It does not impress us as we go on from day to day on our journey of life what a mighty moving power our hopes really are. We are not conscious that they mould our lives. The truism that "A man is as he thinks" is just as true in the words "A man is as he hopes." For our hopes color all our thoughts and enter into all we do. They guide, direct and lead us.
In view of the fact that most men are ever striving and hoping for something, giving years and years and a whole life-time of toil and energy in the pursuit of its accomplishment, is it not a matter of the most vital importance to ask, what are the hopes of men? What are your hopes — and mine? What an object lesson they might serve to be if they could all be written down in a book and then read by us. Such a volume would be a wonderful mirror. If we chose to look into it, it would reflect a likeness of ourselves that we have never seen before. It would be one of the rarest happenings, for we would thereby be brought face to face with ourselves; see ourselves as we really are — in the things that we have been thinking and desiring and wanting and toiling for — these being the embodiment of our hopes.
However, we need not go to the special task of writing or reading a specially prepared volume. Such a book is already at hand — complete up to date — with an accurate record of all the hopes of men — the Book of Life. In it we may read the story as we run, in the millions of sad faces, the millions of aching hearts, and the millions of lives sunk in the depths of wretchedness, degeneration and despair. This picture before us is the concrete expression of what the world has been hoping; it is the result of man's own work; and herein is the question answered.
The world says — we have not been hoping for this. We have been looking for something better — for the good things — for peace, happiness and joy. It may be very true that we have been looking for these things, but our works have been of the contrary things. There is no escape from the law by argument. Misdirected efforts, misguided energies and selfish pursuits cannot alter or argue away one iota of the law of absolute justice. The result proves what we have been hoping and doing; it stands out boldly as a mighty vindicator of that law. Is there anything that can tell the truth of our lives as forcibly and as plainly as our deeds? No matter what we say we think or believe or hope — what we do verifies it. Jesus said, "By their fruits ye shall know them." And he also admonished the multitude and his disciples of that time, speaking of the scribes and pharisees regarding their hypocrisy, in these words: "The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say and do not," — "For they bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers."
The justice of the world's condition is a great mystery to most people. There are various reasons for this. The past centuries have marked conspicuously this age as an age of material activities; they have developed the material tendencies paramount to every other part of man's nature. This is an age of machinery and money, and so we have been too busy and altogether disinclined to think deep enough — if we did any thinking at all — to get at the reality and the soul of things. Hence, that has been left out of our calculations and interests, and so we do not understand.
Many, who have not been so busy gathering material stores, have sunk into a pitiful mental lethargy because of centuries of joyless religious teachings which did not require any thinking; these are still under the impression that they must keep on forever in the same old way in spite of their sufferings. They are hide-bound in their slavery of narrow traditions and custom, and that makes the struggle toward progress and freedom so great.
Many other people, who cannot account for the present conditions in the light of justice, give for the reason that we have been here on earth but a few years, and that we could not possibly have had anything to do with the bringing about of a world like this, and that, consequently, we ought not to be sharers in the burdens. Could there be any possibility of justice in anything, if man's life were but a few years? Could there be any purpose in anything or any sane reason for living at all, if man were not immortal? Would not life be the greatest mockery and the world the most heinous criminal institution imaginable, if the beginning and end of all were — to be born, to go through the miseries of earth, and then die! Surely the purpose of life is more than this! We are immortal beings, and that means that we have lived in the past as well as that we shall live in the future. Is it any more wonderful to come here a million times than it is to come once? And so we have been here before, many times, having had our chances and opportunities over and over again, and we have had something to do with making the world what it is. We have led up to these conditions from previous lives.
By all natural law, a harvest can only be reaped where the seeds have been sown; and does it not follow by the same law that those do the reaping who do the sowing? Jesus taught this 2000 years ago in the parable of the sower. The hopes and deeds of previous lives here were the seeds that have brought the present reaping. The sower may sow any kind of seed that he desires. Therefore, we shall continue to live in the conditions of today until we get ourselves out of them. We are the builders of our lives — and we can build as we will. Is there not justice and joy in such a law?
There are many who put the responsibility of all the misery and crime of earth upon God; they say it is all right because He did it; that He did it in mercy and love, and it is His will that it should be so. And this is supposed to explain the woes of men; and we are expected to be satisfied with it. But, the rapidly approaching light from the awakening science of life is fast dispelling this particular phase of darkness from the face of the earth.
Now, if we will rouse ourselves to deeper thought, and make true and honest analysis of the hopes even of the few years of this present life experience, leaving out of consideration the particular views of life that we may hold, we will discover that we have had hopes of different motives; that some have been high and some have been low; some have been good and some bad; that a few have emanated from the better, the diviner side of our nature, but the many have emanated from our lower, selfish nature. This fact is the only clue to our individual miseries, and it alone accounts for the miseries of the nations and of the world. Witness the years we devoted in efforts to gratify our millions of petty, personal wants; note the results. Analyze the ambitions, the motives, the hopes involved in the wars of the nations. Are not nobility, honesty and virtue sacrificed to all the vices and to corruption in the hope of getting gold? Are not a million chains of slavery being forged for the people in the covetousness and the hope of power? These are the boldest facts in the life of men today. Can it be possible that the world has been or is hoping that joy may come to it, and peace, while it has been working in these ways? Do we as individuals or as nations care what happens to the rest of the world, except as we may be particularly benefited by that happening? Do our dealings as individuals or nations indicate that we are concerned about the welfare of others, least of all, about the welfare of humanity, except as it concerns our personal interests? The law of Right Living involves duties to others; nay more, it enjoins upon us that we love others — even as we love ourselves. We do not work with this Divine law — we work against it. Surely we do not love our neighbor as ourself; we love only ourselves.
Now, knowing how the law works when we work against it, and knowing that our hopes come under the law, is it not plain that we must know how the law works if we work with it? and that the result will be according as we work and hope?
If selfishness wrought misery and degeneration, will not unselfishness uplift and create happiness; if our hearts go out in love to all who need sympathy and help, instead of giving it all to ourselves, will not a ponderous weight be lifted from the world's load of sorrow; what would take place in the life of humanity if the monster of greed disappeared, that is trying to get all he can and cares not how he gets it? Just suppose the whole world would make up its mind to be kind instead of cruel — how the crushed heart of humanity would stir with gladness if the sunlight of our Higher Hopes could be felt by it! Is not then the welfare of humanity a matter of what we shall hope?
Then let us dare to change our hopes! Let us bid the old selfish hopes pass away that the new may come! Let us break away from the old treadmill of mean and petty striving and get into the freedom of the universal law! Then it will be easy to dare to hope for the uplifting of the whole human race; for a better, brighter day and a higher life for men.
Such striving will turn all our work and labor into joy and shame away our million little worries. Such hopes alone are worthy of our manhood and womanhood; they dignify and ennoble life; such hopes have been the ideals that have made heroes; and such are the hopes that make possible the unspeakable, sublime self-sacrifice of all world Teachers and Helpers of the race. It is such hopes that the spiritual Teachers have tried to bring to the realization of men age after age. It is the same hope that now again, at this very moment, our present Teachers are trying to rekindle in our hearts. In their marvelous courage and example we see the possibility of attainment. We learn that with unflinching effort and courageous determination, and with the Law of Right on our side, we can accomplish everything.
It is a battle indeed, great and mighty! But it is the battle of the True Warrior — fighting with self — the battle for others.
By the Sacrifice of Selfishness; through the Power of Selflessness; with love in the heart and a fearless tread, we can march on and win the battle!
How many people in the world are wondering what Jesus meant when he said, "He who loses his life shall find it."
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