Learning to Get Out of the Way
In every one of the higher religions there is a strain of infinite optimism on the one hand,and on the other,of a profound pessimism.In the depths of our being,they all teach,there is an inner high–but an inner Light which our egotism keeps,for most of the time,in a state of more of less eclipse.If,however,it so desires,the ego can get out of the way,so to speak,can dis–eclipse the Light and become identified wiht its divine source.Hence the unlimited optimmism of the traditional religions.There pessinism springs from the observed fact that,though all are called,few are chosen–for the sufficient reason that few choose to be chosen.
To me,this older conception of man’s nature and destiny seems more realistic,more nearly in accord with the given facts,than any form of modern utopianism.
In the Lord’s Prayer we are taught to ask for the blessing which consists in not being led into temptation.The reason is only too obvious.Whe temptations are very great or unduly prolonged,most persons succumb on them.To devise a perfect social order is probably beyond our powers,but I believe that it is perfectly possible for us to reduce the number of dangerous temptations to a level far below that which is tolerated at the present time.
A society so arranged that there shall be a minimum of dangerous temptations–this is the end towards which,as a citizen,I have to strive.In my efforts to that end,I can make use of a great variety of means.Do good ends justify the use of intrinsically bad means?On the level of theory,the point can be argued indefinitely.In practice,meanwhile,I find that the means employed invariably determine the nature of the end achieved.Indeed,as Mahatma Gandhi was never tired of insisting,the means are the end in its preliminary stages.Men have put forth enoumous efforts to make their world a better place to live in;but except in regard to gadgets,plumbing and hygiene,their sussess has been pathetically small.”hell,”as the proverb has it,”is paved with good intentions.”And so long as we go on trying to realize our ideals by bad or merely inappropriate means,our good intentions will come to the same bad ends.In this consists the tragedy and the irony of history.
Can I,as an individual,do anything to make future history a little less tragic and less ironic than history past and present?I believe I can.As a citizen,I can use all my intelligence and all my good will to develop political means that shall be of the same kind and quality as the ideal ends which I am trying to achieve.And as a person,as a psychophysical roganism,I can learn how to get out of the way,so that the divine source of my life and consciousness can come out of eclipse and shine through me.
Growth That Starts From Thinking
It seems to me a very difficult thing to put into words the beliefs we hold and what they make you do in your life. I think I was fortunate because I grew up in a family where there was a very deep religious feeling. I don’t think it was spoken of a great deal. It was more or less taken for granted that everybody held certain beliefs and needed certain reinforcements of their own strength and that that came through your belief in God and your knowledge of prayer.
But as I grew older I questioned a great many of the things that I knew very well my grandmother who had brought me up had taken for granted. And I think I might have been a quite difficult person to live with if it hadn’t been for the fact that my husband once said it didn’t do you any harm to learn those things, so why not let your children learn them? When they grow up they’ll think things out for themselves.
And that gave me a feeling that perhaps that’s what we all must do—think out for ourselves what we could believe and how we could live by it. And so I came to the conclusion that you had to use this life to develop the very best that you could develop.
I don’t know whether I believe in a future life. I believe that all that you go through here must have some value, therefore there must be some reason. And there must be some “going on.” How exactly that happens I’ve never been able to decide. There is a future—that I’m sure of. But how, that I don’t know. And I came to feel that it didn’t really matter very much because whatever the future held you’d have to face it when you came to it, just as whatever life holds you have to face it exactly the same way. And the important thing was that you never let down doing the best that you were able to do—it might be poor because you might not have very much within you to give, or to help other people with, or to live your life with. But as long as you did the very best that you were able to do, then that was what you were put here to do and that was what you were accomplishing by being here.
And so I have tried to follow that out—and not to worry about the future or what was going to happen. I think I am pretty much of a fatalist. You have to accept whatever comes and the only important thing is that you meet it with courage and with the best that you have to give.
A New Look from Borrowed Time
By Ralph Richmond
Just ten years ago, I sat across the desk from a doctor with a stethoscope. “Yes,” he said, “there is a lesion in the left, upper lobe. You have a moderately advanced case…” I listened, stunned, as he continued, “You’ll have to give up work at once and go to bed. Later on, we’ll see.” He gave no assurances.
Feeling like a man who in mid-career has suddenly been placed under sentence of death with an indefinite reprieve, I left the doctor’s office, walked over to the park, and sat down on a bench, perhaps, as I then told myself, for the last time. I needed to think. In the next three days, I cleared up my affairs; then I went home, got into bed, and set my watch to tick off not the minutes, but the months. 2 ? years and many dashed hopes later, I left my bed and began the long climb back. It was another year before I made it.
I speak of this experience because these years that past so slowly taught me what to value and what to believe. They said to me: Take time, before time takes you. I realize now that this world I’m living in is not my oyster to be opened but myopportunity to be grasped. Each day, to me, is a precious entity. The sun comes up and presents me with 24 brand new, wonderful hours—not to pass, but to fill.
I’ve learned to appreciate those little, all-important things I never thought I had the time to notice before: the play of light on running water, the music of the wind in my favorite pine tree. I seem now to see and hear and feel with some of the recovered freshness of childhood. How well, for instance, I recall the touch of thespringy earth under my feet the day I first stepped upon it after the years in bed. It was almost more than I could bear. It was like regaining one’s citizenship in a world one had nearly lost.
Frequently, I sit back and say to myself, Let me make note of this moment I’m living right now, because in it I’m well, happy, hard at work doing what I like best to do. It won’t always be like this, so while it is I’ll make the most of it—and afterwards, I remember—and be grateful. All this, I owe to that long time spent on the sidelines of life. Wiser people come to this awareness without having to acquire it the hard way. But I wasn’t wise enough. I’m wiser now, a little, and happier.
“Look thy last on all things lovely, every hour.” With these words, Walter de la Mare sums up for me my philosophy and my belief. God made this world—in spite of what man now and then tries to do to unmake it—a dwelling place of beauty and wonder, and He filled it with more goodness than most of us suspect. And so I say to myself, Should I not pretty often take time to absorb the beauty and the wonder, to contribute a least a little to the goodness? And should I not then, in my heart, give thanks? Truly, I do. This I believe.