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The Daily Tar Heel

Lessons From Historical Heroes

Today I'd like to introduce myself by introducing three of my heroes. These are the healers that have most influenced my thinking and whose ideas influence everything I write.

So, in chronological order...

Lao-Tsu is considered the primary sage of Taoism. I guess I've been a Taoist since I fell in love with Winnie-the-Pooh as a youngster, though I didn't know it until as a freshman I read the "Tao of Pooh" by Benjamin Hoff. Fantastic book. It's a great introduction to Taoism and much easier reading than the major writing of Taoist philosophy, the "Tao Te Ching."

That extraordinary work is an ideal leadership manual if ever there was one. "If you want to be a great leader, you must follow the Tao. Stop trying to control. Let go of fixed plans and concepts and the world will govern itself."

Taoism is very healing. It offers an optimistic view of the world: Relax and let good things happen. Don't force it. "I let go all desire for the common good, and the good becomes as common as the grass."

If you force it, you'll be forced yourself: "Violence, even well-intentioned, invariably rebounds upon oneself."

Skipping forward a few thousand years, Jesus Christ is my savior and God. He spent most of his time preaching, "Love God and love your neighbor," and then he showed us the awesome depth of his love by allowing himself to be martyred on our behalf.

God loves us so much that he gave us free will. Obviously he wants us to choose his way, but he pointedly leaves that choice to us. Jesus showed us what to do with our freedom. He lived what he preached: "Turn the other cheek" and "Do to others as you'd have them do to you."

He taught that we'll "reap as we sow" -- our lives and future will reflect our actions. He didn't want us to force people to be good -- he could have done that -- but he wanted us to choose to be good ourselves.

We are to be the light on a hill that teaches people by example. Though I think his message of love is a very healing message, it hasn't always been used that way.

A couple thousand years after Christ, Thomas Jefferson was a leader among a band of incredibly wise men who dared to try a new social experiment -- set the people free.

While the concept "live and let live" may not have originated in the 13 American colonies two centuries ago, it hadn't been tried on such a grand scale. Jefferson was its most devoted and eloquent proponent, though James Madison and George Washington were ardent too.

I know it's not politically correct these days to respect Jefferson, what with the widespread publication of some of his "youthful (and not-so-youthful) indiscretions." But I'm willing to forgive others as I hope to be forgiven myself, so I focus on Jefferson's strengths. I think he was our best and smartest president.

President Kennedy agreed. When entertaining a large group of Nobel Laureates in the White House dining room, he remarked that it was the greatest collection of intellect to grace the room "since Thomas Jefferson dined here alone."

Some of Jefferson's plans and visions have become obsolete, but I think his ideals remain as true today as they were when he articulated them: We are all "endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Some we've improved upon. While he said "All men are created equal" in the eyes of their creator, we'd now say that all people are created equal.

The theme that binds these heroes together is that these are all world-healers. They all taught and lived by nonaggression (with a few notable exceptions that I recognize but don't have space to justify).

Taoism is all about letting good things happen. Jesus believed so firmly in nonaggression that he died for it: "Blessed are the meek." Jefferson helped turn the principle into a government.

And all taught individual responsibility. We heal the world not by forcing others to act well but by doing so ourselves. We reap as we sow.

I've got other heroes that exemplify these traits -- Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa leap to mind -- but the three I offered are the ones who have most influenced me.

The principle of nonaggression has two faces: honesty, tolerance and respect toward others -- and repairing any damage we cause.

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Those will be the themes of this column.

Don't worry, it won't be a religious rant. I'll bring up current issues -- mostly political -- and use my ideals to generate healing solutions. I'm not the first -- or the best -- to offer such solutions.

I named the column after a book by Dr. Mary Ruwart that has some of the same themes. Her "Healing Our World: The Other Piece to the Puzzle" is surprising. I don't agree with everything she says, but I love and respect her way.

I hope you enjoy the column.

Russ Helms, a doctoral candidate in

biostatistics from Chapel Hill, is the president of the Tar Heel Libertarians. E-mail him at

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