The Art of Living

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     There are just two ways in which mortals may live together: the material or animal way -and the spiritual or human way. By the use of signals and sounds, animals are able to communicate with each other in a limited way. But such forms of communication do not convey meanings, values, or ideas. Thus, the one distinction between man and animal is that humans can communicate with their fellows by means of symbols which most certainly designate and identify meanings, values, ideas, and even ideals.

     Since animals cannot communicate ideas to each other, they cannot develop personality. Humans develop personality because we can thus communicate with each other concerning both ideas and ideals.

     It is this ability to communicate and share meanings that constitutes our cultures and enables us -through social associations -to build civilizations. Knowledge and wisdom become cumulative because of our ability to communicate these possessions to our succeeding generations. This thereby arises our racial cultural activities: art, science, religion, and philosophy. Thus, symbolic communication between human beings pre-determines the bringing into existence of our social groups.

     The most effective of all social groups is the family -more particularly the two parents. And personal affection is the spiritual bond which holds together these material associations of two human beings. (Such an effective relationship is also possible between two persons of the same sex, as is so abundantly illustrated in the devotions of genuine friendships.) These associations of friendship and mutual affection are socializing and ennobling because they encourage and facilitate the following essential factors of the higher levels of the art of living:

  1. Mutual self-expression and self-understanding. Many noble human impulses die because there is no one to hear their expression. Truly, it is not good for humans to be alone. Some degree of recognition and a certain amount of appreciation are essential to the development of human character. Without the genuine love of a home, no child can achieve the full development of normal character. Character is something more than mere mind and morals. Of all social relations calculated to develop character, the most effective and ideal is the affectionate and understanding friendship of man and woman in the mutual embrace of intelligent wedlock. Marriage, with its manifold relations, is best designed to draw forth those precious impulses and those higher motives which are indispensable to the development of a strong character. Such a matchless community of relationship -man and woman in the fond embrace of the highest ideals of time -is so valuable and satisfying an experience that it is worth any price, any sacrifice, requisite for its possession.
  2. Union of souls – the mobilization of wisdom. Every human being sooner or later acquires a certain concept of this world, and a certain vision of the next. Through associating with other personalities, humans then may unite these views of our present temporal existence and our eternal prospects. Thus, does the mind of one personality augment its spiritual values by gaining much of the insight of the other. In this way humans enrich their soul by pooling their respective spiritual possessions. Likewise, in this same way, humans are enabled to avoid that ever-present tendency to fall victim to distortion of vision, prejudice of viewpoint, and narrowness of judgment. Fear, envy, and conceit can be prevented only by intimate contact with other minds. And since wisdom is superknowledge, it follows that in the union of wisdom the social group, large or small, mutually shares all knowledge.
  3. The enthusiasm for living. Isolation tends to exhaust the energy charge of the soul. Association with one’s fellows is essential to the renewal of the zest for life and is indispensable to the maintenance of the courage to fight those battles consequent upon our ascent to the higher levels of human living. Friendship enhances the joys and glorifies the triumphs of life. Loving and intimate human associations tend to rob suffering of its sorrow and hardship of much of its bitterness. The presence of a friend enhances all beauty and exalts every goodness. By intelligent symbols we are able to quicken and enlarge the appreciative capacities of our friends.

     One of the crowning glories of human friendship is this power and possibility of the mutual stimulation of the imagination. Great spiritual power is inherent in the consciousness of wholehearted devotion to a common cause, mutual loyalty to a cosmic Deity –God!

  1. The enhanced defense against all evil. Personality association and mutual affection is an efficient insurance against evil. Difficulties, sorrow, disappointment, and defeat are more painful and disheartening when borne alone. Association does not transmute evil into righteousness, but it does aid in greatly lessening the sting. There is positive strength in the knowledge that you live for the welfare of others – and that these others likewise live for your welfare and advancement.

     We languish in isolation. Humans unfailingly become discouraged when we view only the transitory transactions of time. The present, when divorced from the past and the future, becomes exasperatingly trivial. Only a glimpse of the circle of eternity can inspire us to do our best and can challenge the best in us to do our utmost. And when we are thus at our best, we live most unselfishly for the good of others -our fellow sojourners in time and eternity.

     To repeat, such inspiring and ennobling association finds its ideal possibilities in the human marriage relation. True, much is attained out of marriage, and many, many marriages utterly fail to produce these moral and spiritual fruits. Too many times marriage is entered by those who seek other values which are lower than these superior accompaniments of human maturity. Ideal marriage must be founded on something more stable than the fluctuations of sentiment and the fickleness of mere sex attraction; it must be based on genuine and mutual personal devotion. And thus, if you can build up such trustworthy and effective small units of human association, when these are assembled in the aggregate, the world will behold a great and glorified social structure, the civilization of mortal maturity — “peace on earth and good will among (women and) men.”

 

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