Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

Frank William Boreham 1871-1959
A photo F W Boreham took of himself in 1911

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Boreham on the Worth of the Individual

F W Boreham saw that an essential ingredient of growing in self-recognition was coming to a truthful assessment of one’s worth. Perhaps it was his recollection of “the greatest sensation that I have ever known” that underscored the importance of this lifelong theme of Boreham’s ministry when, at the age of sixteen, he arrived in London and under the shadow of St Paul’s found himself “shivering in the thick of the crowd at [his] own utter loneliness”.[1] Later he wrote about the law by which “the entity of the tree is lost in the immensity of the forest” and the challenge of how one makes “the individual tree conscious of its importance as an integral unit in the forest”.[2]

Usually on the occasion of a national census, Boreham would remind his readers that the government’s “national stocktaking” was a “terrific leveller” yet “superficial” for “the strength of a nation is in the intrinsic worth of each citizen”.[3] While politicians were exultant in 1950 over the record-breaking news that the population of Australia had exceeded 8 million people, Boreham conceded that there was some value in a census but said “of individuality the statistician ... knows nothing” and that reporting on the growth of numbers “tends to undermine the sense of individual responsibility”.[4]

Boreham repeatedly ridiculed the counting of heads, recalling the story of Gideon to expose “the futility of numbers”[5] and emphasising the limitations of a census in being unable to classify “a nation’s greatest asset [which] is in the fibre and quality of its manhood”.[6] Scoffing yet again at Australia’s national “tape measure”, Boreham asserted his convictions about the “essential immeasurability of Man”, the “refusal of humanity to be pigeon-holed” and the truth that “things are not to be judged by the noise they make or the space they occupy”.[7]

Moving into poetic mode, Boreham conveyed to his readers a sense of their individual worth and their centrality in the cosmic scope of things when writing:

"If he regards himself as being about six feet high, he will be content to live a six-foot life and to go down at last to a six-foot grave. But if he thinks of himself as striding through immensities, with solar systems revolving around his ankles and his head in eternity, he instinctively feels it would be an unthinkable desecration of the boundless potentiality of his wondrous being to degrade them by harnessing them to unworthy or ignoble ends."[8]

Geoff Pound

[1] F W Boreham, My pilgrimage (London: The Epworth Press, 1940), 58-59.
[2] Boreham, Mercury, 22 May 1943.
[3] Boreham, Mercury, 2 April 1921.
[4] Boreham, Mercury, 12 August 1950.
[5] Boreham, Mercury, 12 August 1950.
[6] Boreham, Mercury, 28 June 1947.
[7] Boreham, Mercury, 15 October 1938.
[8] Boreham, Mercury, 4 June 1949.