By J. S. F. Miller
"....So to live is heaven;
May I reach that purest heaven, be to other souls
The cup of strength in some great agony,
Enkindle generous ardor, feed pure love,
Beget the smiles that have no cruelty;
Be the sweet presence of a good diffused,
And in diffusion ever more intense
So shall I join the choir invisible
Whose music is the gladness of the world."
Do we dare to think in the stillness of the night, when the world has ceased its throbbing and the hallowing stars, drooping in the vastness of the heavens, recall us to our better selves, how little, perchance, we have been to others? Soon our life’s race will be run and our eyelids will be closed in peace and rest by God’s Messenger.
"...A date, a name,
A little dust, and endless fame."
Shall we, too, have endless fame? Will our thoughts and deeds live on in the minds of men after our physical bodies are separated into their native elements and lie scattered amongst the dust?
One of the Buddhist precepts as well as one of the Christian commandments is "Thou shalt not kill." We cannot confine this precept to mere physical killing.
Do we see to it that in our daily lives amongst our fellows, by our thoughts (and their outcome, words and actions) we slay not? For "how shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"
Our every thought is a weapon, dealing joy or dealing death. Unmistakably, we cure or we kill by our presence. Ebb and flow, giving and receiving is a spiritual as well as a physical law. We give and we gain; we inspire or we deplete.
Let us test ourselves by searching in the secret recesses of our souls and discover whether we inspire as we are inspired, whether we give as well as get.
Each ought to be an inspiration to each. Instances are not lacking of men whose whole being has been radically metamorphosed through momentary contact in early youth with the inspirational presence of a great man.
The inborn soul of man is majestic and is in its essence sublime. We believe that man is essentially "God in the germ" and that being so he contains infinite possibilities which reach out toward perfection. We can never do all we would do, or be all we would be, for
"Jove strikes his Titans down, not when
They set about their mountain piling,
But when another stone would crown
Perfection which hovers like a lovely snow-white bird before us, leading from the lowland plains to the golden mountain peaks, ever eludes our touch.
Yet there lies within the basest of us, a something which is grand and strong—a possibility of Perfection which, when called into being, will bring us into complete harmony with the divine. We shall mount, for the Ideal of today becomes the Actual of tomorrow.
Everything, either of beauty or ugliness, must of necessity affect us, according to our susceptibility. The beauty of a deep red roof against the foliage, with the liquid gold and purple of the sky and the fields spreading themselves out in their smooth mystic beauty; every impious, selfish, or ungenerous thought which pulses through the brain; the presence of an unrighteous soul or the uplifting atmosphere of a great and glorious one—all these serve to modify us.
We know the inspirational thoughts which come to us on reading a great (to us) poem, by seeing a statue of rare beauty, by hearing the crashing melodies of an orchestra, by viewing sunsets which make pale the sun, but immeasurably greater than these is the grace that springs from the face of a noble soul. The greatest gain to any human being is neither wealth nor friendship, neither knowledge nor applause, but the inspiration wrought by such a spirit. There is a mine of unexplored wealth in the soul, and the key lies in the hands of the inspirer. We cannot make a complete life alone. Without each other we cannot live or have our being, for we are all indissoluble parts of one composite whole. The flowers and the hills are mine, and the birds and the beasts are mine and a part of me.
It is useless, if we would, to try to cut the bond of kinship with our fellows and cast ourselves out on the chilly ocean of solitude. To be insular is to be feeble of soul and decrepit in mind, to be bereft of all those higher things which go to the make-up of a man.
Thus contact with the good electrifies the soul and makes the inner forces swifter and more sure.
"To have done whatever had to be done,
As though it salvation achieved,
To have turned the face of your soul to the sun,
To have hoped, joyed, grieved,
To have made life better and brighter for one—
This it is to have lived."
Some of us slumber all our lives; some find our highest selves through others before it is too late, and some when the curtain is about to fall.
Few realize the immensely overwhelming responsibilities of life—that we are every moment of our lives sending forth currents of poison and death, or of health and life to the organisms around us—for we are made up of ourselves plus the influences of other beings and other things.
What is man’s chief end—what the Riddle of the Universe? Many have sought it, but the riddle remains a riddle still.
Tolstoy found, after years of intense thought and sacrifice, that the aim of living resolved itself into this—to make each other’s lives a little brighter and better for our being here.
And Gautama, the Buddha—one of the most perfect souls who ever breathed the air of our planet home and touched it with the gold of his immortal presence, who freely put off the pleasures of sense that he might don the glories of soul, who left all that the world counts of incomparable worth in the prime of his youthful vigor, withdrawing to the solitary jungles there to mortify himself and endure the most excruciating mental torture that mind can bear, in order that he might find the way to life—he, too, found that the noble eightfold path was only to be won by those of unselfish love to all men. Charity was the aim.
Each has a great work to fulfill and a great salvation to be won. It is our duty to see to it that our daily lives are strictly governed by the principles we hold, and the faith we profess; to make our personalities such that we shall ever be an inspiration to those about us; to be as great when we are in the crowded world as we are in the sanctity of our solitude.
To vitalize is the part we have to play as Christians, to be bringers of hope to the hopeless, helpers to the helpless, strength to the weary and overladen, a supplement to the little ones who creep shiveringly and timidly through life.