What Makes for an Impressive Person

Meetings with famous people can—as we have seen—be disappointing. Someone very gifted, even a true genius, can turn out to be a very ordinary person indeed. His talent is separate from his soul. And you immediately cease to care that this ordinary, mediocre man is endowed with some particular talent that he displays elsewhere—in a laboratory, in an operating theater, on a grand stage, or in something he writes. 

The gift possessed by a great poet or scientist is not the highest of gifts. Among even the most brilliant virtuosos of the mathematical formula, of the musical phrase and poetic line, of the paintbrush and chisel are all too many people who are weak, petty-minded, greedy, servile, venal, and envious—people like slugs or mollusks, moral nobodies in whom, thanks to the irritating pangs of conscience, a pearl is sometimes born. But the supreme human gift is beauty of soul; it is nobility, magnanimity, and personal courage in the name of what is good.
—Vasily Grossman, An Armenian Sketchbook, pages 95 and 97

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