Chasing the Flame

by Jon Thompson on March 10, 2009

The other day I took a walk with a friend around one of the nearby lakes and he told me about a book he was reading called Chasing the Flame: One Man’s Fight to Save the World.  It is a biography about Sergio Vieira de Mello, the former chief of the U.N. mission to Iraq, and details his efforts to make a difference.  I have never been a big fan of biographical works but I remember the day he was killed and later talking to my friends who had met with him only days before and how shaken they were.  The bombing of the U.N. signaled the beginning of the end of relative calm in Iraq and it was not long after that the Red Cross hospital was also destroyed.  I was only a few blocks away for that one and can still remember feeling rattled to the core by the concussion from the blast.

I thought I should check the Amazon reviews and see what others were saying about the piece.  As I scrolled through the reviews I came across this comment:

My favorite quote in the book – and there are many good ones – is the response he gave to a young UNHCR staffer at his farewell in Geneva. When asked what advice he had to give to a young staff member, he said, “Be in the field. That’s what I built my career on. That’s what relevant. Nothing else matters.”

After I read that quote I realized that I had to read this book.  That line about ‘being in the field’ and that ‘nothing else matters’ is absolutely true.  I feel a certain amount of kinship for this individual and I think I owe it to him to read about his life’s work.  It looks like I have a long flight coming up so it will be a perfect time to start a new book.

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