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THE MENTAL EFFICIENCY SERIES
COMMON SENSE HOW TO EXERCISE IT
ANNOTATED BY: B. DANGENNES
TRANSLATED BY: MME. LEON J. BERTHELOT DE LA BOILEVEBIB
The quality popularly designated as “Common Sense” comprehends, according to the modern point of view, the sound judgment of mankind when reflecting upon problems of truth and conduct without bias from logical subtleties or selfish interests. It is one of Nature’s priceless gifts; an income in itself, it is as valuable as its application is rare.
How often we hear the expression “Why, I never thought of that!” Why? Because we have failed to exercise Common Sense–that genius of mankind, which, when properly directed is the one attribute that will carry man and his kind successfully through the perplexities of life. Common Sense is as a plant of delicate growth, in need of careful training and continued watching so that it may bear fruit at all seasons. In the teachings that follow, the venerable Shogun, Yoritomo-Tashi, points out that Common Sense is a composite product consisting of (1) Perception; (2) Memory; (3) Thought; (4) Alertness; (5) Deduction; (6) Foresight; (7) Reason, and (8) Judgment. Discussing each of these separately, he indicates their relations and how they may be successfully employed. Further, he warns one against the dangers that lurk in moral inertia, indifference, sentimentality, egotism, etc.
Common Sense is a quality that must be developed if it is to be utilized to the full of its practical value. Indispensable to this development are such qualifications–(1) Ability to grasp situations; (2) Ability to concentrate the mind; (3) Keenness of perception; (4) Exercise of the reasoning power; (5) Power of approximation; (6) Calmness; (7) Self-control, etc. Once mastered, these qualifications enable one to reap the reward of a fine and an exalted sense, and of a practical common sense which sees things as they are and does things as they should be done.
The desire for knowledge, like the thirst for wealth, increases by acquisition, but as Bishop Lee has told us, “Knowledge without common sense is folly; without method it is waste; without kindness it is fanaticism; without religion it is death.” But, Dean Farrar added: “With common sense, it is wisdom; with method it is power; with charity beneficence; with religion it is virtue, life, and peace.”
In these pages, Yoritomo-Tashi teaches his readers how to overcome such defects of the understanding as may beset them. He shows them how to acquire and develop common sense and practical sense, how to apply them in their daily lives, and how to utilize them profitably in the business world.
To him common sense is the crown of all faculties. Exercised vigilantly, it leads to progress and prosperity, therefore, says he “enthusiasm is as brittle as crystal, but common sense is durable as brass.”
Why should I hesitate to express the pleasure I felt on learning that the public, already deeply interested in the teachings of Yoritomo-Tashi, desired to be made familiar with them in a new form?
This knowledge meant many interesting and pleasant hours of work in prospect for me, recalling the time passed in an atmosphere of that peace which gives birth to vibrations of healthful thoughts whose radiance vitalizes the soul.
It was also with a zeal, intensified by memories of the little deserted room in the provincial museum, where silence alone could lend rhythm to meditation, that I turned over again and again the leaves of those precious manuscripts, translating the opinions of him whose keen and ornate psychology we have so often enjoyed together.
It was with the enthusiastic attention of the disciple that once more I scanned the pages, where the broadest and most humane compassion allies itself with those splendid virtues: energy, will and reason.
For altho Yoritomo glorifies the will and energy under all their aspects, he knows also how to find, in his heart, that tenderness which transforms these forces, occasionally somewhat brutal, into powers for good, whose presence are always an indication of favorable results.
He knows how to clothe his teachings in fable and appealing legend, and his exotic soul, so near and yet so far, reminds one of a flower, whose familiar aspect is transmuted into rare perfume.
By him the sternest questions are stripped of their hostile aspects and present themselves in the alluring form of the simplest allegories of striking poetic intensity.
When reading his works, one recalls unconsciously the orations of the ancient philosophers, delivered in those dazzling gardens, luxuriant in sunlight and fragrant with flowers.
In this far-away past, one sees also the silhouette of a majestic figure, whose school of philosophy became a religion, which interested the world because it spoke both of love and goodness.
But in spite of this fact, the doctrines of Yoritomo are of an imaginative type. His kingdom belongs to this world, and his theories seek less the joys of the hereafter than of that tangible happiness which is found in the realization of the manly virtues and in that effort to create perfect harmony from which flows perfect peace.
He takes us by the hand, in order to lead us to the center of that Eden of Knowledge where we have already discovered the art of persuasion, and that art, most difficult of all to acquire–the mastery of timidity.
Following him, we shall penetrate once more this Eden, that we may study with Yoritomo the manner of acquiring this art–somewhat unattractive perhaps but essentially primordial–called Common Sense.
I. Common Sense: What Is It?
II. The Fight Against Illusion
III. The Development of the Reasoning Power
IV. Common Sense and Impulse
V. The Dangers of Sentimentality
VI. The Utility of Common Sense in Daily Life
VII. Power of Deduction
VIII. How to Acquire Common Sense
IX. Common Sense and Action
X. The Most Thorough Business Man
XI. Common Sense and Self-Control
XII. Common Sense Does Not Exclude Great Aspirations
COMMON SENSE: WHAT IS IT?
One beautiful evening, Yoritomo-Tashi was strolling in the gardens of his master, Lang-Ho, listening to the wise counsels which he knew so well how to give in all attractiveness of allegory, when, suddenly, he paused to describe a part of the land where the gardener’s industry was less apparent.
Here parasitic plants had, by means of their tendrils, crept up the shrubbery and stifled the greater part of its flowers.
Only a few of them reached the center of the crowded bunches of the grain stalks and of the trailing vines that interlaced the tiny bands which held them against the wall.
One plant alone, of somber blossom and rough leaves, was able to flourish even in close proximity to the wild verdure. It seemed that this plant had succeeded in avoiding the dangerous entanglements of the poisonous plants because of its tenacious and fearless qualities, at the same time its shadow was not welcome to the useless and noxious creeping plants.
“Behold, my son,” said the Sage, “and learn how to understand the teachings of nature: The parasitic plants represent negligence against the force of which the best of intentions vanish.”
Energy, however, succeeds in overcoming these obstacles which increase daily; it marks out its course among entanglements and rises from the midst of the most encumbered centers, beautiful and strong.
Ambition and audacity show themselves also after having passed through thousands of difficulties and having overcome them all.
Common sense rarely needs to strive; it unfolds itself in an atmosphere of peace, far from the tumult of obstructions and snares that are not easily avoided.
Its flower is less alluring than many others, but it never allows itself to be completely hidden through the wild growth of neighboring branches.
It dominates them easily, because it has always kept them at a distance.
Modest but self-sustaining, it is seen blossoming far from the struggles which always retard the blossoming of plants and which render their flowering slower and, at times, short-lived.
A most absurd prejudice has occasionally considered common sense to be an inferior quality of mind.
This error arises from the fact that it can adapt itself as well to the most elevated conceptions as to the most elemental mentalities.
To those who possess common sense is given the faculty of placing everything in its proper rank.
It does not underestimate the value of sentiments by attributing to them an exaggerated importance.
It permits us to consider fictitious reasons with reservation and of resolutely rejecting those that resort to the weapons of hypocrisy.
Persons who cultivate common sense never refuse to admit their errors.
One may truly affirm that they are rarely far from the truth, because they practise directness of thought and force themselves never to deviate from this mental attitude.
Abandoning for a moment his favorite demonstration by means of symbolism, Yoritomo said to us:
“Common sense should be thus defined:
“It is a central sense, toward which all impressions converge and unite in one sentiment–the desire for the truth.
“For people who possess common sense, everything is summed up in one unique perception:
“The love of directness and simplicity.
“All thoughts are found to be related; the preponderance of these two sentiments makes itself felt in all resolutions, and chiefly in the reflections which determine them.
“Common sense permits us to elude fear which always seizes those whose judgment vacillates; it removes the defiance of the Will and indicates infallibly the correct attitude to assume.”
And Yoritomo, whose mind delighted in extending his observations to the sociological side of the question, adds:
“Common sense varies in its character, according to surroundings and education.
