Originally Published: January 31, 2017 6:01 a.m.
A little more than 100 years ago a man named Alfred looked at the morning newspaper and was shocked to read his own name on the obituary page. The man’s brother had recently died but the newspaper mixed up the two men and published an obituary about Alfred by mistake.
Alfred’s first response was surprise and horror, but when he regained his composure he became curious to learn what people had said about him. His heart sank as his eyes fell on the words, “The Merchant of Death Is Dead” and “Dynamite King Dies.”
He was described as the man who made it possible to kill more people more quickly than anyone else who had ever lived. You see, Alfred was the inventor of dynamite and other powerful and deadly explosives.
When he read the words “merchant of death” he asked himself a life-changing question, “Is this how I am going to be remembered?”
I will pause the story here for a moment.
When I learned about this man, Alfred, I asked myself, “If I were to die today, what would be my legacy -- how do I want to be remembered?”
How do you want to be remembered?
In 1998 American businessman and religious leader Joseph B. Wirthlin shared this thought about how we weave the pattern of our lives each day:
“I have watched the skilled hands of Navajo women in the American Southwest as they weave intricate patterns in beautiful rugs. They select and prepare each colored thread of yarn very carefully and insert it in precisely the right place. They weave the varied colors artistically into the fabric of the whole to form rugs that eventually conform to the preconceived plan of their creators. In much the same way, we weave into the fabric of our lives the pattern that we will present as our finished product.”
Each day of our lives we have opportunities to combine our deeds into something intricately beautiful. If we have done something unkind, dishonest or any deed we’re not proud of, we can either live with the blotch in the fabric of our souls or we can retrace our steps and remove the errant threads we have woven into our character.
Now, back to our story:
After reading his own obituary Alfred firmly decided that this was not the way he wanted to be remembered. He began to remove the threads he had woven which earned him the dark label, “Merchant of Death.”
From that day forward, the Swedish munitions manufacturer redefined his values and dedicated his fortune to honoring and rewarding those who benefited humanity. His name was Alfred B. Nobel (1833-1896). He is remembered today as the creator of the world’s most famous set of awards, the Nobel Prizes, presented for outstanding achievement in literature, peace, economics, medicine and the sciences.
Relatively few people know how Alfred Nobel made his fortune, or how a chance event gave birth to the greatest humanitarian awards the world has ever known.
With all that is happening in the world, I hope we can seek out the finer threads.