How to be a man

I was fortunate enough to see the documentary “Searching for sugar man” this weekend, a film which has the somewhat rare distinction of being both profoundly sad and uplifting at the same time. I want to mention one thing that struck me more than any other about this film. (There may be some spoilers below, though I shall attempt to limit them, so if you want to avoid those, go watch the documentary, then come back to this post.)

Rodriguez, a failed American singer from 70’s, became terribly popular in South Africa, but did not know about it. The documentary portrays him as a man who shrugged off the failure of his two albums with a stoicism that would impress the Greeks. He did manual labour to support his family – and apparently he took his job very seriously (even showed up in a suit). His spirit, his sense of duty, his commitment to life, were intact. And they remained intact when he many years later found out about his fame in a remote country. He was a man who did not measure his worth in terms of fame or fortune.

I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the portrayal. But I am inspired by it. I believe the men who truly give their lives to their families, men who accept the hardness of life because they live by ideals (faith, love, commitment) that transcend circumstances are worthy of the recognition they seldom get. No, these men are not martyrs – their lives are often unnoticed. It is a rare man who has his story told in a documentary. If Rodriguez had sold not a single record, he would have been the same man, without fame, forgotten by all but his family.

I know another such man personally, my own father. I am a fiercely ambitious man – but my father’s example has kept me grounded. When I die, if I have done nothing but succeed in being a man such as I have described, I would have done enough.

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