“The common sense of one class of people is not the same as that of a neighboring class.
“Certain customs, which seem perfectly natural to Japan would offend those belonging to the western world, just as our Nippon prejudices would find themselves ill at ease among certain habits customary among Europeans.”
“Common sense,” he continues, “takes good care not to assail violently those beliefs which tradition has transmuted into principles.
“However, if direct criticism of those beliefs causes common sense to be regarded unfavorably, it will be welcomed with the greatest reserve and will maintain a certain prudence relative to this criticism, which will be equivalent to a proffered reproach.
“Common sense often varies as to external aspects, dependent upon education, for it is evident that a diamio (Japanese prince) can not judge of a subject in the same way as would a man belonging to the lowest class of society.
“The same object can become desirable or undesirable according to the rank it occupies.
“Must one believe that common sense is excluded from two such incompatible opinions?
“No, not at all. An idea can be rejected or accepted by common sense without violating the principles of logic in the least.
“If, as one frequently sees, an idea be unacceptable because of having been presented before those belonging to a particular environment, common sense, by applying its laws, will recognize that the point of view must be changed before the idea can become acceptable.”
And again, Yoritomo calls our attention to a peculiar circumstance.
“Common sense,” he says, “is the art of resolving questions, not the art of posing them.
“When taking the initiative it is rarely on trial.
“But the moment it is a case of applying practically that which ingenuity, science or genius have invented, it intervenes in the happiest and most decisive manner.
“Common sense is the principle element of discernment.
“Therefore, without this quality, it is impossible to judge either of the proposition or the importance of the subject.
“It is only with the aid of common sense that it is possible to distinguish the exact nature of the proposition, submitted for a just appreciation, and to render a solution of it which conforms to perfect accuracy of interpretation.
“The last point is essential and has its judicial function in all the circumstances of life. Without accuracy, common sense can not be satisfactorily developed, because it finds itself continually shocked by incoherency, resulting from a lack of exactness in the expression of opinions.”
If we wish to know what the principal qualities are which form common sense, we shall turn over a few pages and we shall read:
“Common sense is the synthesis of many sentiments, all of which converge in forming it.
“The first of these sentiments is reason.
“Then follows moderation.
“To these one may add:
“The faculty of penetration;
“The quality consistency.
“Then, wisdom, which permits us to profit by the lessons of experience.
“A number of other qualities must be added to these, in order to complete the formation of common sense; but, altho important, they are only the satellites of those we have just named.
“Reason is really indispensable to the projection of healthy thoughts.
“The method of reasoning should be the exhaustive study of minute detail, of which we shall speak later.
“For the moment we shall content ourselves by indicating, along the broad lines of argument, what is meant by this word reason.
“Reasoning is the art of fixing the relativeness of things.
“It is by means of reasoning that it is possible to differentiate events and to indicate to what category they belong.
“It is the habit of reasoning to determine that which it is wise to undertake, thus permitting us to judge what should be set aside.
“How could we guide ourselves through life without the beacon-light of reason? It pierces the darkness of social ignorance, it helps us to distinguish vaguely objects heretofore plunged in obscurity, and which will always remain invisible to those who are unprovided with this indispensable accessory–the gift of reasoning.
“He who ventures in the darkness and walks haphazard, finds himself suddenly confronted by obstacles which he was unable to foresee.
“He finds himself frightened by forms whose nature he cannot define, and is often tempted to attribute silhouettes of assassins to branches of trees, instead of recognizing the real culprit who is watching him from the corner of the wild forest.
“Life, as well as the wildest wilderness, is strewn with pitfalls. To think of examining it rapidly, without the aid of that torch called reason, would be imitating the man of whom we have just spoken.
“Many are the mirages, which lead us to mistake dim shadows for disquieting realities, unless we examine them critically, for otherwise we can never ascribe to them their true value.
“Certain incidents, which seem at first sight to be of small importance, assume a primordial value when we have explained them by means of reasoning.
“To reason about a thing is to dissect it, to examine it from every point of view before adopting it, before deferring to it or before rejecting it; in one word, to reason about a thing is to act with conscious volition, which is one of the phases essential to the conquest of common sense.
“This principle conceded, it then becomes a question of seriously studying the method of reasoning, which we propose to do in the following manner but first it is necessary to be convinced of this truth.”
Without reason there is no common sense.
Yoritomo teaches us that, altho moderation is only of secondary importance, it is still indispensable to the attainment of common sense.
It is moderation which incites us to restrain our impatience, to silence our inexplicable antipathies and to put a break on our tempestuous enthusiasms.
Can one judge of the aspect of a garden while the tempest is twisting the branches of the trees, tearing off the tendrils of the climbing vines, scattering the petals of the flowers and spoiling the corollas already in full bloom?
And now, Yoritomo, who loves to illustrate his teachings by expressive figures of speech, tells us the following story.
“A Japanese prince, on awakening, one day, demanded lazily of his servants what kind of weather it was, but he forbade them to raise the awnings which kept a cool, dim light in his room and shielded his eyes from the strong light from without. The two servants left him reclining upon his divan and went into the adjoining room, where the stained-glass windows were not hung with curtains.
“One of them, putting his face close to a yellow-tinted pane of glass, exclaimed in admiration of the beautiful garden, bathed in the early morning sunlight.
“The second one, directing his gaze to a dark blue pane and, looking through the center, remarked to his companion, I see no sunshine, the day is dreary and the clouds cast gloomy shadows upon the horizon.
“Each one returned to relate their impressions of the weather, and the prince wondered at the different visions, unable to understand the reason.”
There, concluded the Shogun, that is what happens to people who do not practise moderation.
Those, who see things through the medium of enthusiasm refuse to recognize that they could be deprived of brilliancy and beauty.
The others, those who look upon things from a pessimistic standpoint, never find anything in them save pretexts for pouring out to their hearers tales of woe and misery.
All find themselves deceptively allured; some rush toward illusion, others do not wish to admit the positive chances for success, and both lacking moderation, they start from a basis of false premises from which they draw deplorable conclusions, thus defeating future success.
The spirit of penetration, according to the old Nippon philosopher, is not always a natural gift. “It is,” said he, “a quality which certain people possess in a very high degree but which in spite this fact should be strengthened by will and discipline.
“One can easily acquire this faculty by endeavoring to foresee the solution of contemporary events; or at least try to explain the hidden reasons which have produced them.
“Great effects are produced, many times, from seemingly unimportant causes, and it is, above all, to the significant details that the spirit of penetration should give unceasing and undivided attention.
“Everything around us can serve as a subject for careful study; political events, incidents which interest family or friends, all may serve as just so many themes for earnest reflection.
“It is always preferable to confine this analysis to subjects in which we have no personal interest; thus we shall accustom ourselves to judge of people and things dispassionately and impersonally. This is the quality of mind necessary to the perfect development of penetration.
“If, for any reason, passion should create confusion of ideas, clearness of understanding would be seriously compromised and firmness of judgment, by deteriorating, would cast aside the manifestation of common sense.
“The spirit consistency is perhaps more difficult to conquer, for it is a combination of many of the qualities previously mentioned.
“Its inspiration is drawn from the reasoning faculty, it cannot exist without moderation and implies a certain amount of penetration, because it must act under the authority of conviction.
“If you strike long enough in the same place on the thickest piece of iron, in time it will become as thin as the most delicate kakemono [a picture which hangs in Japanese homes].
“It is impossible to define the spirit of consistency more accurately.
“It is closely related to perseverance, but can not be confounded with it, because the attributes of consistency have their origin in logic and reason which does not produce one act alone but a series of acts sometimes dependent, always inferred.
“The spirit of consistency banishes all thought derogatory to the subject in question; it is the complete investiture of sentiments, all converging toward a unique purpose.”
This purpose can be of very great importance and the means of attainment multiform, but the dominant idea will always direct the continuous achievements; under their different manifestations–and these at times contradictory–they will never be other than the emanation of a direct thought, whose superior authority is closely united to the final success.
Wisdom, continued the philosopher, should be mentioned here only as the forerunner which permits us to analyze experience.
