Everywhere in life we meet with Pairs of Opposites. They are called by many different names, such as Pleasure and Pain, Light and Darkness, Good and Evil; but whatever they may be called, ultimately they always represent the positive and negative qualities in nature. Often the two appear surprisingly alike, so much so indeed that one is tempted to exclaim with the Arab that "a hair-line only divides the false from the true." Yet that hair-line is always there, however faint it may appear to the untrained mind.
In attempting to accomplish anything it is first of all necessary to wish to do it. This seems so much like a truism that it sounds almost commonplace, yet many attempt all the time, and perhaps all of us a good deal of the time, to obtain results by quite another road. All roads lead to Rome, says the old adage, but at the same time many of them are very much longer than others and lead the weary pilgrim into a maze from which he can extricate himself only after ages of suffering. It is therefore extremely important that we select the most direct course, for then it is easier to see our destination even though at times the path may appear quite steep and forbidding, too difficult for us to climb. Yet it seems so steep only because of our wrong way of looking at it, — looking down on the ground instead of straight ahead.
Let us then look courageously ahead, trying to see how best we can reach our goal and overcome the obstacles in our way, whatever they be. The obstacles are there and must be overcome, yet it is useless to sit down and look at them or to spend our time trying to avoid them. If we allow fear to enter our mind we see them and nothing else, see them and begin to speculate upon what may happen to us in case we fail through not doing that which we ought to do. On the other hand, courage helps us to keep our eyes steadily on the goal, knowing that we shall reach it by being up and doing. Fear and courage both travel along parallel roads, but one road is soft and miry, the other sound and fast to tread upon. The roads are parallel, but lead in opposite directions, and he who travels the road of fear will ultimately find that it has taken him only to the very beginning of the road of courage.
Let us be optimists, not pessimists! There is much to be gained by this, in fact it has everything to do with the shaping of our future. The pessimist sees life in its darkest colors and it makes him unhappy, makes him doubt whether after all life is worth living. He sees the dark side of everything, sees the hindrances in the way and they appear to him to be very formidable, not because they really are so, but simply because they are in front. Everything in the foreground looks large to the untrained eye that has not yet learned to make due allowance for distance, the eye which has not learned to take in the whole instead of the part, and thus be able to compare. It sees the self but does not see the other selves nor that all are indissolubly linked together through the common bond of Brotherhood.
It is not that we should be blind and not see the difficulties we may meet, but there are different ways of seeing them. The pessimist will always find a thousand reasons why things should not be done, why they would fail and be useless. He objects and questions whenever he meets with a new experience, whenever he is urged to take a step in advance. He is prudent, careful, is a conservative man. He wishes to preserve existing conditions. He reasons that while he may not exactly live in a paradise, yet he is well enough off as he is and might at any rate fare worse were he to leap into the unknown future. He sees that there are stones to bruise his feet and thorns to tear his flesh on the steep and narrow mountain path ahead, should he start to climb. Beyond the stones he dimly sees the heights, but truth is everlasting, he reasons, why not then rather wait for the arrival of a more opportune time, when the obstacles may have been worn away by other feet, or when he at any rate may have grown stronger for the task confronting him. Now he feels sure he is incapable of accomplishing it, and it would seem folly indeed to undertake that which appears so impossible.
How different is the man who looks straight ahead, over the hindrances, and sees first of all that towards which he aspires. He too sees the sharp stones which he must step upon, but the light ahead guides him and gives him courage to attempt and strength to endure. He too may feel the momentary pain, but he has a brave heart and an indomitable will. The very struggle is to him a source of joy, and each day this struggle brings him nearer and nearer to the light, which grows clearer and brighter by every step, filling him with added hope and faith. It lights up his whole being as well as his stony path, and helps him to overcome the ever increasing difficulties in his road. The name of the light is Boundless Love, and its faintest ray has the power to strengthen us so that we may give our hand to a weary comrade and help him upward where before we found it impossible to climb even alone.
Let us resolve to do and forget the don't. The one is positive, the other negative, and these two fitly illustrate the vital difference between the two states. There is hardly any act in life which may not be expressed either by a "do" or by a "don't." At times the results may appear to be quite the same, but in reality they are entirely different. We say to a person entering, "please close the door." This is just as easy as it would be to say "why don't you shut the door?" In both cases it may have the outward effect that the door will be closed, but the hidden effects are quite different. It is just as easy and certainly much better to ask a person to do a favor rather than to impatiently complain that he did not do it. The former always acts as a help to the helper, the latter is very often resented as an insult, whether it is merited or not.
Sometimes that which at first appears so very positive is found to be very negative in reality. So is often a strong and forceful denunciation of all that is bad in a manner negative, because of being destructive. In the main it destroys evil, to be sure, but it also destroys something else, it destroys hope and with it faith, gentleness and harmony; it shatters and creates discord. The aspiring speech, on the other hand, strengthens us instead of weakens, it lifts us up, builds us up, gives us added power to meet and fight the battles of life.
Between these two we find the apologetic speech, uncertain, always waiting for assent. It lies between but it is not the middle road which we should travel, for it too is negative, it is totally lacking in all force. It leaves the impression on the listener that we ourselves are not sure of what we say. If we have faith in what we are saying, we say it with fire, and the listener will grasp the idea, will perceive it with his inner as well as with his outer senses. We must therefore be assertive, yet without being aggressive. To be aggressive is not necessarily to be positive, for aggression often is nothing but combativeness and springs from fear, a fear to lose an advantage, existing or prospective. He who is sure of his position can afford to be calm. The wise ones are always calm, they never fear defeat, they know they will win and therefore they remain calm and unmoved under all conditions in life. If they speak to rebuke, even that is done calmly and with kindness; yet they are positive all the time.
If we are shooting at a mark we must first of all see the mark. It is useless to look at that which we wish to avoid, yea, worse than useless, for that which we look at, that will we hit. And so it is in life, we must aim at the ideal without wasting our time in trying to avoid that which is frivolous and earthly. It is easier to succeed if we try to be good than if we waste all our energy in trying to avoid being bad.
The force of habit is very strong. Habit builds character, and the more we dwell upon the evil and negative side of our nature, the more strength do we give it. On the other hand, the more we accustom ourselves to lofty thoughts the more does this become habitual with us and the vicious thought becomes more and more impotent and impossible.
There is a time for the "don't," but then it becomes a "do." It is when used by a Teacher to show a pupil the many faults which all the previous "do's " have failed to make him perceive as existing in himself. The don't is then no longer only used that the pupil may not neglect doing good, it becomes a positive command to cease doing evil. It then acts like the surgeon's knife, it aims to cut away a fault. In the same manner we should at all times be our own teachers and resolve never again to do that which we have learned is wrong.
As darkness is the absence of light, cold the absence of warmth, evil the absence of good, so also are the positive and negative opposites only by comparison. In reality they are of the same nature, only in different stages of evolution. They are co-existent, and just as light dispels the darkness, so the presence of the positive quality ever tends to raise the negative upward. Thus it is that that which we call evil is capable of being transmuted into good and the wise teacher therefore follows the injunction against evil with an appeal toward the good. Nature abhors a vacuum, and we must of necessity always fill our minds with something. It is therefore not enough to drive out the evil, but we must replace it with good, build up where the ground has been cleared for the New Temple.
"Ask, and it shall be given you;
Seek and ye shall find;
Knock and it shall be opened unto you!"