Scoundrel and saint, poised and charmer, romantic and affirmative, unconditional and reserved, rich and poor, loved and hated, traditional and revolutionary, familial and societal, perceptive and soft spoken, prideful and humble. A man who stands alone in a forgotten era that ushered our own. A man who spread the values and mindset of the inner-family to the furthest stretch of the world. A man whose place serves a forgotten purpose in our time.
Like any saint, he was the son of a wealthy plantation owner in upper Egypt and like any son, he rebelled against his father and insisted on a life of his own rather than the customary succession on wealth. Leaving his home town and well suited life, he traveled to Cairo to study economics. But this man wasn’t just studying trade or the development of financial systems; this man studied the economy of life and respect, relationship and dealings, and the difference between success and failure.
You see his era was unrelated to our own. It consisted of a small social community, even in a big city. It was a time when the man could live his life until he was forty before he was wed; and when he did marry, he would marry a women whose beauty would be rivaled only by the sculptures of the ancients. The world was smaller and life simpler. One’s only concern was eighty years of labor and family life in which he upheld his moral practices and did his best to pass on whatever he could to those whom he raised and supported. It transcended the age of chivalry and precluded the modern era of the stigma of wealth: it was the age of real men. A generation where the world grew from farmhouses and street corners to big buildings and international relations.
This was a man who lived the roaring twenties from his birth to his death. Born in 1918 and glorified in 2008, Shohdi Azer took his small existence and silently etched his name into his country and church’s development. Each story carries with it and underlying spirit of awe at the greatness of a man whose personality and motive stemmed from something that would be lost on our own world. He influenced church officials and sat with the first man on the moon in his home , and yet spoke not a word of himself. His birthright was stripped by his younger siblings, he was head of the stock exchange for several successive years, and he funded the building of a church and foster house in the midst of a Muslim land ,and he did it all with pride and dignity. He waited for Cyril VI to come and apologize to him, he wouldn't speak to clergy if they insisted on wearing their head covers in his presence, and he turned down the church’s highest laymen court in the land, and he did it with love and respect. He made his pilgrimage to the the Holy Land, befriended the Ethiopian monk, and attended the Coptic Seminary, and he did it all by a motivation unknown to us today.
Most men die with and leave an unfinished book with either blank pages or a series of failed introductions but when my grandfather passed, and elderly Alzheimer stricken man, he closed his own book and put in on a shelf. But this book and this shelf are not located only in the heart of his family but in the mind of anyone who studies the art of success. He accomplished everything that the great kings of the past did except his empire is yet to fall. Alexander the Great took what his father had and expanded it beyond the reach of any ruler before him, but he did it with a firm hand. My grandfather did the same to his small community but buttressed his achievements with love. He treated the world as if they were his own family. He housed the condemned, he aided those who had no helper, and he gave himself as any father would to his children. My father once said “People like that will never again be repeated.”
But who would bother to read his book today? After all, he has no place in our time. What role would this man who treated the world like his own family have in today’s vast world? Nothing really, he created it and left it for his children to rule over it.