It is from this never-ending lesson which life teaches us that the wisdom of old age is learned.
But is it really necessary to reach the point of decrepitude, in order to profit by an experience, actually useless at that time, as is always a posthumous conquest.
“Is it not much better to compel its attainment when the hair is black and the heart capable of hope?
“Why give to old age alone the privileges of wisdom and experience?
“It is high time to combat so profound an error.
“Is it not a cruel irony which renders such a gift useless?
“Of what benefit is wisdom resulting from experience if it cannot preserve us from the unfortunate seduction of youth?
“Why should its beauty be unveiled only to those who can no longer profit by it?” This is the opinion of Yoritomo, who says:
“What would be thought of one who prided himself on possessing bracelets when he had lost his two arms in war?
“It is, therefore, necessary, not only to encourage young people to profit by lessons of wisdom and experience, but, still further, to indicate to them how they can accomplish the result of these lessons.
“It is certain that he who can recall a long life ought to understand better than the young man all the pitfalls with which it is strewn.
“But does he always judge of it without bias or prejudice?
“Does he not find acceptable pretexts for excusing his past faults and does he not exaggerate the rewards for excellence, which have accorded him advantages, due at times to chance or to the force of circumstances?
“Finally, the old man can not judge of the sentiments which he held at twenty years of age, unless it be by the aid of reminiscences, more or less fleeting, and an infinitely attenuated intensity of representation.
“Emotive perception being very much weakened, the integrity of memory must be less exact.
“Then, in the recession of years, some details, which were at times factors of the initial idea, are less vivid, thus weakening the power of reason which was the excuse, the pretext, or the origin of the act.
“This is why, altho we may honor the wisdom of the aged, it is well to acquire it at a time when we may use it as a precious aid.
“To those who insist that nothing is equivalent to personal experience, we shall renew our argument, begging them to meditate on the preceding lines, drawing their attention to the fact that a just opinion can only be formed when personal sentiment is excluded from the discussion.
“Is it, then, necessary to have experienced pain in order to prevent or cure it?
“The majority of physicians have never been killed by the disease they treat.
“Does this fact prevent them from combatting disease victoriously?
“And since we are speaking of common sense we shall not hesitate to invoke it in this instance, and all will agree that it should dictate our reply.
“Then why could we not do for the soul that which can be done for the body?
“It is first from books, then from the lessons of life that physicians learn the principles underlying their knowledge of disease and its healing remedies.
“Is it absolutely indispensable for us to poison ourselves in order to know that such and such a plant is harmful and that another contains the healing substance which destroys the effects of the poison?
“We may all possess wisdom if we are willing to be persuaded that the experience of others is as useful as our own.”
The events which multiply about us, Yoritomo says, ought to be, for each master, an opportunity for awakening in the soul of his disciples a perfect reasoning power, starting from the inception of the premises to arrive at the conclusions of all arguments.
From the repetition of events, from their correlation, from their equivalence, from their parallelism, knowledge will be derived and will be productive of good results, in proportion as egotistical sentiment is eliminated from them; and slowly, with the wisdom acquired by experience, common sense will manifest itself tranquil and redoubtable, working always for the accomplishment of good as does everything which is the emblem of strength and peace.
THE FIGHT AGAINST ILLUSION
Common Sense such as we have just described it, according to Yoritomo, is the absolute antithesis of dreamy imagination, it is the sworn enemy of illusion, against which it struggles from the moment of contact.
Common sense is solid, illusion is yielding, also illusion never issues victorious from a combat with it; during a struggle illusion endeavors vainly to display its subterfuges and cunning; illusions disappear one by one, crusht by the powerful arms of their terrible adversary–common sense.
“The worship of illusion,” says Yoritomo, “presents certain dangers to the integrity of judgment, which, under such influence, falsifies the comparative faculty, and sways decision to the side of neutrality.
“This kind of mental half-sleep is extremely detrimental to manifestations of reason, because this torpor excludes it from imaginary conceptions.
“Little by little the lethargy caused by this intellectual paralysis produces the effect of fluidic contagion over all our faculties.
“Energy, which ought to be the principle factor in our resolutions, becomes feeble and powerless at the point where we no longer care to feel its influence.
“The sentiment of effort exists no longer, since we are pleased to resolve all difficulties without it.
“In this inconstant state of mind, common sense, after wandering a moment withdraws itself, and we find that we are delivered over to all the perils of imagination.
“Nothing that we see thus confusedly is found on the plane which belongs to common sense; the ideas, associated by a capricious tie, bind and unbind themselves, without imposing the necessity of a solution.
“The man who allows himself to be influenced by vague dreams,” adds the Shogun, “must, if he does not react powerfully, bid farewell to common sense and reason; for he will experience so great a charm in forgetting, even for one moment, the reality of life, that he will seek to prolong this blest moment.
“He will renounce logic, whose conclusions are, at times, opposed to his desires, and he will plunge himself into that false delight of awakened dreams, or, as some say, day-dreams.
“Those who defend this artificial conception of happiness, like to compare people of common sense to heavy infantry soldiers, who march along through stony roads, while they depict themselves as pleasant bird-fanciers, giving flight to the fantastic bearers of wings.
“But they do not take into account the fact that the birds, for whom they open the cage, fly away without the intention of returning, leaving them thus deceived and deprived of the birds, while the rough infantry soldiers, after many hardships, reach the desired end which they had proposed to attain, thus realizing the joys of conquest.
“There they find the rest and security, which the possessors of fugitive birds will never know.
“Those who cultivate common sense will always ignore the collapses which follow the disappearance of illusions.
“How many men have suffered thus uselessly!
“And what is more stupid than a sorrow, voluntarily imposed, when it can not be productive of any good?
“Men can not be too strongly warned against the tendency of embellishing everything that concerns the heart-life, and this is the inclination of most people.
“The causes of this propensity are many and the need for that which astounds is not the only cause to be mentioned.
“Indolence is never a stranger to illusion.
“It is so delightful to foresee a solution which conforms to our desires!
“For certain natures, stained with moral atrophy, it is far sweeter to hope for that which will be produced without pain.
“One begins by accelerating this achievement, so earnestly desired, by using all the will-power, and one becomes accustomed progressively to regard desires as a reality, and, aided by indolence, man discounts in advance an easy success.
“False enthusiasm, or rather enthusiasm without deliberate reflection, always enters into these illusions, which are accompanied by persuasion and never combatted by common sense.
“Vanity is never foreign to these false ideas, which are always of a nature to flatter one’s amour propre.
“We love to rejoice beforehand in the triumph which we believe will win and, aided by mental frivolity, we do not wish to admit that success can be doubted.
“The dislike of making an effort, however, would quickly conceal, with its languishing voice, the wise words of common sense, if we would listen momentarily to them.
“And, lastly, it is necessary to consider credulity, to which, in our opinion, is accorded a place infinitely more honorable than it deserves.”
And now the sage, Yoritomo, establishes the argument which, by the aid of common sense, characterized these opinions.
According to him, “It does not belong to new and vibrating souls, as many would have us believe.
“When credulity does not proceed from inveterate stupidity, it is always the result of apathy and weakness.
“Unhappiness and misfortune attend those who are voluntarily feeble.
“Their defect deprived them of the joy derived from happy efforts. They will be the prey of duplicity and untruth.
“They are the vanquished in life, and scarcely deserve the pity of the conqueror; for their defeat lacks grandeur, since it has never been aurioled by the majestic strength of conflict.”
Following this, the Shogun speaks to us of those whom he calls the ardent seekers after illusion.
One evening he related the following story: “Some men started off for an island, which they perceived in the distance.
“It looked like a large, detached red spot, amid the flaming rays of the setting sun, and the men told of a thousand wonders about this unknown land, as yet untrodden by the foot of man.
“The first days of the journey were delightful. The oars lay in the bottom of the boat untouched, and they just allowed themselves to drift with the tide. They disembarked, singing to the murmur of the waters, and gathered the fruits growing on the shores, to appease their hunger.
“But the stream, which was bearing them onward, did not retain long its limpidity and repose; the eddies soon entrapped the tiny bark and dragged the men overboard.
