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Our Talk With Correspondents

Under this heading we are prepared, month by month, to give needful advice, and to deal with the questions and difficulties of our readers. To insure a reply in the subsequent issue letters should reach ns not later than the 7th.

Correspondents may choose their own nom-de-plume, but no utters will be answered unless accompanied by the full name and address.

C.S.M., one of our Indian readers, questions us as follows:—

  1. May anger be at any time used as a means of improving others, if at all it is capable of doing so?
  2. Is falsehood justifiable or pardonable under any circumstances? It is sometimes alleged to produce good. Please consider the following two instances:— (1) A mother is about to die, and her child is also very dangerously ill, and is getting worse and worse. May she be told, when she inquires about it, that it is getting better and better, in order to save her additional pang? (2) A runs to escape from B, a ruffian pursuing him with murderous intent. On his way, B meets C, who knows the direction in which A has run, and asks him about it. May C mislead him by pointing out a wrong direction, or denying any knowledge of A, with the benevolent intention of saving him? Or may he plainly say that he does not want to let B know about it, and thus run the risk of himself being very badly treated? There is the other course, viz., to give expression to what he knows, and thus help the ruffian to achieve his foul aim. Which is the most virtuous thing for him to do?
  3. Page 67 of ‘Byways of B1essedness’ begins with a reference to ‘Little selfish indulgences, some of which appear harmless.’ What is the class of indulgences referred to? Will the habit of satisfying the cravings of the palate, in season and out of season be a case in point? 
  4. In the course of discharging his duties, a man may find that his helpful attitude is taken undue advantage of by those with whom he has to work, and that they try to make him do a great deal of what is legitimately their task; consequently his work, in other spheres than that in which they are his colleagues, suffers, and he finds his work rendered too much for his bodily health and strength. How is he to acquit himself under these circumstances, having the ultimate good of all in view?
  5. What thoughts may one entertain habitually if one desires to grow indifferent to the pleasure of eating palatable food, as palatability seems often to go with nutritive and health-giving value, thus rendering it difficult to give up that kind of food altogether, though in one’s earnestness to gain control over one’s senses, one is prepared to do so?

Replies:—Anger is an evil, and can never be employed as a means of bringing about good.

2. A falsehood is never justifiable, and to resort to a lie in a case of extremity only shows that such a one labors under the dark belief that evil is more powerful than good. Concerning your first instance, it would be cruel to deceive a dying woman. Your second instance is purely suppositional, and would not happen in real life, but it merely serves as an artificial illustration of your second question, and means, ‘When I am driven to great extremity, shall I speak the truth or tell a lie?’ It is frequently wiser not to do either, but to remain silent. This third way (which l would call answering by silence) of dealing with brutal, impertinent, or uncalled for questions, is little understood because it is in accordance with the highest wisdom; and it was employed with far-reaching power by the Great Teachers of humanity. Thus a man should either speak the truth or remain silent. A lie is not only always unnecessary, it is foolish and mischievous.

3. The indulgences referred to are those bodily ones of laziness and effeminate hankerings of appetite, as well as those little deceptions, flatteries, and insincerities which some foolishly imagine help to make people happier. It has no reference to the satisfying of natural hunger which is a bodily necessity. One should have regular times for meals, and should not eat between them.

4. A man of understanding would not allow others to impose their duties upon him, as by so doing he would, instead of helping them in their duty, be encouraging them to neglect it.

5. Think of the body as a servant to be commanded, and not as a master to be obeyed; and school, regulate, and control its appetites. It is not necessary to overcome the pleasure which is associated with the satisfaction of hunger, but it is necessary to overcome the lust for pleasure. The self-controlled man is not deprived of enjoyment, but he is liberated from all cravings. If one has become such a slave to a particular kind of food that he is wretched unless he gets it, he should go without it until he can take it or leave it wisely. All foods are palatable to him who has conquered self-indulgence.

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James Allen

James Allen was a little-known philosophical writer and poet. He is best recognized for his book, As a Man Thinketh. Allen wrote about complex subjects such as faith, destiny, love, patience, and religion but had the unique ability of explaining these subjects clearly and in a way that is easy to understand. He often wrote about cause and effect, sowing and reaping, as well as overcoming sadness, sorrow, and grief. For more information on the life of James Allen, click here.

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