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The Enlargement of Relations

No soul can ever truly see
Another's highest, noblest part
Save through the sweet philosophy
And loving wisdom of the heart.

I see the feet that fain would climb;
You, but the steps that turn astray.
I see the soul, unharmed, sublime;
You, but the garment and the clay.
—Phoebe Cary

The enlargement of social relations depends far less on opportunity than on sympathy. It depends to a very slight degree on travel, on sight-seeing, on the number of people, even, that one meets; but very largely on the power of coming into real relations with some of that number. Responsiveness, sympathy, receptivity—these are the doors through which life enters to us and through which we go forth into life. On this power depend the conditions of success; and on it also depends conduct, which Matthew Arnold rightly designates three-fourths of life. The enlargement of all that range of feeling and thought which we call life does not lie in its external scenery. It is not, necessarily, the larger life to have a more imposing house, finer apparel, or more dainty and luxurious surroundings than our neighbor. These are accidental things that may, or may not, accompany it. They are no inherent factors of the perfection or the completeness of life. Enlargement is something more intimate, more permanent in its nature, more entirely dependent upon those qualities that make personality. In fact, if one comes to scrutinize it closely, the enlargement of life is gained by living so in harmony with the divine will—so at one with it—that one is receptive and responsive to every sweet influence. When the wandering wind finds out an Æolian harp, it becomes musical; but

Hornpipe and hurdy-gurdy both are dull
Unto the most musicianly of winds.

Now this state of harmony with the divine forces is not one of mere negation. It is not one of mere passivity, it is the very highest positive state. It is simply magnetic with vitality. It is the ideal condition of life, and therefore the condition of supreme success. It is the condition of recognition and of vision.

It is easy enough, however, for any of us to philosophize on what we should be; to discern the better conditions. The test is to realize them. And this is as practical a work as any labor of the hand. The initial step to be taken in any enterprise or endeavor is first to realize in oneself harmonious and receptive conditions.

Now the jars and discords come mostly from without; the harmony and sweetness must first be found within. If one is conscious of a fretful and discordant state, let him seek entire solitude, if only for a moment. Then call up the spiritual forces. Take a strong stand in the affirmative. 'I and My Father are one.' That is not merely a phrase of rhetoric or an assertion that Jesus alone could make. We may all make it. 'I and my Father are one.' He is the Vine: we the branches. Demand to be taken into the true life, into one's own life. Do not merely desire to be at peace with all, to love all, but affirm that you are so. The love of God and all His creatures will set toward you till you are upborne on the current of divine magnetism.

His strength was as the strength of ten
Because his heart was pure,

writes the poet of Sir Galahad. Therein lies the true philosophy. The latter line explains why he had the tenfold strength. All life is truly such only as it exists in harmony with its environment. We are now entering into the spiritual age—a fact that is just as true statistically as was that of the Stone Age or of the iron age. We have lived through the ages where the physical and then the intellectual powers were those most in harmony with the environment of the time. Now the environment is spiritual, and the spiritual faculties must be those developed. It is the age of supernaturalism, one may say, if we may so call that law just higher than the ordinary and familiar one, and quite as natural on its own plane. The supernatural, after all, is merely that the higher has taken the place of the lower. Emerson said, fifty years ago: 'Our painful labors are unnecessary: there is a better way.' Now we are coming into the actual knowledge of that better way. The soul that can hold itself in direct and responsive relation to the Infinite Love will command undreamed-of potency. It will at once enter on the true enlargement of life.

No other possession of life holds such preponderating value as one's friends. All beside these are a part of the scenery of the external and temporal world; but friendships are of the eternal and the divine. It is these that give value and zest to life; that furnish it with interest, with charm, and with happiness. To be rich in friends is to be poor in nothing. It is to possess that infinite reservoir of what may be, for want of a better term, denominated capital in life, in that it predetermines success in whatever line of achievement one may choose to work. A range of warm and strong friendships creates the magnetic atmosphere that vitalizes every element within its influence, so that it is not that social enjoyments and companionships are in any sense interruptions to specific work, however important, but that they yield instead the very elements out of which it is best created. The genuine friendships of life are largely discovered, not acquired. We find them rather than make them. They are predestined relationships, and are recognized intuitively.

'We meet—at least those who are true to their instincts meet—a succession of persons through our lives, all of whom have some peculiar errand to us,' writes Margaret Fuller. 'There is an outer circle whose existence we perceive, but with whom we stand in no real relation. They tell us the news, they act on us in the offices of society, they show us kindness and aversion; but their influence does not penetrate; we are nothing to them, nor they to us, except as a part of the world's furniture.

'Another circle within this are dear and near to us. We know them and of what kind they are. They are not to us mere facts, but intelligible thoughts of the divine mind. We like to see how they are unfolded; we like to meet them, and part with them; we like their action upon us, and the pause that succeeds and enables us to appreciate its quality. Often we leave them on our path and return no more, but we bear them in our memory, tales which have been told, and whose meaning has been felt.

'But yet a nearer group there are, beings born under the same star, and bound with us in a common destiny. They are not mere acquaintances, mere friends, but when we meet are sharers of our very existence. There is no separation; the same thought is given at the same moment to both; indeed, it is born of the meeting, and would not otherwise have been called into existence at all. These not only know themselves more, but are more for having met, and regions of their being, which would else have lain sealed in cold obstruction, burst into leaf and bloom and song.

'The times of these meetings are fated,' she goes on to say, 'nor will either one be able ever to meet any other person in the same way.'

It is one of the paths to success and happiness in life, or rather it is success and happiness in itself, to be swiftly responsive to impressions of this character, to recognize the angel when he draws near. Dickens touched the deeper truth in this relation when he wrote that the people who have to do with us, and we with them, are drawing near; that our paths, from whatever distant quarters of the globe they start, are converging; and that what is set for them to do for us and for us to do for them, will all he done.

The fatalism of friendship might well be a subject for extended consideration. It is fate—it is predestination, or it is nothing.

The friendships that are best worth having are those that come unsought. Suddenly we recognize the shining beauty before us, and life is invested with a divine radiance. The talent for making friends, or for discovering them, is a specific and distinctive one, and is perhaps the result of a combination of happy qualities; yet in any perfect friendship there is always the sense of the unexpected, the miraculous.

Nor scour the seas nor sift mankind
A poet or a friend to find.
Behold, he watches at the door!
Behold, his shadow on the floor!

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Lilian Whiting

  • Born on October 3rd, 1859 in Niagara Falls, New York and died in 1942
  • Author and journalist
  • Edited The Boston Traveler and The Boston Budget

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