“Some, looking backward, were frightened at the thought of ascending the river, which had become so tempestuous.
“Escaping the wreckage of the boat as best they could, they entrusted themselves again to the fury of the waters.
“They had to suffer from cold and hunger, for they were far from shore, and as, in their imagination, the island was very near, they had neglected to furnish themselves with the necessities of life.
“At last, after the fatigues which forethought would have prevented, they found themselves one evening, at sundown, at the base of a great rock, bathed in the rosy light of the departing sun.
“This, then, was the island of their dreams.
“Tired out and exhausted from lack of food, they had only the strength to lie down upon the inhospitable rock, there to die!
“The disappearance of the illusion, having destroyed their courage and having struck them with the sword of despair, the rock of reality had proved destructive of their bodies and souls.
“The moral of this story easily unfolds itself.
“If the seekers after illusions had admitted common sense to their deliberations, they would certainly have learned to know the nature of the enchanted isle, and they would have taken good care not to start out on their journey which must terminate by such a deception.
“Would they not have taken the necessary precaution to prevent all the delays attendant upon travels of adventure, and would they have entrusted their lives to so frail a skiff, if they had acquired common sense?”
We must conclude, with Yoritomo, that illusion could often be transformed into happy reality if it were better understood, and if, instead of looking upon it through the dreams of our imagination, we applied ourselves to the task of eliminating the fluid vapors which envelop it, that we might clothe it anew with the garment of common sense.
Many enterprises have been considered as illusions because we have neglected to awaken the possibilities which lay dormant within them.
The initial thought, extravagant as it may appear, brings with it, at times, facilities of realization that a judgment dictated by common sense can alone make us appreciate.
He who knows how to keep a strict watch over himself will be able to escape the causes of disillusion, which lead us through fatal paths of error, to the brink of despair.
“That which is above all to be shunned,” said the philosopher, “is the encroachment of discouragement, the result of repeated failures.
“Rare are those who wish to admit their mistakes.
“In the structure of the mind, inaccuracy brings a partial deviation from the truth, and it does not take long for this slight error to generalize itself, if not corrected by its natural reformer–common sense.
“But how many, among those who suffer from these unhappy illusions, are apt to recognize them as such?
“It would, however, be a precious thing for us to admit the causes which have led us to such a sorry result, by never permitting them to occur again.
“This would be the only way for the victims of illusion to preserve the life of that element of success and happiness known as hope.
“Because of seeing so often the good destroyed, we wish to believe no more in it as inherent in our being, and rather than suffer repeatedly from its disappearance, we prefer to smother it before perfect development.
“The greater number of skeptics are only the unavowed lovers of illusion; their desires, never being those capable of realization, they have lost the habit of hoping for a favorable termination of any sentiment.
“The lack of common sense does not allow them to understand the folly of their enterprise, and rather than seek the causes of their habitual failures, they prefer to attack God and man, both of whom they hold responsible for all their unhappiness.
“They are willingly ironical, easily become pessimists, and villify life, without desiring to perceive that it reserved as many smiles for them as the happy people whom they envy.
“All these causes of disappointment can only be attributed to the lack of equilibrium of the reasoning power and, above all, to the absence of common sense, hence we cannot judge of relative values.
“To give a definite course to the plans which we form is to prepare the happy termination of them.
“This is also the way to banish seductive illusion, the devourer of beautiful ambitions and youthful aspirations.”
And, with his habitual sense of the practical in life, Yoritomo adds the following:
“There are, however, some imaginations which can not be controlled by the power of reasoning, and which, in spite of everything, escape toward the unlimited horizons of the dream.
“It would be in vain to think of shutting them up in the narrow prison walls of strict reason; they would die wishing to attempt an escape.
“To these we can prescribe the dream under its most august form, that of science.
“Each inventor has pursued an illusion, but those whose names have lived to reach our recognition, have caught a glimpse of the vertiginous course they were following, and no longer have allowed themselves to get too far away from their base–science.
“Yes, illusion can be beautiful, on condition that it is not constantly debilitated.
“To make it beautiful we must be its master, then we may attempt its conquest.
“It is thus that all great men act; before adopting an illusion, as truth, they have assured themselves of the means by the aid of which they were permitted first to hope for its transformation and afterward be certain of their power to discipline it.
“Illusion then changes its name and becomes the Ideal.
“Instead of remaining an inaccessible myth, it is transformed into an entity for the creation of good.
“It is no longer the effort to conquer the impossible, which endeavor saps our vital forces; it is a contingency which study and common sense strip of all aleatory principles, in order to give a form which becomes more tangible and more definite every day.
“We have nothing more to do with sterile efforts toward gaining an object which fades from view and disappears as one approaches it.
“It is no longer the painful reaching out after an object always growing more indistinct as we draw near it.
“It is through conscious and unremitting effort that we attain the happy expression of successful endeavor and realize the best in life, for slow ascension in winning this best leaves no room for satiety in this noble strife.
“We must pity those who live for an illusion as well as those whose imagination has not known how to create an ideal, whose beauty illumines their efforts.
“It is the triumph of common sense to accomplish this transformation and to banish empty reveries, replacing them by creating a desire for the best, which each one can satisfy–without destroying it.
“The day when this purpose is accomplished, illusion, definitely conquered, will cease to haunt the mind of those whom common sense has illumined; vagaries will make place for reason and terrible disillusion will follow its chief (whose qualities never rise above mediocrity) into his retreat, and allow the flower of hope to blossom in the souls already filled with peace–that quality which is born of reason and common sense.”
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE REASONING POWER
When reading certain passages in the manuscripts of Yoritomo, one is forcibly reminded of the familiar phrase: “Nothing is definitely finished among men, for each thing stops only to begin again.”
He says, “That many centuries before the great minds constructed altars to the goddess of Reason, they were in search of a divinity to replace the one they had just destroyed.
“If it were proposed to me to build temples which would synthesize my devotion with certain sentiments, my desire would be that those dedicated to the Will and to Reason should dominate all others, for then they would be under the protection of powers for good.”
In a few pages further on he insists again and again upon the necessity of developing the worship of reason.
“Reasoning,” he continues, “is a divinity, around which gravitate a whole world of gods, important but inferior to it.
“Among this people of these idols, so justly revered, there is one god which occupies a place apart from the others.
“This god is Common Sense, which gave birth to Reason, and has always been its faithful companion.
“It is, in reality, the controlling force exercising its power to guard reason against the predominating character and nefarious tendencies created by self-interest.
“Common sense compels reason to admit principles whose justice it has already recognized, and, at the same time, incites reason to reject those whose absurdity it has demonstrated.
“Common sense allies itself with reason, in order to make that selection of ideas which personal interest can either set aside entirely or modify by illogical inference.
“Reason obeys certain laws, all of which can be united in one sentiment–common sense.”
This statement could be illustrated symbolically by comparing its truth to a fan, whose blades converge toward a central point where they remain fixt.
Applying the precept to the picture, the old Shogun gives the design which we are faithfully copying.
“In this ideal fan,” explains Yoritomo, “not only the true reproduction of the qualities directing the progress of knowledge must be perceived, but the symbol of their development must be traced.
“All of these qualities are born of common sense, to which they are closely allied, unfolding and disclosing a luminous radiance.
“Altho each one may have its autonomy, they never separate, and, even as a fan from which one blade has disappeared can only remain an imperfect object little to be desired, even so, the symbolic fan of reasoning, when it does not unite all the required qualities, becomes a mutilated power, which can only betray the destiny originally attributed to it.
“Consequently, starting from common sense as the central point of reasoning, we find, first, perception.
“This is the action by which exterior things are brought near to us.
“Perception is essentially visual and auditory, altho it influences all our senses.
“For example, the fact of tasting a fruit is a perception.
“The seeing of a landscape is equally one.
“The hearing of a song is also a perception.
“In a word, everything which presents itself to us, coming in contact with one of our senses, is a perception; otherwise, the inception of an idea.
“This is the first degree of reasoning.
“Immediately following is memory, without which nothing could be proved.
