is a big subject.There are plenty of other stars in the American firmament..the policemen and women who go off on patrol in South Central and have no idea if they will return alive; the orderlies and paramedics who bring in people who have been in terrible accidents and prepare them for surgery; the teachers and nurses who throw their whole spirits into caring for autistic children; the kind men and women who work in hospices and in cancer wards. Think of each and every fireman who was running up the stairs at the World Trade Center as the towers began to collapse. Now you have my idea of a real hero.I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters. This is my highest and best use as a human. I can put it another way. Years ago, I realized I could never be as great an actor as Olivier or as good a comic as Steve Martin or Martin Mull or Fred Willard--or as good an economist as Samuelson or Friedman or as good a writer as Fitzgerald. Or even remotely close to any of them. But, I could be a devoted father to my son, husband to my wife and, above all, a good son to the parents who had done so much for me. This came to be my main task in life. I did it moderately well with my son, pretty well with my wife and well indeed with my parents (with my sister's help). I cared for and paid attention to them in their declining years. I stayed with my father as he got sick, went into extremis and then into a coma and then entered immortality with my sister and me reading him the Psalms. This was the only point at which my life touched the lives of the soldiers in Iraq or the firefighters in New York. I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life God has devolved upon me, to help others He has placed in my path. This is my highest and best use as a human Faith is not believing that God can. It is knowing that God will.


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25 comments:

Mike Golch said...

Mari,grear message.thanks for posting it.{{{hugs}}}

Mike Golch said...

Mari,since leaving my last comment I was awarded 2 awards and I'm giving them both to you as well.So come on down!!

Rmomof3 said...

Wow! Love it Mari! Happy Easter! I guess you know about all the snow here - though.... there can be a vast difference between north and south where A. is!
R.

Brenda said...

What a great piece. I like when he said "life lived to help others is the only one that matters". That is so true. Imagine the people we could help in even just 5 minutes of looking beyond ourselves and reaching out.
Thanks for sharing, Mari.
Have a great week.

Lara Gisela said...

Great message, Mari. I hope you had a wonderful Easter weekend and I wish you a wonderful week.

A Stone Gatherer said...

That's a wonderful article Mari! Thanks for sharing!

Hootin' Anni said...

Oh so true, so true!!! I am in awe of the intelligence of this man...have been for years.

Yes indeed, there is a difference between REEL star and the REAL star, and the will of our Maker! Wholeheartedly agree with this ---one thousand percent.

Thanks for stopping by today. Much appreciated seeing you visit. Happy week to you.

Jennifer said...

That is a great article. Thanks for sharing it.
Smiles!

Aspiemom said...

That is a great article! I'm going to pass it along to some email friends/family.

Thanks for posting it.

BTW, I'm having a hard time keeping up with reading blogs & commenting. So if you don't see my comments as often for about a week, know it's only temporary and I'm still thinking of you!

Cheri said...

Wow- what a great article!!

Brooke said...

God bless the military and military families like you :)

Lorie said...

I had not seen that article before. Very well written and so true. It truly brought tears to my eyes.

Pat said...

What a wise man. This is the kind of writing that should be promoted for America to read, not the trash that fills all the tabloids. We could use a few more Ben Steins.

septembermom said...

He is so right! Our society gets too absorbed in worshiping celebrities. We have to keep our focus on the true heroes who are worthy of our praise and admiration. Thank you for this post! Hope you had a lovely Easter!

jenniferw said...

WOW, Mari ... FANTASTIC article. Thanks so much for sharing it. I LOVE Ben Stein. He is a great man and a great American. His movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is an instant classic that every patriotic Christian -- indeed, every thinking American of any stripe or creed -- should see without delay.

Rebekah said...

Amen to THAT!

Ya know, I have never understood people's fasination with Hollywood. These people live in such wasteful extravagance and then put down the government for not doing more for the people.

Why dont they sell two of their 15 million dollar, 10 thousand square feet mansions and give THAT money to the people.

Speaking of People. I really cant stand that magazine. There needs to be a magazine devoted to the true HEROES of our world

Rebekah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kim said...

What a lovely commentary! I'd never read his column. Thanks for sharing, Mari!

Susan said...

Thanks for posting this Mari. I probably never would have seen it. I hope he uses his voice, which he has, for good the remainder of his years.
Susan

Anonymous said...

Very good article, thanks for sharing that one,Mari. Patty

The Stylish House said...

Mari,
If more people thought this way I believe the world would be a better place, poignant story.
~Cathy~

The Stylish House said...

Mari,
If more people thought this way I believe the world would be a better place, poignant story.
~Cathy~

Nancy said...

I read this with you at work and agree its great!! Even good for today.

Anonymous said...

He is right, life is about being rich not wealthy

Laura said...

Wow. That was a great article - you're right!

Our country, and world really, has some messed up priorities for sure.