THEOSOPHY, Vol. 37, No. 9, July, 1949
(Pages 402-404; Size: 9K)


[Article number (22) in this Q&A Department]

IS there any reason why we should try to preserve good appearances? Is this not just another form of hypocrisy?

It may be, and if so, should not be encouraged. Yet often a sincere attempt to preserve good external relations with others acts to create a true feeling of amity. This is an argument for the continuation and extension of the outer forms of courtesy and consideration (if done with kindly feelings, of course), for the very effort made to give kindness a concrete expression creates a force which impels the recipient to respond in kind.

This question raises another point, however, connected in a way with the question asked last month about self-confidence. Americans seem especially disposed, temperamentally, to take great stock in appearances. We are a people who believe in "selling ourselves" to others by big talk and enthusiastic vaporings that pass for plans, and so we create an impression of self-confidence which makes less bombastic peoples appear timid, unimaginative, and destined for a lowly end -- while a rosy future waits for us just around the corner. Cultivating this kind of "good appearances" carries with it great danger, both for the man who does it and the men he does it to, for such gifts of personality can be tragically elusive.

Could it be said that the use of talking animals in cartoons and stories helps a child to understand Nature?

Just what made people first indulge in the indiscriminate vocalization of animal stories we don't know. Possibly it came about as a result of the idea that children would be more interested in animals if the animals were made "more human," and like themselves. If this was the case, we hardly think the action was justified, because the child is not repelled -- as adults more frequently are -- by the unknown and unfamiliar.

The discovery of the wonders of Nature, in any event, is not dependent on making animals speak, any more than it would be on making a tree take up its roots and move from one place to another. There are more than sufficient marvels to be noted without adding "false notes" to the child's book of knowledge. Perhaps most marvelous of all, and of particular value for "city folks" to know, is the intense stillness with which Nature accomplishes her miracles. Speech -- even human, intelligent speech, let alone the coarse and stupid talk so often put into animals' mouths -- is a plodding and pedestrian method of communication compared to telepathy, and even animals employ a kind of psychic communication or "telepathy" among themselves.

As for the current cartoons that "enliven" movie theater fare, they should hardly be mentioned in any discussion of how to better understand Nature, since they seem to have no elements of the natural in them. We defy anyone to find real similarities between "Donald Duck" and his namesakes on the still ponds of a twilight countryside. Such features show the extreme of what most "talking animal" sequences or stories tend to do; they rather degrade the human being to the animal level than raise the animal closer to the human. If we were to use the medium of speech (which in truth is reserved for manasic beings) in connection with animals, we at least should keep the animals' speech free from strictly human overtones and emotions, just as the animals themselves, in their wild and natural state, are quite untouched by the feelings we humans are apt to impute to them. More documentaries like Louisiana Story and Arctic Fury and contact with real nature (preferably not through the medium of a noisy, smelly zoo) -- are necessary antidotes to a Donald-Duck-ridden culture, for every child and adult can discover that truth is stranger and more wonderful, usually, than fiction.

How important is consistency in one's life?

People sometimes seem to make consistency more important than it really is. If we attempt to preserve consistency -- or our "predictableness" in others' eyes -- at the cost of our own inner perception of what is right at that moment, we are indulging what Emerson called a "foolish consistency -- the hobgoblin of little minds." Of course, consistency is a word with two faces: it presents, in one aspect, the virtue of holding to a chosen course or decision in spite of the unfavorable circumstances which may arise; on the other hand, it may suggest the "vice" of continuing on a given course as a matter of habit or convenience, instead of setting up new patterns and advancing toward new goals. Consistency is lauded, often, by those who lack the courage or the self-honesty to change. We should not let ourselves be bound by a habit we have built up, any more than we should by other kinds of possessions.

The consistency that is important may very well not be evident to the people around us who observe our lives from "the outside." That consistency comes from moral and mental effort concentrated in a single direction, and there maintained. This kind of single-pointedness can be held intact regardless of the number and diversity of, or seeming conflict between, the person's outward activities.

We may say that all human beings have the same potential for achieving things, but the fact is that some people are "creative," and some are not; and there doesn't seem to be any way to develop that quality if it isn't there to begin with.

We shall take exception to the statement that "some people are 'creative,' and some are not," for it is a central conception of the theosophical philosophy (and a fact easy to verify in our own experience) that every human being is creative. Sometimes we use the word "creative," referring to abilities in the fine arts, for instance, a creative person is able to draw, write, model, play a musical instrument, etc. If this is the kind of creativity the questioner means, he must admit that all human beings share those qualities in some degree, and that everyone can increase the degree by application of his will to the task. If the fine arts don't appeal to us, gardening can be just as "creative," and housekeeping, too, for that matter!

The point is that we need to abolish in ourselves that hopeless, left-out-in-the-cold feeling of self-pity -- looking at other people's capacities through rose-colored glasses, and surveying our own through the blue lenses. Often we are drawn to call another person "creative," not primarily because of his particular skill, but rather because he has a certain vivacity and aliveness, an eagerness to meet life and discover new things in it. In proof of this, we should notice that we never worry about our "creativity" when we are feeling an eagerness and purposefulness toward life.

Perhaps the word "creative" should be dropped, and "constructive" substituted for it. Is it not more important -- and more rewarding -- to be constructive with every thing we use and every person we meet, than to be airily and esthetically creative?

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(August 1949)
[Article number (23) in this Q&A Department]

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