“It is memory, which, by renewing the motive power of reason, allows us to judge of the proportion of things, grasped by the senses in the present as related to those which come to us from the past.
“Without memory it would be impossible to make a mental comparison.
“It would be most difficult to determine the true nature of an event, announced by perception, if an analogous sensation, previously experienced, had not just permitted us to classify it by close examination or by differentiating it.
“Memory is a partial resurrection of a past life, whose reconstruction has just permitted us to attribute a true value to the phases of existence.
“It is in preserving the memory of things that we are called upon to compare them and then to judge of them.
“Thought is produced immediately after perception, and the recollection, very often automatic, that it creates within us.
“It is the inception of the idea which it engenders by a series of results.
“Thought permits the mind to exercise its judgment without allowing itself to be influenced by the greatness or humility of the idea.
“By virtue of corresponding recollections, it will associate the present perception with the past representations, and will take an extension, more or less pronounced, according to the degree of intellectuality of the thinker, and according to the importance of the object of its reflections.
“But rarely does the idea present itself alone.
“One thought almost always produces the manifestation of similar thoughts, which group themselves around the first idea as birds of the same race direct their flight toward the same country.
“Thought is the manifestation of the intellectual life; it palpitates in the brain of men as does the heart in the breast.
“It is thought which distinguishes men from animals, who have only instinct to guide them.
“It can be admitted, however, that this instinct is a kind of obscure thought for these inferior beings, from which reflection is eliminated, or, at least, reveals itself only as a vassal of material appetite.
“But with creatures who have intelligence, thought is a superior faculty, which aids the soul to free itself from the bondage of vulgar and limited impressions.
“When perception, memory, and thought unite to form judgment, activity of mind will become necessary, in order to accelerate the production of ideas in extending the field of imagination.
“Moral inertia is the most deplorable of all defects; it retards intellectual growth and hinders the development of personality.
“It is, in this understanding, the enemy of common sense, for it will admit voluntarily a reasoning power, existing per se, rather than make the necessary effort which will set free the truth and constitute an individual opinion.
“Vulgarity is, then, almost always the sign of mental sloth.
“It is not infrequent to see a mind of real capacity fall into error, where an intelligence of mediocre caliber asserts its efficiency. Indifference is the most serious obstacle to the attainment of judgment.
“Common sense demands a keen alertness of understanding, placed at the disposal of a reflection which appears at times slow of action, but which is long in being manifested only because of the desire to surround itself by all the guaranties of truth concerning the object in question.
“The fifth blade of the fan is the quality of deduction–the most solid basis for the judgments which are formed by common sense.
“By deduction we are able to solve all relative questions with perfect accuracy.
“It is by abstracting reckless contingencies, and by relying only upon the relativeness of facts, that we can succeed in discovering the truth that there are too many representations as to these facts.
“Deduction is the great support of mental weakness. It helps in discerning proportions, possibilities, even as it helps in skilfully avoiding the fear of error.”
We shall have occasion to speak more at length of deduction, for Yoritomo devotes many pages to it. We shall, then, defer to a future chapter the interesting developments that he discloses on this subject, and we shall continue to study the fan of common sense with him.
“Foresight,” he continues, “is rightly looked upon as one of the indispensable elements in cultivating common sense.
“The faculty of foresight always accompanies common sense, in order to strengthen its qualities of skill and observation.
“One must not confound, as many people are tempted to do, foresight and conjecture.
“The first consists in taking great care to prevent the repetition of unhappy facts which have already existed.
“Foresight will exert an influence on future events by establishing an analogy between them and the actual incidents which, of necessity, will lead to the adoption or rejection of present projects.
“It is to be observed that all these faculties are subordinate, one to the other, and, in proportion to the unfolding of the fan, we can prove that all the blades previously mentioned have concurred in the formation of the blade of which we are now speaking.
“In order to foresee disasters it is necessary that the perception–visual or auditory–of said disasters should already have imprest us.
“We have kept intact the memory of them, since it is reconstructed emotion which guides our thoughts.
“These same thoughts, in extending themselves, form groups of thoughts harmonious in character, all relative to the one, which is the object of the debate.
“Our mind becomes more active in recalling the incidents, the remembrance of which marks the time which has elapsed between the old perception and the present state of mental absorption.
“The faculty of deduction, which is born of these different mental conflicts, permits me to foresee that circumstances of the same nature will lead to others similar to those we have already mentioned.
“We have merely sketched rapidly the scale of sensations which follow each other, in order to reach the explanation of how foresight is formed, this faculty of which we are now speaking.
“By assimilating these present facts with those of the past, we are permitted to draw a conclusion, relating to the same group of results, because of the conformity of those past facts to the present questions.
“Foresight is passive; between it and precaution there is the same difference as between theory and practise.
“Precaution is preeminently active, and it marks its first appearance by means of foresight, but does not stop in this effort until it has rendered foresight productive.
“It is well to foresee, but it is precious to preclude.
“The second part of the act of precaution can, however, only be accomplished after having permitted the brain to register the thoughts which determine the first part of this act.”
In order to understand this very subtle difference, but very important one, which classifies these two sentiments, the old sage gives us the following example:
“Let us suppose,” he says, “that, on a beautiful day in spring, a man starts out for an excursion which will last until the dawn of the following day.
“If he has common sense, he will say to himself that the sun will not be shining at the time of his return, that the nights of spring are cold, and that this one will be no exception to the rule.
“This is foresight.
“If common sense, with all its consequences, takes possession of him, it will increase his power of reasoning. He will think that, in order to avoid suffering from the change of temperature, it would be well to cover himself with a cloak.
“And, even tho the sun shone, he would not hesitate to furnish himself with this accessory, which in fact will render him the greatest service.
“This is precaution.
“This quality is indispensable to the formation of the reasoning power; for, in addition to the necessity of foreseeing certain results, it permits also of directing their course, if it be impossible to exempt them completely.
“Reasoning is the art of developing, to the highest degree, the suppositions resulting from deduction.
“One is usually mistaken as to the exact meaning of the words ‘to reason,’ and people seldom attach the importance to them which they should.
“One is apt to think that the gift of reasoning is bestowed upon every one.
“Perhaps; but to reason, following the principles of justice and truth, is an operation which can only be performed by minds endowed with common sense.
“In order to arrive at this result, it is essential to impress upon oneself the value of the words, ‘to deduct accurately,’ after having produced the radiation of thoughts which depend upon the object in question, and to foresee the consequences of the facts that a resolution could determine.
“Above all, to avoid contentment with the approximate, which conceals many pitfalls under false appearances.
“Without permitting oneself to express useless trivialities, not to neglect to become impregnated with those axioms which have been rightfully baptized, ‘wisdom of nations.’
“They are generally based on a secular observation, and are the product of many generations.
“It would be puerile to attach vital importance to them, but one would surely regret having entirely scorned their counsel.
“Too much erudition is at times detrimental to reason, based on common sense. Altho fully appreciating science, and devoting serious study to it, one would do well to introduce the human element into his knowledge.
“There are some essential truths which modify daily life without, for this reason, lessening their importance.
“Some of them are of premature development; others are of miniature growth.
“To reason without offending common sense, it is, therefore, indispensable to consider time, place, environment, and all the contingencies which could arise to undermine the importance of reasoning.”
After having reviewed all these phases, we shall then extend, in accord with Yoritomo, the last blade of this rudimentary fan, and we shall find judgment.
“This one is the index to that quality of mind called conviction.
“This mental operation consists in drawing together many ideas that their relative characteristics may be determined.
“This operation takes the place contiguous to reasoning, of which it is the result.
“Judgment determines its character after having registered the reasons which ought to indicate its position; it deducts the conclusions imposed by the explanatory principle, and classifies the idea by submitting it to the valuation placed upon it by judgment.
“All judgment is either affirmative or negative.
“It can never be vascillating nor neutral.
“In this last case it will assume the title of opinion, and will attribute to itself the definite qualities which characterize judgment.
“It is, however, at times subjected to certain conditions, where the principles on which it is based are not sufficiently defined, and, therefore, becomes susceptible to a change, either of form or of nature.
