"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal." These words, as full of meaning today as when they were first spoken, are in the nature of a "Stop, Look, Listen" sign: Have we learned to speak from the heart, offering that sympathy of understanding which is the essence of love? Have we found the secret of giving ourselves with our gift, and by so doing, sharing something that belongs to that other as well as ourself, and making the gift more worthwhile to each of us? Or, if seeking to nurture seeds of these qualities in ourselves, do we go forward 'with ear to the ground,' for a keener appreciation of all growing things, of the beauty around us, and especially what may be hidden in our fellow-men?
There are times — notably on reading the daily paper — when the Spirit of Love seems as lost as the Continent of Atlantis; and yet, from that same daily paper come proofs, not only of its presence on earth but of its power to regenerate. In the San Diego Evening Tribune, for April 2 of this year, Ralph Morgan, the actor, tells of an idea that came to him when all seemed dark in his life. From within came the question "Why don't you try something that you have always believed in but never used? Why don't you really try to love?" Not mawkish sentimentality, this, but a sincere effort to feel the oneness of all things — for otherwise how shall we obey the greatest of all commandments, to love our neighbor as ourself? To those looking for dividends perhaps it would not prove a paying proposition, but to one man, at least, the result was "unbelievable," and with the assurance that "it worked" he was desirous of sharing his discovery with others.
When all is said and done, however, these fundamental truths of life and living have to be discovered individually, each man finding for himself the path that will lead him to the goal. Were one way possible for all, the world would surely have reached a stage bordering on perfection long before this! Love, as a Cosmic force, is truly the most potent thing in the Universe, and the way of using this Cosmic force — loving in a manner commensurate with it — is the secret we are here on Earth to learn. Those who have tapped this reservoir cannot drink its life-giving waters for us, but they are an assurance that those clear waters are there.
Another very similar pathway has been indicated by Roland Hayes, the Negro concert-singer, whose art has been one of self-dedication to the promotion of a better racial understanding. In a later edition of the same newspaper he tells the story of the 'revelation' that came to him, and of his dedication to his 'mission.' Perhaps the key to his whole effort is summed up in these words:
. . . each night before commencing my concert I pause a moment. With closed eyes I stand quietly facing the audience and pray: "God, please blot out Roland Hayes so that the people may see only Thee."
There are degrees of art, as of everything else, because whatever the medium of expression, we can give to others only what we are inside; and what we are that is worthwhile is something bigger than our everyday self, something for which we have become a channel — if we have the wit to see it. A moment of preparation, of dedication, of calling upon that inner strength, though we name it 'God,' our Higher Self, or the Divinity within us, enables us to give ourselves with the gift, and to touch the hearts of others as we never could without that moment of dedication. It is our surest way of sharing what we love with others.
Of quite a different character, yet no less an indication that the clouds threatening civilization today are not without their rifts, is a recent publication, The Confident Years, by Van Wyck Brooks. Not the least of the hope that its appearance inspires is the attention given to it by The Saturday Review of Literature. Three issues of the magazine gave space to the book, and especially to its concluding chapter, which was quoted extensively as a lead article. The final part of a literary history of America, its interest for us is more than that of America's place in literature, or of "the American tradition" in this field. When, for example, the author is dealing with opposite lines of thought in the twentieth century, he has laid hold of a theme of universal application. He says:
. . . Defining two great types of men, this was the contrast, in other words, between those who believe in perfectibility and those who believe in the doctrine of original sin . . .
and again, when he tells us that Hamilton regarded " 'the people' as a 'great beast'" while Jefferson stood for "the brotherhood of man," he is pointing to a conflict as old as man. Its more local applications, be they in the Western or the Eastern Hemisphere, are but the magnified picture of the struggle that takes place in the individual himself.
Evidences of the 'animal' in man are to be met with every day. The animal, however, but proves the god in man; and just as certainly must we recognize the finer qualities in acts of self-forgetfulness and heroism, in a thousand and one little things in our dealings with others: in the good-will that wins a response because it comes from someone sincerely loving his fellow-men; in a song that awakens some half-sleeping part of us because the singer has lost his identity in the beauty of his song; in new faith and strength that have come to us because another challenges doubt and mistrust. Insignificant items they may seem in themselves, but their seeding never could have been except in divine fields; and their harvest shall one day bring the Spirit of Brotherhood among men.
(From Sunrise magazine, May 1952; copyright © 1952 Theosophical University Press)