Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Measure of a Man: a spiritual autobiography by Sidney Poitier

This is not the first autobiography by Sidney Poitier, but it is a powerful one. It is a story of wholeness, of working to achieve the best within himself. The story begins on a small piece of isolated land, Cat Island, in the Bahamas, untouched by the outside world without even the most rudimentary of what most would call necessities, so untouched the locals don’t even know there are necessities, and they may be right. The true essential is family and that they do have.

In this autobiography, Sidney Poitier looks within, the good and the bad, what drives a man, how to maintain dignity when all around attempts are made to remove the dignity. His first view that there was another kind of life, even that there was a world, was at the tender age of ten and a half, when he moved to Nassau, capitol of the Bahamas. This was the first time he lived outside the “Natural” world. A boy used to evaluating risk, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, he had never encountered the new types of risk. The thing is, he had prepared himself for life by believing that he was who he was, that not only could he be as good as anyone else but with hard work he could be better.

This is the basis of the book. It covers many years of looking for answers, taking risks to better himself, searching for meaning, the how, the why, the when, the where. Successful as his career became, he still stretched from within to better himself. He wanted to avoid slipping into thinking things were pretty good as they were. He wanted to maintain his dignity, honour his father, be all he could be, and be the best father he could. I’m summarizing rather than delving too far into the book because the summation is constant for Poitier. I learned a great deal personally from this book and found it moved along very well, although I did notice a bit of a stall or slow spot toward the end which did pick up again, so it didn’t last very long. This is not about black and white except where necessary, this is about being human and where humanity belongs in Nature’s world. I believe it is an excellent book and recommend it for the many lessons that can be learned.

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