“It is possible, without violating the laws of common sense, to establish a judgment whose terms will be modified by the mutation of causes.
“But common sense demands that these different influences should be foreseen, and that these eventualities should be mentioned when pronouncing the judgment.”
We have reached the last blade of the symbolic fan, described by the philosopher, for many secondary qualities may be placed between the principle blades.
But faithful to his explanatory method, he wished to indicate to us the broad lines first, and also to state the indispensable faculties constituting common sense, by teaching us their progression and development.
He desired to demonstrate to us also how much all these qualities would be lessened in value if they were not united and bound together in the order in which they ought to manifest themselves.
“We have all possest,” said he, “some fans whose point of reunion was destroyed in part or altogether lost.
“What becomes of it, then?
“During a certain length of time, always rather short, the blades, after having remained bound together by the thread which holds them, separate, when it is severed because of the lack of harmony and of equilibrium at their base.
“Very soon, one blade among them detaches itself, and the mutilated fan takes its place in the cemetery where sleep those things deteriorated because of old age or disuse.
“It is the same with the qualities which we have just enumerated. As long as they remain attached to their central point, which is common sense, they stand erect, beautiful and strong, concurring in the fertilization of our minds, and in creating peace in our lives.
“But if the point of contact ceases to maintain them, to bind them together, to forbid their separating, we shall soon see them fall apart after having escaped from the temporary protection of the secondary qualities.
“For a while we seek to evoke them; but recognizing the ruse existing in their commands, we shall soon be the first to abandon them, in order to harmonize our favors with the deceptive mirage of the illusions; at least, if we do not allow ourselves to be tempted by fallacious arguments of vanity.
“In the one as in the other case, we shall become, then, the prey of error and ignorance, for common sense is the intelligence of truth.”
COMMON SENSE AND IMPULSE
Impulsive people are those who allow themselves to be guided by their initial impressions and make resolutions or commit acts tinder the domination of a special consciousness into which perception has plunged them.
Impulse is a form of cerebral activity which, forces us to make a movement before the mind is able to decide upon it by means of reflection or reasoning. The Shogun deals with it at length and defines it thus:
“Impulse is an almost direct contact between perception and result.
“Memory, thought, deduction, and, above all, reason are absolutely excluded from these acts, which are never inspired by intellectuality.
“The impression received by the brain is immediately transmuted into an act, similar to those acts which depend entirely on automatic memory.
“It is certain in making a series of movements, which compose the act of walking upstairs or the action of walking from one place to another, we do not think of analyzing our efforts and this act of walking almost limits itself to an organic function, so little does thought enter into its composition.
“In the case of repeated impulses, it can be absolutely affirmed that substance is the antecedent and postulate of the essence of being.
“Substance comprises all corporal materialities: instinctive needs, irrational movements, in a word, all actions where common sense is not a factor.
“Essence is that imponderable part of being which includes the soul, the mind, the intelligence, in fact the entire mentality.
“It is this last element of our being which poetizes our thoughts, classifies them, and leads us to common sense, by means of reasoning and judgment.
“He who, having received an injury from his superior, replies to it at once by corresponding affront, is absolutely sure to become the victim of his impulses.
“It is only when his act is consummated, that he will think of the consequences which it can entail; the loss of his employment first, then corporal punishment, in severity according to the gravity of the offense; lastly, misery, perhaps the result of forced inactivity.
“On the contrary, the man endowed with common sense will reflect in a flash, by recalling all the different phases which we have described. His intelligence, being appealed to, will represent to him the consequences of a violent action.
“He will find, in common sense, the strength not to respond to an injury at once; but will not forego the right, however, of avenging himself under the guise of a satisfaction which will be all the more easily accorded to him as his moderation will not fail to make an impression in his favor.”
“There is, between common sense and impulse,” says Yoritomo, “the difference that one would find between two coats, one of which was bought ready-made, while the other, after being cut according to the proportions of the one who is to wear it, was sewed by a workman to whom all the resources of his art are known.”
If impulses adopt the same character for every one, common sense adapts itself to the mind, to the sensitiveness, to the worth of him who practises it; it is a garment which is adjusted to the proportions of its owner, and, according to his taste, is elaborate or simple.
Certain people have a tendency to confound intuition and impulse.
These two things, really very different in essence, are only related by spontaneity of thought which gives them birth.
But whereas intuition, a sensation altogether moral, concisely stated, is composed of mental speculations, impulses always resolve themselves into acts and resolutions to act.
Intuition is a sort of obscure revelation, which reason controls only after its formation.
Impulse never engages common sense in the achievements which it realizes. It never decides upon them in advance, and almost always engenders regrets.
It is the result of a defeat in self-control, which will-power and the power of reasoning alone can correct.
Intuition is less spontaneous than impulse.
It is a very brief mental operation, but, nevertheless, very real, which, very indistinctly, touches lightly all the phases of reasoning, in order to reach a conclusion so rapidly that he who conceives it has difficulty in making the transformations of the initial thought intelligible.
It is none the less true that intuition is always inspired by a predicted reflection, but, in spite of this fact, an existing reflection.
Impulse, on the contrary, only admits instinct as its source of existence.
It is the avowed enemy of common sense, which counsels the escape from exterior insinuations that one may concentrate, in order to listen to the voice which dictates to us the abstinence from doing anything until after making a complete analysis of the cause which agitates us.
Some philosophers have sought to rank inspiration under the flag of impulse, which they thought to defend; yes, even to recover esteem under this new form.
“We should know how to stand on guard,” says Yoritomo, “against this fatal error.”
“Inspiration,” says he, “is rarely immobilized under the traits which characterized its first appearance.
“Before expressing itself in a work of art or of utility, it was the embryo of that which it must afterward personify.
“The ancients when relating that a certain divinity sprang, fully armed, from the head of a god, accredited this belief to instantaneous creation.
“If musicians, painters, poets, and inventors want to be sincere, they will agree that, between the thought which they qualify as inspiration, and its tangible realization, a ladder of transformations has been constructed, and that it is only by progressive steps that they have attained what seemed to them the nearest to perfection.”
Impulse, then, is only distantly related to inspiration and intuition.
Let us add that these gifts are very often only the fruit of an unconscious mental effort, and that, most of the time, the thoughts, which in good faith one accepts as inspiration or intuition, are only nameless reminiscences, whose apparition coincides with an emotional state of being, which existed at the time of the first perception.
There, again, the presence of reasoning is visible, and also the presence of common sense, which tries to convert into a work of lasting results those impressions which would probably remain unproductive without the aid of these two faculties.
Impulses are, most of the time, the vassals of material sensations.
Definite reasoning and impartial judgment, inspired by common sense, are rarely the possession of a sick man.
Sufferings, in exposing him to melancholy, make him see things in a defective light; the effort of thinking fatigues his weak brain, and the fear of a resolution which would force him to get out of his inactivity has enormous influence upon the deductions which dictate his judgment.
Before discussing the advantages of conflict, he will instinctively resign himself to inertia.
If, on the contrary, his temperament disposes him to anger, he will compromise an undertaking by a spontaneous violence, which patience and reflection would otherwise have made successful. It is possible also that a valiant soul is unable to obey a weak body, and that instinct, awakened by fear, leads one on to the impulsive desires of activity.
Inadequate food or excessive nourishment can produce impulses of a different nature, but these differences are wholly and completely distinct as to character.
The most evident danger of impulses lies in the scattering of mental forces, which, being too frequently called upon, use themselves up without benefiting either reason or common sense.
The habit of indulging in movements dictated only by instinct, in suppressing all the phases of judgment leaves infinitely more latitude to caprice, which exists at the expense of solid judgment.
Perception, being related to that which interests our passions, by getting in direct contact with the action which should simply be derived from a deduction, inspired by common sense, multiplies the unreflected manifestations and produces waste of the forces, which should be concentrated on a central point, after having passed through all the phases of which we have spoken.
In addition, the permanency of resolutions is unknown to impulsive people.
Their tendency, by leading them on toward instantaneous solutions, allows them to ignore the benefits of consistency.
