The Rant has been reading Grant by Ron Chernow of Hamilton fame. We can’t wait for the Lin Manuel Miranda musical. Nothing makes the wholesale slaughter of Americans in the Civil War go down easier than a freestyle rap. We’re not sure how he’ll figure out wearing a ponytail, but Lin can do it.
Grant demonstrated genius in a crisis and in battle, but nearly imploded in the normal rhythms of life. Boredom nearly destroyed him on several occasions as drinking proved his only solace when nothing engaged an intellect that craved a constant challenge. His brutal father was eclipsed by an even more withering father-in-law. Grant assumed everyone as honest and dependable as him, and he spent his entire life being ruined financially by unscrupulous business partners. The Rant assumes the future general and president would have died drunk and broke in his early forties if the Civil War hadn’t reversed his fortunes.
Never fazed in the heat of a campaign and a master of organization and tactics, Grant understood the nature of modern warfare and the horrible toll it levied for victory. He moved forward relentlessly while Lincoln’s other generals dithered. The perfect temperament and skills met the ideal historical moment.
How often does that happen? How many of us could achieve greatness if only we had found ourselves in a different place a decade or two on either side of our actual birth? The Rant finds the accidents of our existence breathtaking and ludicrous. The idea that any person creates their own destiny is laughable. The endless chain of coincidence and luck required to succeed should humble us constantly. The best we can hope for is to find ourselves ready when the chain of events requires our unique personality and ability. Perhaps being ready yet knowing that moment will probably never arrive defines a life well lived regardless of its outcome.