Tuning In with the Other Fellow

Hannah Berman, England
So shalt thou be in full accord with all that lives; bear love to men as though they were thy brother-pupils, disciples of one teacher, the sons of one sweet mother. — The Voice of the Silence

We have been hearing a great deal lately about cooperation and partnership among different peoples and countries. Coming at a time when there is so much disruption and upset in the world, it 'gives us to think,' as the French say. Actually it is the only natural thing that could happen. There is continuously a struggle between the good and evil forces, or life on this planet would cease to exist. It follows, therefore, that the stronger appears the struggle, the more hopeful we should be because it is a proof that the constructive forces are really aroused.

The question is, what can we do about it? Perhaps we think we have one or two good ideas in stock which, if we could only communicate to others, would help to swell the forces that favor cooperation and unity. The problem is, how are we going to do this successfully? How are we going to establish the right links with other people, so that we will be enabled to share with them the ideas we feel are so vital and precious?

When we are young, we are often very enthusiastic about this or that philosophy of life. To us it has a special appeal as representing the solution of all problems — in fact of everybody's problems. We are smitten with a sort of fever to shout our ideas from the house-tops; to reform all our relatives and friends; to force everyone to listen while we listen to no one — in short to compel all the people we meet to adopt the ideas that we 'know' are the only real and true ones.

By the time we have followed this kind of propaganda for any length of time, we find to our horror that though we may be left with one or two relations, we are in great danger of losing all our friends. It comes as a terrible shock, for have we not been doing our best to help everyone? An uneasy suspicion assails us, however, that what we have really been doing has been trying to impose our ideas, habits and routine on all the poor unfortunate human beings who have come within our orbit. From a lofty pedestal of perfection, we, the perfected, have been talking down to the poor imperfect ones.

Now this mode of attempting to help other people causes more unfriendliness and ill-feeling than almost anything we could do, and only does a great dis-service to any cause sponsored by us. It probably hasn't occurred to us that such behavior emanates always from an inflated feeling of superiority. We know more, we live better lives, and so we must be superior. In reality we are in process of establishing a sort of tyranny, with ourselves at the top, until — suddenly we find that the position is actually reversed. Our own sense of ego has made us, literally, very small and insignificant.

When we grow a little in years, and we hope in wisdom, we begin to realize that to do any good at all, to be of any service to others, we must, first of all, establish a real partnership; that is to say, we must meet other people on an equal footing and on their own terms, as equals with ourselves. It is a truism to say that there is really no such thing as a perfect equality amongst men. But there is such a thing as accepting people as they are, with whatever faults and failings they may have, meeting them as if they were as perfect in their way as we fondly imagine ourselves to be. The truly great are the truly humble, and never commit the cruel mistake of trying to make other people feel inferior.

In other words, if we do have a good idea, then we should control it for wise use. Too much enthusiasm unwisely exhibited, stampedes judgment and makes us do and say things at the wrong time and in the wrong manner. We can easily rush our fences and land not only ourselves in trouble, but often pull others with us. If we are to render any service worth while, both ideas and example must be lubricated with oceans of patience, sympathy and understanding.

The two most important factors then in communication of ideas are, firstly to establish the right sort of relationship with other individuals, and never, on any account, to be patronising to them, and secondly to follow the excellent advice that Shakespeare makes old John of Gaunt give to Richard the Second — go slow

For violent fires soon burn out themselves;
Small showers last long, but sudden storms are short;
He tires betimes that spurs too fast betimes;
With eager feeding food doth choke the feeder.

(From Sunrise magazine, September 1954; copyright © 1954 Theosophical University Press)

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