Long ago and far away in the adolescent cauldron known as Los Altos High School, I attended a senior U.S. history class with a man-child named Delos Roman. He was appropriately christened it seems, because his body resembled that of Zeus, the God of Thunder, and at 6’4”/230 pounds, he rumbled down the football sidelines like a Mack truck on a downhill mountain road. If you were a defensive corner, you didn’t want any part of him, nor did you after the 3:00PM Springtime bell, when “fight” became the rallying cry between Delos and any would-be challenger in the school parking lot. Fate, it seems, had predestined him to be a tough guy. His size didn’t necessarily mean he lacked intellect, but it emphasized brawn over brains and he went with his strong suit like many of us did. Homecoming queens, high scoring SAT nerds, chess club leaders, debate champions, even those with less attractive physical and IQ characteristics seemed primarily guided by how they came out of the oven, not by who they might become – if uninfluenced by their genetic makeups. That was not to discount free will (I now understand), but Nietzsche was never required reading back then and four years was too short a time to really judge the measure of a boy or a girl in blossom. “Mirror, mirror on the wall” seemed a better lead indicator than Nietzsche’s “Superman”.
I was reminded of Delos when the phone rang at my office several months ago and my assistant said there was a Mr. Roman on the line. He had had a hard life, he said, and wanted to know how to invest the $50,000 he had received from his mother’s will. He spoke softly and was almost inaudible, “I’ve been in and out of trouble all my life”, he murmured, “beginning in junior high when I was tough enough to beat up high school seniors.” His story had a ring of the famous Marlon Brando soliloquy in On the Waterfront. “I could’ve been somebody”, he said in so many words, “but I was too big for my own good.”
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