Great many lofty ideals have been set before Man through countless ages. Yet how few we have ever put into effect. We feel their beauty and wonder, but somehow we also feel how very remote they are for our attainment — in fact so remote that we pigeonhole them as 'not for us,' but only for highly evolved individuals!
Let us consider one of these ideals: "Indifference to pleasure and to pain," or "equal-mindedness" — the power to maintain a perfect balance, no matter what may occur. What an ideal, and how difficult of achievement! If any human being ever managed to attain it, most of his problems would automatically be solved. But even if the complete achievement of this ideal seems out of grasp, surely we should not "give up the ghost," but simply begin, at the very beginning, and try. All big events have their beginnings in small efforts.
No one can expect to go through a whole day without meeting circumstances that will bring about moods and tenses, irritations, frustrations, indignations, pleasures and excitements, and all the other clouds of differing vapors which burst upon us seemingly from nowhere. It is a truism to say that we cannot help but be influenced or impressed by this bombardment of varying forces. "It is not the things that happen to us that count, it is how we face them."
The basic problem confronting us therefore boils down to this: how can we be in these circumstances, without being of them? To be irritated by something, and yet not allow that irritation to dominate us so that it becomes a mood which spreads itself in all directions, impinging on any and all who unhappily come within our orbit! Obviously, to be able to exercise control here is the thing to be aimed at, but what self-discipline is demanded!
Just think how difficult is a "moody" person! There is a saying: "You never know when you have got him (or her)," meaning that one is never certain what mood you will be confronted with by the particular individual.
The late Professor H. Alexander Fussell aptly expressed the power of ideals in the ordinary affairs of our lives:
The manner in which we meet the varying circumstances of our lives, and the problems which confront us — all of them problems of conduct — is the supreme test of the value and power of our ideals. The spiritual life to which we aspire is our ordinary everyday life, only lived on a higher level.
To reach the stage when we are able to live our ideals, at least to a larger degree than at present, and thus become able to present an impregnable front to the onslaughts of moods, is the first step towards reaching the ideal of "equal-mindedness." The difficulty is that it is so very easy to identify ourselves with the daily round of events that a stage is inevitably reached when to our horror we find ourselves like shuttlecocks, tossed hither and thither, according to the whim of the player — and in our case, the player is usually vagrant thoughts and influences which have no real bearing on our main objective.
After all, we just have to face the daily script of our lives. If we could bring ourselves to the point where we regard the things that confront us as tests to prove our merit and courage in our reactions to them, then we would find that not only would we be freed of their power to hurt, but we would have attained a strong measure of our ideal of equal-mindedness. Moods then will be as outmoded as is the plague.
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