Byron's Babbles

Beauty, Influence, Fame, & Privilege

Posted in Global Leadership, Leadership, Leadership Development by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on March 6, 2021

I am still working through my notes and writing blog posts about the great book by A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles. This is certainly one of the top books I’ve read this year so far. The protagonist, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov, was in Paris when the Hermitage fell, and returned after the Revolution. He under house arrest at the Metropol, the fine hotel in which he lives, for the authorities have forbidden him ever to leave lest he is shot. Count Rostov learned that “Beauty, influence, fame, and privilege are borrowed rather than bestowed.” All can go away in an instance. After learning that the character Anna Urbanova, who was an actress, becomes a has been, and falls from grace after Stalin’s disapproval that the films she stars in refer too grandly to “waltzing and candlelight and marble stairs;” in other words nostalgically looking at times gone by, she and the Count unwittingly join the Confederacy of the Humbled. Who make up the Confederacy of the Humbled? Here’s what we learned:

“Like the Freemasons, the Confederacy of the Humbled is a close-knit brotherhood whose members travel with no outward markings, but who know each other at a glance. For having fallen suddenly from grace, those in the Confedarcy share a certain perspective. Knowing beauty, influence, fame, and privilege to be borrowed rather than bestowed, they are not easily impressed. They are not quick to envy or take offense. They certainly do not scour the papers in search of their own names. They remain committed to living among their peers, but they greet adulation with caution, ambition with sympathy, and condensation with an inward smile.”

A Gentleman In Moscow

All of us have been humbled at some point or another. Being humbled causes us to look at life differently. It can take many forms, a star athlete is benched, a young person is not invited to the prom, or a politician loses an election. It causes the humbled to look at life differently. As the character in the book notes, one is a little less quick to envy or take offense. As I get older and realize life doesn’t always play out the we wish it would and that randomness and luck are hidden handmaidens of our own fates, the way we conduct ourselves in the daily interactions with people, the small kindnesses, the instinctive and careful decencies, become more front and center in our self identities. As Count Rostov taught us, “But in the end, it has been the inconveniences that have mattered to me most.” So, embrace the inconveniences in life. They are, as the Count explained, life itself.


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