Have you ever wondered what would happen if suddenly everyone could read everyone else's thoughts? Probably it would be a chaotic experience, full of shocks and surprises. Some few might be able to guide their thinking, but the thought habits of years would cling to most of us like close-fitting garments, revealing us for what we are, good, bad or indifferent. Hypocrisy, dishonesty, subterfuge, all those qualities that mar our civilization, could remain in hiding no longer. All of the thoughts that race through the mind when human passion is aroused would be revealed as clearly as merchandise in a cellophane wrapper. All of us no doubt would breathe a sigh of relief to be once more veiled from so keen a scrutiny.
It has been said that a man is no greater than his thoughts at any given time. Proverbs expressed the idea in these words, "As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." The teaching is an ancient one, but its application to life is little nearer realization than it was when first uttered. Yet in this truth lies the answer to the mystery of human existence; in it is the seed of man's destiny.
The majority of us are slaves to our thoughts. We are pushed this way or that by whatever is moved to enter our heads. During the day the mind is usually passive, host to any vagrant thought that passes by. Perhaps a pause at work to watch the traffic, or in looking at a flower, or seeing the grocery boy in his truck, will start an endless chain of idle reflection. This familiar, negative state of mind leads nowhere. It isn't bad, but it isn't good, either, from the standpoint of being masters of ourselves. Everyone knows how important it is to free the mind from distractions when there is a job to be done. How much more could be accomplished in a lifetime if the mind could be continually disciplined. This would not necessitate living in a grimly intent way, but rather learning to choose consciously the thoughts we wish to entertain, gradually calling in for longer intervals those of a more pleasing and noble quality.
No one admits to himself that he is mediocre, yet small thoughts breed mediocrity just as surely as expansive thoughts produce greatness. It is by separating the mental chaff from the wheat that man allies himself ever more strongly with that spark of spirituality within himself. Instead of receiving outside impulses, he will come to utilize his own inner knowledge, which some call the creative imagination. It is from this source that the poet, the artist, the spiritual teachers and philosophers draw inspiration. Yet this high reach of thought is always present and available to anyone who desires strongly enough to seek it.
From another point of view we might imagine the earth surrounded by a great reservoir of thought. Within its deeps are the quiet waters of spiritual contemplation and universal truths, while its shallows are stagnant with lesser thoughts. The human family can use any part, from the most shallow to the farthest reaches, for thoughts are a substance shared in common. Men use them, color them, give them direction and send them on their way. Eventually the thought returns, the better for wear or badly shop-worn. Like all things in Nature, thoughts seek their own level, and even the most insignificant are never lost. Therein lies each man's responsibility, to himself and to all others. Truly in this sense we are our brother's keeper, either helping to purify or further polluting the waters of the world's thought reservoir.
Unlike now, in some distant future perhaps, everyone will be able to open his mind for all to see, fearlessly and shamelessly. Through conscious striving final victory emerges. It is the gradual, steady growth that remains permanent. So it must be with learning to think, for most of us are like school children, awkward with new knowledge, and forgetful when it comes to homework. Yet because right thinking leads man to the eternal spirit within himself, some day he will awake and, lifting his head toward the sun, begin the climb upward.
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