The veil of convention which covers so many of the vices and virtues of human society in time of peace, is torn away by the hideous reality of war, and men are revealed as they are. The ordinary culture and restraint which are considered so necessary in the well ordered community are swept aside, revealing the real character of those who have been covered by the veneer. Some are seen to be noble heroic souls who enter the conflict inspired with high ideals. These men cannot but be better for all the experiences through which they must pass. On the other hand there are many petty minded individuals, to whom the crisis means so many opportunities for self aggrandizement—for advancement in worldly position—for the winning of certain honors. There may be many varieties of the two great classes, but ultimately the differences may be summed up in these two—Those who are inspired by an Ideal: and those who are merely ambitious.
Idealism carries a man from the mere sordidness of the world into the realm of that which is spiritual. He lives for something more than material possession. All that he sees about him—all that is perceived by the five senses—is but a manifestation of Spirit, with which he is in harmony. His attitude to life is influenced by an outlook which is due to a cultivation of what some folk term—the "sixth sense"—the faculty of spiritual perception. Sensual experience is subordinate to this "sixth sense"—that is to say seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feelings, are channels through which are perceived material forms of spirit. Ambition requires no spiritual element at all it is concerned immediately and only with material, as material, and nothing more. It regards life as an existence which ends with death, altho' ambitious men may profess a creed which declares the contrary. The only future the ambitious man really believes in, is that in which he has gained all there is to be gained of worldly prosperity and honor. Ambition may achieve its end, but it can never satisfy. The Ideal must ever inspire men to strive for greater heights of attainment—the higher peaks of the mountains of blessedness are ever above us, and as stage after stage of the journey is reached, there is a steadily growing satisfaction which will lead to ultimate rest.
Or what's a Heaven for?"
The "Great Religious," the most "Transcendental philosophies," and the "profoundest thinkers" of the world have come from the East, where men, even after thousands of years, will make leisure to think of the Real, and yet, forsooth, we superior Westerns are striving to show them how to live! In this ludicrous manifestation I sometimes fancy I see Ambition striving to lead the Ideal. And at times, in this world of civilized topsy-turveydom, it looks very much as if in all the affairs of men, ambition is the dictator and Idealism is the slave: but a clearer vision reveals what must ever be true that Real Life is the inheritance of the Idealist while the worldling holds that which will pass away.
The old story of the Dreamer and his mocking brethren is a picture of the world through all ages. The Dreamer—Idealist—is mocked, scorned, and degraded by the blind and prejudiced, who learn eventually that he whom they scorn for his impracticable ways, is a Ruler amongst men. The strange thing is that with so many clear instances of this Truth revealed in history, men are to be found who are still as stupid as those brethren of long ago—and perhaps stranger is the fact that those very men will agree that the Dreamer was right and his brethren were wrong!
It is curious too, to notice in the old story, that the Dreamer did achieve worldly honor although he didn’t seek it. But his eminence was used for the benefit of all, his influence was wholly unselfish. And he, the great ruler, was loyal to his humble parent, and more than that, eager for the welfare of the brethren who had wronged him. His attitude was not that of a man merely ambitious; but that of an ldealist, who knew that he was responsible to his God. What a striking contrast—in spite of a wonderful parallelism—there is between this story and the story of the Christ, who is the supreme example of the Idealist. He found no place in the palace, except as a felon accused by the priest, and mocked by the King’s guard. He sat upon no earthly throne, but was exalted upon a cross He wore no jeweled crown, but a crown of thorns. And yet this attitude was the same as that of his ancient namesake. His enemies triumphed but out of his defeat springs Victory. The cross becomes more precious than the throne—the thorny crown is studded with crimson jewels, priceless because of their cost. And men, hundreds of years after the degradation of Calvary are inspired by it with an Idealism which is eternal.
Never was the call more urgent than it is to-day for men and women inspired by the Ideal, who will willingly forsake all to follow the gleam. Who, with open eyes beholding the glories of creation, will go forward in a world of tumult, to ease the sting of loss, to mitigate the woe and tribulation, by teaching the way of Peace—The Peace which the world cannot give and which can be taught only by those who know the way. We need to learn to live, not for ourselves alone, but for others, which also means to live for God. There is no religion but that of humanity, and what is human is also Divine. Let us awaken to this fact, and live not in a world of seeming, of illusion! but in the Unseen and Real, where life is enjoyed in its fullness because of the Light that shines.
They who follow Ambition walk in the Shadows; but those who strive after an Ideal move in the Light—The ineffable Light of Love.