The Scope of Human Possibilities
Everything in the realm of being has to begin its journey on the path of growth and development and advance towards perfection in order to be able to realise its capacities and potentialities to the highest degree. Man is also not an exception to this general law.
One of the fundamental problems of the human being is how is it to develop its essential being during different phases of life in order to attain to the highest degree and peak of humanity. Before everything else man should become aware of the extent of his capacities and potentialities that lie latent in his being. He should realise that he has all the worthiness to acquire the greatest gifts that God has bestowed upon him. In that case the very foundations of his self-confidence would be more stable and firm. His latent energies and faculties would awaken and become active. These faculties have an extraordinarily great power in broadening the scope of life and have sufficient capacity for growth and edification.
The lack of self-confidence on the part of most persons is not due to the lack of possibilities but due to the absence of self-knowledge. There are some people who have useful and effective scientific ideas, but due to the lack of confidence in their innate gifts and capacities, they never cross the threshold of their thoughts. Doubt, uncertainty, and fear of defeat are signs of weakness. How often has this lack of confidence buried talented and innovative minds and what great innovations and original and profound ideas have been buried under the ashes of oblivion!
When one realises that every task and activity involves a new power, an asset which one never imagined that one possessed before it came to one's knowledge, its manifestation paves the way for further progress and one becomes ready to acquire more significant powers. Hence one who wants to draw the maximum benefit from life and to benefit from every opportunity must first acquire confidence and will power and then devote himself to developing and strengthening it.
Alexis Carrel says:
For the preservation of life it is not enough to protect it; rather, life must be made simple, more profound, dynamic and noble. That is, we must increase our physical and psychological activities in respect of intensity, quality, and quantity. Only strength leads to edification. The power that we need is not like the muscular power of an athlete or the spiritual power of an ascetic, or the mental power of a philosopher and scholar. The power that we seek is the harmony as well as the endurance of physical organs and the mind. Also the capacity to endure fatigue, changes of weather, hunger, lack of sleep, grief, suffering, and ultimately the will to hope and act, a physical and mental strength immune to defeat, and a joy that fills all our being.
How can we acquire this power? The only way to attain it is daily and regular moderate effort. That involves the involuntary effort of all the bodily organs and the voluntary effort of will and intelligence. In the course of daily and regular exercises one must gradually learn how to create discipline in life, how to follow the said principles and become master of oneself.
Similarly, with brief and regular effort one must try to master one's emotions, anger, indifference, lethargy, pride, desires, fatigue and pain. This exercise is necessary for all civilised people and the great error of modern education is to ignore it. One cannot extend the scope of the force of life within oneself without the intervention of the will. 1
Some people do not wish to pay the appropriate price for a brilliant life. They are always after some quick and simple means, although its outcome and product should be of little significance and worth. They refrain from endeavouring for what may give dignity and brilliance to life. They avoid the responsibilities which play a basic role in improving their selves and purifying their souls and which would broaden their mental horizon and pave the way to success.
However, those who have trained themselves to shoulder various responsibilities become fitter and their state would be many times better than of those whose lives revolve around petty responsibilities. They have a much wider field open before them and can traverse the various levels of advancement more easily.
The higher one's ideals are, the greater is the power that drives one towards his goals and this depends on his faith and on the extent of the effort that he makes for their realisation. Ultimately, it is here that one must seek the secret of man's triumph over obstacles and hardships.
The capacity to distinguish between what is good and bad and the understanding of vices and virtues is not solely sufficient for the attainment of felicity. Rather, that which is of utmost importance is to possess the power of action in life. A person may know perfectly what is good and bad and may even consider himself responsible in relation to the various duties that surround him and feel the necessity of fulfilling them scrupulously. But at the same time he may lack the power to carry out these duties and the necessary determination to put his intentions into effect.
The most basic duty of everyone is to be constantly and continually vigilant of his conduct, to reinforce his creative powers, and to avoid negative and vicious factors that destroy his positive powers, so that it becomes his second nature to rely on his power of will in times of necessity. That is because a firm will would keep one steady in critical moments of life and while making sensitive decisions, when the least amount of infirmity and laxity might be awfully dangerous.
Moreover, one should not plunge into a course of action without paying attention to its consequences and sufficiently examining its various aspects. Otherwise he would be like a maliner who sets out on the sea without a compass. It is a mistake to take the ship of life without a compass into the ocean of being. One must know the direction in which one is moving and where his actions and efforts would take him.
1. Alexis Carrel, Refexions sur la conduite de la vie, Persian trans. Rah warasm-e zindagi, p. 87.
Adapted from: "Ethics and Spiritual Growth" by: "Sayyid Mujtaba Musawi Lari"
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