THE IDEAL AND THE PRACTICAL.
HERE are two words—IMAGINATION and FANCY. What is the distinction between the two? Well, the one is closely related to the positive and the conscious side of our character; the other can claim kinship with the negative and the receptive side only. Take a youth starting in life. He has not been born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He is poor and has absolutely none to look to for help of any sort whatsoever.
Now, suppose he has spirit, and instead of sitting down and bewailing his lot, he forms a definite plan of conduct, throws his mind forward into the future, and decides to reach a certain state of development. He pictures to himself that state in its perfection, plans out the methods whereby he is to achieve it, takes in the difficulties to be met with and conquered, and by an effort of common sense reasoning sees the actual amount of good accruing to humanity and to all of God's creatures in general. He has had to think hard in order to construct the whole picture. He has had to breathe life upon it by repeating the images in connection with the whole picture. He has had to acquire knowledge, seek the advice of men more experienced than himself,
and all the while he has had to keep up a brave and hopeful attitude of mind. And, mark you, he scorns to think of failure. It is for him to try his level best. It is for nature, which is a hard though a just pay-mistress, to bring him his reward in its due season.
The above is a fair example of the exercise of Imagination.
Fancy plays us tricks. It is not the man who pulls the strings this time. He simply yields himself to the influence of all sorts of impossible day-dreams. His mind is a sieve for thoughts to pass in and out. It is an aimless, idle, wandering, and brings ready victims for the "pitch-and-toss" game of men whose principle is to "do" others before the latter can have a turn at them.
A man is what his ideals are. If one man with an ideal makes fifty mistakes in a day, the man without an ideal is sure to commit many more. This is a simple truth, yet it will bear repetition here. All muscular actions, whether mental or physical, are simply fragments from the ideal.
"The life of the ideal is in the practical; it is the ideal that has penetrated the whole of our life, whether we philosophise or perform the hard, everyday duties of life. . . . It is the ideal that has made us what we are and will make us what we are to be. . . . The principle is seldom expressed in the practical, yet the ideal is never lost sight of"—("Pavhari Baba" by Vivekananda).
The very fact of the ideal being present in your mind foreshadows its fulfilment.
Our thoughts set up a magnetic centre within us. Like attracts like. Good thoughts draw to themselves corresponding thoughts. This fact is very emphatic. Each tree brings forth fruits of its kind. If we think well, we cannot act ill. The greatness of a man must find its measure in the greatness of his thoughts, and not in the amount of money in his pocket or the bluster on his tongue.
Our ideal is the hinge upon which our future turns. We create our own fate.
The first essential is to pitch our aims high. Let us look upward and upward alone. Let us pray to God for strength by all means, but let us be prepared to deserve His grace by walking a straight path.
If we weave our thoughts around a grand purpose in life the ideal so formed may take material form any day. Its impulsion may stir up concretions of gross physical matter into activity and may clap spurs to the feet of even a lazy hack. So much for the ideal.
If the ideal is to be cherished, it must also be nourished. If you simply sit down and desire to get a thing, you will never get it and it is good for you that you should not. For the practical side of things must never be neglected. "Practice makes perfect." Having set currents of holy desire in motion, we must set to deepen them in intensity and volume.
"Great actions are only transformed great concentrations."
[paragraph continues] Desire expands the will; action clinches it into strength. Each act in the right direction goes to establish us in our ideal. Action gives us training. Education is for self-discipline. Force of character is what we want; money, fame, praise and blame may well take care of themselves.
What matters it what the world thinks of me so long as I can think well of myself? Have I a clear conscience? Is my body under my control? Is my mind pure? Do I love main? Do I dare to look others straight in the eye? Do I fear anything?
The answer to such questions will go to make up the sum of our happiness or misery.
A strong will; a steady pulse; a pure mind; these are what we want.
But nought comes from nought—Ex nihilo nihil fit. Nothing will drop from the skies. See here, my brother, do you want a thing? Is it a good thing? Then take it. Let us deserve what we desire. That is the energetic way of setting about things.
Action, right action, unselfish action; these alone can give us strength. To think is to act. To act is to live. To live is to love. "Love, Love; that is the sole resource."
Therefore, O Thou Soul!, pray to thy primal source, God, for the power to make others happy.
Disease may come; limb after limb may be lopped off; sorrow may strike thee to the core; yet cease not to desire nobly, and to bear thyself in action yet more nobly.
The privacy of your own room, aye, of your own mind is the place where you must play the man.
We have long lived under the influence of fear—the firstborn of Ignorance. Let knowledge come and with it its power—Courage.
This is the supreme lesson we have to learn—Fear leads us from death to death; courage opens the gate into Life, Serenity, and Joy.