Rees' Pieces

Ben Rees


Column History

When published in a history book, an individual is immediately lauded for his or her accomplishments while other vices he or she may have had are pushed aside. History has extremely selective hearing and, if you don’t believe me, I encourage you to be imaginative for the next 500 words and humor me–that’s right, humor me.

Let us start early with the masterful and innovative thinker, Socrates. He examined and tested the minds of men, and his methodology for questioning the general populace made him one of the most famous philosophers to date. Yet, what if we take him out of the limelight? Socrates was an older gentleman who, while walking around in a toga (which wasn’t weird then), approached unsuspecting people and bombarded them with questions.  He would hold court with the people of Athens, and was put to death for essentially being annoying or disavowing the gods; I can’t remember which. His sentence of corrupting the Athenians sounds grandiose now, but maybe, just maybe, Socrates was simply a roving wise guy who stepped on a few too many intellectual toes.

Noah Webster, the man who compiled the first American dictionary, must have been a huge bother. How frustrating is it when friends correct your speaking in a casual setting? Can you imagine having coffee with the guy who generated today’s standardized dictionary? He must have driven people up the wall with his nonstop conquest for proper language. Besides, anyone whose life goal is to compile and define an extensive collection of words must have been seriously anal (go ahead and look that one up).

I can imagine nothing worse than living with Ludwig van Beethoven. His renown is wholly justified; he is one of the most amazing musicians to have ever lived, and his works almost always sound great. I say almost always because in the unfortunate situation that he was a roommate of yours, his deafness would probably have impeded your sleeping. If a composer cannot hear how loud he is playing, then I strongly doubt he would have heard your attempts of asking him to kindly turn the harpsichord down.

Bill Gates was too smart for Harvard. He got bored there, so decided to do what many kids do–he moved into his parents’ house. Now, as glamorous as this sounds, Gates didn’t exactly sit around watching “Full House” reruns; he and his good buddy Paul Allen created Microsoft, which is the reason Gates is worth $66 billion. But, before all this success, Gates was just one of those kids who was too cool for playing Monopoly like the rest of us. Instead, he had to form a multi-billion dollar technological monopoly and make the rest of the world feel like losers for staying in school.

Everyone knows a kid who thinks he has a great idea and drops out of school, but we all sleep well at night because we believe that he will fail. But Gates and the others I have mentioned all succeeded at a massive rate because they had talent–talent and the ability to overcome anything that stood in their way. Most of us don’t have this talent, so, unfortunately, we have to control our quirks, because I know that in my case, I can’t justify my annoying habits with $66 billion or statues of myself.

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