“They are like unto a peasant,” said the old Nippon, “who owned a field in the country of Tokio. Scarcely had he begun to sow a part of the field when, under the influence of an unhappy impulse, he plowed up the earth again in order to sow the ground with a new seed.
“If he heard any one speak of any special new method of cultivation, he only tried it for a short while, and then abandoned it, to try another way.
“He tried to cultivate rice; then, before the time for harvesting it, he became enthusiastic for the cultivation of chrysanthemums, which he abandoned very soon in order to plant trees, whose slow development incited him to change his nursery into a field of wheat.
“He died in misery, a victim of his having scorned the power of consistency and common sense.”
Now Yoritomo, after having put us on our guard against impulses, shows us the way to conquer these causes of disorder.
“To control unguarded movements, which place us on a level with inferior beings. That is,” said he “in making us dependent on one instinct alone. This is,” said he, “to take the first step toward the will to think, which is one of the forms of common sense.
“In order to reach this point, the first resolution to make is to escape from the tyranny of the body, which tends to replace the intellectual element in impulsive people.
“When I was still under the instruction of my preceptor, Lang-Ho, I saw him cure a man who was affected with what he called ‘The Malady of the First Impulse.’
“Whether it concerned good actions or reprehensible ones, this man always acted without the least reflection.
“To launch a new enterprise, which the most elementary common sense condemned, he gave the greater part of his fortune in a moment of enthusiasm.
“He allowed himself to commit acts of violence which taught him severe lessons.
“Finally, vexed beyond measure, dissatisfied with himself and others, he so brutally maltreated a high dignitary in a moment of violent anger that the latter sent for him that he might punish him. Learning of this, the man, crazy with rage, rushed out of his house in order to kill the prince with his own hand.
“It was in this paroxysm of passion that my master met him. Like all impulsive people, he was full of his subject, and, joining the perception of the insult to the judgment of it, which his instinct had immediately dictated to him, he did not conceal his murderous intentions.
“My master, by means of a strategy, succeeded in dissuading him from accomplishing his revenge that day. He persuaded him that the prince was absent and would only return to town upon the following day.
“The man believed him, and allowed himself to be taken to the house of Lang-Ho.
“But it was in vain that Lang-Ho unfolded all his most subtle arguments. Neither the fear of punishment, nor the hope of pardon, could conquer the obstinacy which can always be observed in impulsive people when their resolution has not accomplished its purpose.
“It was then that my master employed a ruse, whose fantastic character brings a smile, but which, however, demonstrates a profound knowledge of the human heart when acting under the influence of common sense.
“During the sleep of his guest, Lang-Ho took off his robe, replacing it by a garment made of two materials. One was golden yellow, the other a brilliant green. After attacks of terrible anger, in spite of the solicitation of his impulsive nature which incited him to go out, he did not dare to venture into the streets in such a costume.
“That which the most subtle arguments had been unable to accomplish, was obtained through fear of ridicule.
“Two days passed; his fury was changed into great mental exhaustion, because impulsive people can not withstand the contact with obstacles for any length of time.
“It was this moment which my master chose to undertake the cure, in which he was so vitally interested.
“With the most delicate art, he explained to the impulsive man all the chain of sentiments leading from perception to judgment.
“He caused common sense to intervene so happily that the man was permeated by it. My master kept him near by for several weeks, always using very simple arguments to combat the instinctive resolutions which were formulated in his brain many times a day.
“Common sense, thus solicited, was revealed to the impulsive one, and appeared like a peaceful counselor.
“The ridiculous and odious side of his resolution was represented to him with such truth that he embraced Lang-Ho, saying:
“‘Now, Master, I can go away, and your mind can be at rest about me.
“‘The arguments of common sense have liberated me from bondage in which my lack of reflection held me.
“‘I return to my home, but, I beg of you, allow me to take away this ridiculous costume which was my savior.
“‘I wish to hang it in my home, in the most conspicuous place, that, from the moment my nature incites me to obey the commands of impulse, I may be able to look at once upon this garment, and thus recall your teachings, which have brought sweetness and peace into my life.'”
All those who are inclined to act by instinct should follow this example, not by dressing up in a ridiculous robe half green and half yellow, but by placing obstacles in the way of the accomplishment of impulsive acts, which the dictates of common sense would not sanction.
“For those whose mind possess a certain delicacy,” again says the old master, “these obstacles will be of a purely moral order, but for those who voluntarily allow themselves to be dominated by a diseased desire for action, obstacles should adopt a tangible form; the difficulty in conquering anything always makes impulsive people reflect a little.
“Under the immediate impression of the perception of an act they are ready for a struggle to the death; but this ardor is quickly extinguished, and inertia, in its turn, having become an impulse, makes them throw far away from them the object which determined the effort.
“In proportion as they encounter obstacles, which they have taken the precaution to raise, the encroachment of the impression will make itself less felt.
“The mere fact of having foreseen will become a matter for reflection for them.
“The feeling of the responsibilities will be roused in them, and they will understand how difficult it is to escape the consequences of impulsive acts.”
Would one not say that these lines had been written yesterday?
More than ever our age of unrest makes us the prey of impulses, and to the majority of our contemporaries, the robe, half green and half yellow (by recalling to them the worship of common sense), will become a fetish, more precious than all the amulets with which superstition loves to adorn logic, or to incorporate fantastic outline in the classic setting of beautiful jewels.
THE DANGERS OF SENTIMENTALITY
The Shogun says: “There are sentimentalities of many kinds, some present less dangers than others, but from every point of view they are prejudicial to the acquisition and exercise of common sense. To cultivate sentiment over which the Will has no control is always to be regretted.
“Sentimentality is multiform.
“It presents itself, at times, under the aspect of an obscure appeal to sensuality and brings with it a passing desire of the heart and of the senses, which produces an artificial appreciation of the emotion felt.
“In this first case sentimentality is an unconscious manifestation of egotism, because, outside of that which provokes this outward manifestation, everything is alienated and becomes indistinct.
“The incidents of existence lose their true proportion, since everything becomes relative to the object because of our preoccupation.
“The impulse reigns supreme there when sentimentality establishes itself, and the desire of judgment, if it makes itself apparent, is quickly shunned, to the profit of illusory reasons, in which pure reason does not intervene.
“This sentimentality amalgamating the springs of egotism bereaves the soul’s longing of all its greatness.
“The anxiety to attribute all our impressions to emotion is only a way of intensifying it for our personal satisfaction, at the expense of a sentiment far deeper and more serious, which never blossoms under the shadow of egotism and of frivolous sentimentality.
“Never will common sense have the chance to manifest itself in those who permit such ephemeral and enfeebling impressions to implant themselves in their souls.
“However they must be pitied because their artificial emotion often results in a sorrow which is not lessened by repetition, but whose manifestation is none the less prejudicial to the peace of their being.
“All those who do not harmonize common sense and the emotions of the heart become passive to the investiture of a sentimentality which does not wait to know if the object be worthy of them before it exists in consciousness.
“From this state of mind arise disillusions and their recurrence entails a defect in the conception.
“Men who are often deceived in allowing themselves to feel a sorrow which is only based on the longings of sentimentality become pessimists quickly and deny the existence of deep and enduring affection judged from its superior expression.
“This superior expression of sentiment is freed from all personality and such judgment which differentiates it from other sentiments.
“If we wished to appeal to common sense we should acknowledge, too often, that in the search for expansion we have only recognized the opportunity to satisfy the inclination which urges us to seek for pleasure.
“Sentiment reasons, and is capable of devotion. Sentimentality excludes reflective thought and ignores generosity.
“We are capable of sacrificing ourselves for sentiment.
“Sentimentality exacts the sacrifice of others.
“Therefore, profiting by the principles already developed, he who cultivates common sense will never fail to reason in the following manner:
“Opening the symbolic fan, he will encounter, after perfection, the memory which will suggest to him the recollections of personal and strange experiences and he will record this fact: abegation is rarely encountered.
“The inclination of our thoughts will suggest to us the difficulties there are in searching for it.
“Deduction will acquaint us with the temerity of this exaction, and precaution will attract our thoughts to the possibility of suffering which could proceed from disillusion.
