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In a remarkable coincidence, four prominent men share a birthday on this day, June 26th : George Bernard Shaw, Carl Jung, Aldous Huxley, and Mick Jagger. Let’s briefly consider these men, in the order of their birth, and the enormous impact they’ve had on modern society.
George Bernard Shaw
Born July 26, 1856
Mr. Shaw was a prolific English playwright, whose influence is sometimes considered second only to Shakespeare. He is famous not just for writing more than 60 plays, but also for being somewhat, um, eccentric. He admired tyrants such as Stalin and Mussolini. He was a fan of eugenics. His views on religion made little sense – he described himself as an atheist, and then aligned himself with Jesus as “a person with no religion.” He was anti-vax before it was cool, calling vaccinations a “peculiarly filthy piece of witchcraft.” His overall legacy would seem to be that of a gifted writer with a personal philosophy that ranged from confusing to horrifying.
Born July 26, 1875
Dr. Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist who founded analytical psychology after an intellectual and personal split from his mentor and friend Sigmund Freud. His thinking is very difficult to summarize, but he has had enormous influence in many fields including philosophy, psychology, literature, and religious studies. In his late 30’s he had a horrible experience which he described as a “confrontation with the unconscious.” He saw visions and heard voices, and feared that he was losing his mind. He then seemed to recover and continued working and writing afterward. It crosses my mind that Dr. Jung was a fan of psychedelic drugs, although I’m not sure if those things are connected. He was an obviously brilliant man and original thinker.
Born July 26, 1894
Mr. Huxley was an English writer who was widely considered one of the great intellectuals of his time. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize for literature nine times, and is best known for his profoundly insightful novel, “Brave New World.” His brother described his as a child who often “contemplated the strangeness of things.” He lost most of his eyesight due to childhood disease, which dashed his hopes of becoming a physician. Like Dr. Jung, he was a fan of psychedelic drugs, and after a long bout with throat cancer, he died of an intentional overdose of LSD. I consider Mr. Huxley to be one of the great thinkers of the past few hundred years, with the additional benefit of being less insane than George Bernard Shaw and Carl Jung.
Born July 26, 1943
Mr. Jagger is an English musician. He is known for being the lead singer of The Rolling Stones. He’s had 70 singles reach the top 40, and in 2003 he was knighted for his services to popular music (an honor that fellow Englishmen Mr. Shaw and Mr. Huxley did not receive). While Mr. Shaw, Mr. Jung, and Mr. Huxley lived in modest means throughout their lives, Mr. Jagger is worth an estimated $360 million, and has had relationships with some of the most beautiful women in the world. His performance style has been studied by academics who analyzed gender, image, and sexuality. He is a fan of cricket and Monty Python and is concerned about global warming.
So I think we can agree that July 26th was a big day for Western Civilization. What can we learn from these four men?
What strikes me about these gentlemen is that they all were well-known celebrities in their time, but they were famous for different reasons. These different reasons I think illustrate more about the evolution of our society than it does about the men themselves.
Our society has changed a great deal, and very quickly. Mr. Shaw, the oldest of the four men, died in 1950 when Mr. Jagger was seven years old. This is not like comparing Plato to Rousseau. These men are essentially contemporaries.
Our society has changed. So the qualities admired by our society have changed. So our celebrities have changed.
I wonder what celebrities will be like a hundred years from now? For some reason, I’m not terribly upset that I will never know the answer to that…Published in