“The man I am writing about is not famous. It may be that he never will be. It may be that when his life at last comes to an end he will leave no more trace of his sojourn on earth than a stone thrown into a river leaves on the surface of the water. But it may be that the way of life that he has chosen for himself and the peculiar strength and sweetness of his character may have an ever-growing influence over his fellow men so that, long after his death perhaps, it may be realized that there lived in this age a very remarkable creature.” — W. Somerset Maugham, introduction to The Razor’s Edge (1944)
My primary aim is not for fame but to be very remarkable,
measured by the value of my influence in the lives of others.
The Razor’s Edge is a 1944 novel by W. Somerset Maugham. Its epigraph reads, “The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard. — Katha-Upanishad“
Perhaps you are more familiar with the movie, The Razor’s Edge, than the book (the 1946 version starred Tyrone Power; I prefer the 1984 version starring Bill Murray). The Razor’s Edge tells the story of an American, Larry Darrell, who returns to Chicago after his experience in World War I disinclined to assume a conventional role in American society. He then travels the world from Tibet to Paris in an attempt to find some meaning in his life. In the 1984 movie version starring Bill Murray as Larry Darrell, the book’s epigraph is dramatized, in much more practical English, as advice given to Darrell by a Tibetan monk: “The path to salvation is narrow and is difficult to walk as a razor’s edge.”
Perhaps my favorite scene in the 1984 movie is of Darrell at the top of the Himalayas trying simply to keep warm and meditate by reading. His fire begins to die so he pauses his reading, then decides the book has more value, at this moment, as kindling than it does as spiritual inspiration. This existential recognition, this act, takes on life-changing meaning – that we gain meaning and influence NOT from knowledge, but from applied knowledge that adds value to the world around us.
I am that man, a “Larry Darrell.” My primary aim is not for fame but to be very remarkable, measured by the value of my influence in the lives of others. I borrow my Grand Affirmation from the author Maugham because he has written what I would aspire to say about my life, about my living. (You might also call this Grand Affirmation my Vision for Being, an existential aspiration, or even my own potential epitaph, as well as my primary aim).
Meditate upon and understand Maugham’s razor’s edge quote and you will understand me. I pray you will understand more of yourself, too.
The trace of my sojourn need not be fame or really even fortune, in common terms. I seek to be a remarkable creature whose “strength and sweetness” of character might have a valuable influence in the lives of others. I do so, not by telling people how to live, but by living and asking others how to live, how they want to live and, most importantly, what they want to live and why.
I believe there is a minute demarcation between significance and insignificance – narrow as a razor’s edge. I have chosen to walk on the edge. I seek daily salvation in authentic self-expression that adds value through relationships, which glorifies God and edifies my fellow men and women. It provides the foundation for my Purpose — to develop people who will improve the quality of life for the world around them.
What if I put my Purpose into numbers? What if I had Purpose-full and profound relationships with 100 people this year, and each of those people had a direct effect on the quality of life for at least 10 people around them? I would have a positive influence over the lives of at least 1,000 people. What if I had that direct effect on 150 people…? 250…? More…?
What if I sent invitations to my Manifest Birthday Party? This would be a celebration indeed, not so much for another year in my life but for the Birth Date of what is to come, the influence that is yet to be. What if 100 people, carefully chosen, joined me to celebrate my re-birth and pledged to hold me accountable and join in my sojourn, to see that I walked this razor’s edge? They would accept my invitation because they support the way of life I have chosen and want to assure I have the strength and sweetness of character to have an every-growing influence over the people I meet on my sojourn. They would choose to attend or correspond because they want me to be a very remarkable creature. They would want to hold me accountable to my Grand Affirmation. They would want to join me on the razor’s edge.
Can one ask for anything greater if life but to recognize and live out his Purpose? Please join me on the Razor’s Edge.