“Following this, reasoning and judgment will intervene in order to hasten the conclusion formulated by common sense.
“It follows then that, abnegation being so rare, common sense indicates to me that it would be imprudent for me to allow my happiness to rest upon the existence of a thing so exceptional.
“For this reason this sentimental defect will find common sense armed against this eventuality.
“There is another form or sentimentality not less common.
“It is that which extends itself to all the circumstances of life and transforms true pity into a false sensibility, the exaggeration of which deteriorates the true value of things.
“Those who give publicity to this form of sentiment are agitated (or imagine themselves to be agitated) as profoundly on the most futile of pretexts as for the most important cause.
“They do not think to ask themselves if their ardor is merited; also every such experience, taking out of them something of their inner selves, leaves them enfeebled and stranded.
“Every excursion into the domain of sentimentality is particularly dangerous, for tourists always fail to carry with them the necessary coinage which one calls common sense.”
After having put ourselves on guard against the surprizes of mental exaggeration, Yoritomo warns us of a kind of high respectable sentimentality which we possess, that is none the less censurable because under an exterior of the purest tenderness it conceals a profound egotism.
It concerns paternal love from which reasoning and common sense are excluded.
“Nothing” said he, “seems more noble than the love of parents for their children, and no sentiment is more august when it is comprehended in all its grandeur.
“But how many people are apt to distinguish it from an egotistical sentimentality.
“I have seen some mothers oppose the departure of their sons, preferring to oblige them to lead an obscure existence near to them, rather than impose upon themselves the sorrow of a separation.
“These women do not fail to condemn the action of others, who, filled with a sublime abnegation, allow their children to depart, hiding from them the tears which they shed, because they have the conviction of seeing them depart for the fortune and the happiness which they feel themselves unable to offer them.
“Which of these are worthy of admiration? Those who condemn their children to a life of mediocrity in order to obey an egotistical sentimentality, or those who, with despair in their hearts, renounce the joy of their presence, and think only of their own grief in order to build upon it the happiness of their dear ones.
“The common sense of this latter class inspiring in them this magnificent sentiment, and forcing them to set aside a sentimentality which is, in reality, only the caricature of sentiment, has permitted them to escape that special kind of egotism, which could be defined thus: The translation of a desire for personal contentment.
“Ought we then to blame others so strongly?
“It is necessary, above all, to teach them to reason about the ardor of their emotions, and only to follow them when they find that they are cleansed from all aspiration which is not a pledge of devotion.”
Now the Shogun speaks to us with that subtlety of analysis which is characteristic and refers to a kind of sentimentality the most frequent and the least excusable.
“There are,” he tells us, “a number of people who, without knowing that they offend common sense in a most indefensible manner, invoke sentimentality in order to dispense with exercising the most vulgar pity, to the profit of their neighbor.
“A prince,” he continues, “possest a large? tract of land which he had put under grain.
“For the harvest, a large number of peasants and laborers were employed and each one lived on the products of his labor.
“But a prolonged drought threatened the crop; so the prince’s overseer dismissed most of the laborers, who failed to find employment in the parched country.
“Soon hunger threatened the inmates of the miserable dwellings, and sickness, its inseparable companion, did not fail to follow.
“Facing the conditions the prince left, and had it not been for two or three wealthy and charitable people the laborers would have starved to death.
“This pitiful condition was soon changed, abundance replaced famine, and the master returned to live in his domain.
“But amazement followed when he addrest his people as follows: Here I am, back among you, and I hope to remain here a long time; if I left you, it was because I have so great an affection for all my servants and because even the bare thought of seeing them suffer caused me unbearable sorrow.
“I am not among those who are sufficiently hard-hearted to be able to take care of sick and suffering people and to be a witness of their martyrdom. My pity is too keen to permit of my beholding this spectacle; this is why I had to leave to others, less sensitive, the burden of care which my too tender heart was unable to lavish on you.”
And that which is more terrible is that this man believed what he said.
He did not understand the monstrous rent which he made in the robe of common sense, by declaring that he had committed the vilest act of cruelty due to excessive sensitiveness since it represented a murderous act of omission.
Examples of this form of sentimentality are more numerous than we think.
There exist people who cover their dogs with caresses, gorging them with dainties, and will take good care not to succor the needy.
Others faint away at sight of an accident and never think of giving aid to the wounded.
One may observe that for people exercising sentimentality at the expense of common sense, the greatest catastrophe in intensity, if it be far away from us, diminishes, while the merest incident, a little out of the ordinary, affects them in a most immoderate manner if it be produced in the circle of their acquaintances.
It is needless to add that, if it touches them directly, it becomes an unparalleled calamity; it seems that the rest of the world must be troubled by it.
This propensity toward pitying oneself unreasonably about little things which relate to one directly and this exaggerated development of a sterile sentimentality are almost always artificial, and the instinct of self-preservation very often aids in their extermination.
“Among my old disciples,” pursues the Shogun, “I had a friend whose son was afflicted by this kind of sentimentality, the sight of blood made him faint and he was incapable of aiding any one whomsoever; that which he called his good heart, and which was only a form of egotistical sentimentality, prevented him from looking at the suffering of others.
“One day, a terrible earthquake destroyed his palace; he escaped, making his way through the ruins and roughly pushing aside the wounded who told about it afterward.
“I saw him some days after; instead of reproaching him severely for his conduct, I endeavored to make him see how false was his conception of pity, since, not only had he not fainted at the sight of those who, half-dead, were groaning, but he had found in the egotistical sentiment of self-preservation the strength to struggle against those who clung to him, beseeching him for help.
“I demonstrated to him the evident contradiction of his instinctive cruelty to the sentimentality that it pleased him to make public.
“I made an appeal to common sense, in order to prove to him the attitude which he had, until then, assumed, and I had the joy of seeing myself understood.
“My arguments appealed to his mentality, and always afterward, when he had the opportunity to bring puerile sentimentality and common sense face to face, he forced himself to appeal to that quality, which in revealing to him the artifice of the sentiment which animated him, cured him of false sensibility, which he had displayed up to that time.”
Sentimentality is in reality only a conception of egotism, under the different forms which it adopts.
Yoritomo proves it to us again, in speaking of the weakness of certain teachers, who, under the pretext of avoiding trouble, allow their children to follow their defective inclinations.
“It is by an instinctive hatred of effort that parents forbid themselves to make their children cry when reprimanding them,” said he.
“If the parents wish to be sincere to themselves, they will perceive that the sorrow in seeing their children’s tears flow, plays a very small part in their preconceived idea of indulgence.
“It is in order to economize their own nervous energy or to avoid cleverly the trouble of continued teaching, that they hesitate to provoke these imaginary miseries, the manifestation of which is caused by the great weakness of the teachers.
“Common sense, nevertheless, ought to make them understand that it is preferable to allow the little ones to shed a few tears, which are quickly dried, rather than to tolerate a deplorable propensity for these habits which, later in life, will cause them real anxiety.”
And the philosopher concludes:
“A very little reasoning could suffice to convince one of the dangers of sentimentality, if the persons who devote themselves entirely to it consented to reflect, by frankly agreeing to the true cause which produces it.
“They would discover in this false pity the desire not to disturb their own tranquility.
“They would also perceive that, in order to spare themselves a few unpleasant moments in the present they are preparing for themselves great sorrow for the future.
“In parental affection, as in friendship or in the emotions of love, sentimentality is none other than an exaggerated amplification of the ego.
“If it be true that all our acts, even those most worthy of approbation, can react in our personality, at least it is necessary that we should be logical and that, in order to create for ourselves a partial happiness or to avoid a temporary annoyance, we should not prepare for ourselves an existence, outlined by deception and fruitless regrets.
“Sentimentality and its derivatives, puerile pity and false sensitiveness, can create illusion for those who do not practise the art of reasoning, but the friends of common sense do not hesitate to condemn them for it.
“In spite of the glitter in which it parades itself, sentimentality will never be anything but the dross of true sentiment.”
THE UTILITY OF COMMON SENSE IN DAILY LIFE