THEOSOPHY, Vol. 37, No. 2, December, 1948
(Pages 68-70; Size: 10K)
[Article number (15) in this Q&A Department]
LIVING in the "Now" is often misconstrued to mean living recklessly. Isn't it a little dangerous to talk about "taking no thought for the morrow"?
It is not surprising that the expression, "living in the Now," is misconstrued, because out of its context it can mean almost anything. Yet where else can we live, but in the Now -- no matter how inadequately? The question is, how do we consider that Now? Is it with the idea of "eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die"? A man may think he's admirably "one-pointed," when his attention is focused, not by his will, but by the force of desire, on something he likes. Living in the Now is living recklessly, from one point of view, but Life itself is unavoidably reckless. As a modern writer has put it, "We die so easily. Our bodies are soft and unprotected. The brain, the heart, the soul, are perilously lodged."
Simply crossing a street holds unknown terrors, if we choose to think of it that way. But we can also see that very real dangers would threaten if, in the middle of a busy street, we turned our minds from the traffic to a consideration of all the possible accidents which might befall us. Analogously, when facing unknown emotional, mental or moral problems -- why call them "dangers"? -- which we know we shall have to meet in the future, our only safety lies in confining our attention to that problem which besets us now.
When Jesus said, "Take no thought for the morrow," his emphasis was on uncovering the selfishness which dictates most of our forward looks -- "wherewithal shall we be clothed?" Jesus took considerable thought for a long string of tomorrows, but not with his own well-being as the object. Such unselfish living may hold many dangers and inconveniences for the physical body, but it protects the integrity of the real man, and this is the concern of the sage.
Of course it's impossible, but if we could know another's motive, would it not be moral to punish him for evil intent and action?
Certainly. Yet significantly enough, those sages who could do this have always taught men reliance on the Law, not given them lessons in mind- or motive-reading. This must be because when that stage of moral clairvoyance is reached, the seer perceives the reality of Karma, inhering in every being and in every action in the universe, and bringing its own natural and inevitable justice. Instead of the idea of Karma, it is the example of the Personal God which is held up and followed in criminal courts, for how else could men come to think themselves possessed of the right or knowledge to deprive another man of his life? We are far more likely to "lose" our own soul than to help another gain or preserve his by demanding that he make a certain sacrifice or undergo a certain punishment.
What do you say to one whose characteristic response to even the most ordinary request is "Do I have to?"
If that response is really characteristic, it probably will not be very long before the person is somewhat effectively ignored. No one can long maintain an effort at cooperation in the face of such an attitude, and few people will even try. We need, however, to inquire into the cause of this attitude. It is, for instance, a mark of adolescence to resort to various devices which put a premium on one's participation in any scheme. If the "do-I-have-to?" individual has developed this habit as a way of asking to be coaxed, it perhaps means an inflated concept of personal importance. Whatever way of handling this is open to us, it should be consistent with a purpose which is constructive, not punishing.
More difficult to cope with is the person who actually does see compulsion around every corner. To borrow a little psychiatric lingo, this borders on a persecution complex, and we know how difficult it is to help a person to see that he isn't being compelled when he wants to feel that he is. We find ourselves wondering, perhaps, what causes one person to be so consistently pessimistic of himself and of the motives which operate in his fellows, while another just as persistently expects the good. Reference may be made to "Dialogues Between the Two Editors," in THEOSOPHYXXXI, where H. P. Blavatsky speaks of the practical workings of the dual mind in man, for it seems to bear on the present question. It is apparently possible, for all practical purposes, for either the higher or the lower portion of the mind to atrophy. "That is why it is so difficult for a materialist ... to raise himself, or for one who is naturally spiritually minded, to descend to the level of the matter-of-fact vulgar thought. Optimism and pessimism depend on it also in a large measure." [Note: For those who would like to read it, once you have finished reading this article, I've placed a link to HPB's "Dialogues Between the Two Editors" article at the end of this one.--Compiler]
The "do-I-have-to" individual needs to see that whatever attitude of mind he encourages in himself is cumulatively building an actual as well as a metaphysical form through which he will be compelled to work. If "built" with no windows or doors, the mind may be a prison or a tomb. New channels must be virtually carved out by the determination of the man within to communicate with his fellows. The metaphysical parallel of these isolating defects is any feeling of separativeness -- and if anyone should ask if he has to overcome them sometime or other, the answer is most decidedly "yes."
It is sometimes said that conferring about principles does not violate a person's integrity, while the habit of seeking personal advice may. And yet it is precisely the personal problems which we would like to have a fresh viewpoint on, even if we don't always follow the other person's "advice."
There is no necessary incompatibility between principles and personal problems. While a discussion of personal matters with no progress toward a clearer definition of fundamentals is worthless, equally so is a discussion of "principles" when we do not link them with observation and experience. Principles, we need to remember, are not clothed in ether -- at least, not as we come upon them. The fabric of our daily existence is woven around them, and they can be seen only as we make that existence transparent to our own minds. We can evaluate our talks with others by the degree to which they do that.
Principles are like pearls -- we must dive deep for them, and they are invariably tightly protected and effectively disguised in an unprepossessing oyster shell. Reticence as to the personal details of one's life is indispensable to integrity, but proper reticence does not include fear of discussing human problems in terms of ideas and attitudes. This kind of discussion can supplement the practice of self-questioning -- of turning over our smallest acts in search of their meaning. Mr. Judge's Letters (and Robert Crosbie's Friendly Philosopher) are examples of how personal problems and troubles can be profitably treated when principles are invoked.
Note: In case you want to read it, before going on to the next article in this Department, here's the link to HPB's article, entitled "Dialogues Between the Two Editors", that was mentioned and quoted from in the 3rd of the 4 answers in the above article by the Editors.--Compiler
[Article number (16) in this Q&A Department]
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