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Chapter 34 - When you care, violence in every form disappears from you
To continue with what we were saying in our previous letter, we were pointing out your responsibility to study, to learn and to act. Since you are young and perhaps innocent, given to excitement and games, the word responsibility will seem rather frightening and a wearisome burden. But we are using the word to imply care and concern for our world. When we use this word, the studentsmust not feel any sense of guilt if they have not shown this care and attention. After all, your parents who feel responsible for you, that you should study and equip yourselves for your future life, do not feel guilty, though they may feel disappointed or unhappy if you do not come up to their expectations. We must clearly understand that when we use the word responsibility there must not be a feeling of guilt. We are taking particular care to use this word free from the unhappy weight of a word like duty. When this is clearly understood, then we can use the word responsibility without its burden of tradition.
So, you are at school with this responsibility to study, to learn, to act. This is the main purpose of education.
In our previous letter we put the question: what will you do about yourself and your relationship with the world? As we said, the educator, the teacher is responsible for helping you to understand yourself and so the world. We ask this question for you to find out for yourself what your response is. It is a challenge that you must answer. You have to begin with yourself, to understand yourself. In relation to that, what is the first step? Isn't it affection? Probably when you are young you have this quality, but very quickly you seem to lose it. Why? Is it because of the pressure of studies, the pressure of competition, the pressure of trying to reach a certain standing in your studies, comparing yourself with others, and perhaps being bullied by other students? Do not all these many pressures force you to be concerned with yourself? And when you are so concerned with yourself, you inevitably lose the quality of affection. It is very important to understand how circumstances-environment, the pressure of your parents or your own urge to conform-gradually narrow the vast beauty of life to the small circle of yourself. If you lose the quality of affection while you are young, there is a hardening of the heart and mind. It is a rare thing to keep this affection without corruption throughout life. So this is the first thing you must have.
Affection implies care, a diligent care in whatever you are doing-care in your speech, in your dress, in the manner of your eating, how you look after your body; care in your behaviour without distinctions of superior or inferior, how you consider people. Politeness is consideration for others, and this consideration is care, whether it is for your younger brother or oldest sister. When you care, violence in every form disappears from you-your anger, your antagonism and your pride. This care implies attention. Attention is to watch, observe, listen, learn. There are many things you can learn from books, but there is a learning which is infinitely clear, quick and without any ignorance. Attention implies sensitivity, and this gives depth to perception, which no knowledge, with its related ignorance, can give. This you have to study, not in a book, but with the help of the educator learn to observe things around you-what is happening in the world; what is happening with a fellow student; what is happening in a poor village or slum and to the man who is struggling along a dirty street.
Observation is not a habit. It isn't a thing you train yourself to do mechanically. It is the fresh eye of interest, of care, of sensitivity. You cannot train yourself to be sensitive. When you are young you are sensitive, quick in your perceptions, but this fades as you grow older. So you have to study yourself, and perhaps your teacher will help you. If he doesn't, it doesn't matter, because it is your responsibility to study yourself and so learn what you are. And when there is affection, your actions will be born out of its purity. All this may sound very hard, but it is not. We have neglected all this side of life. We are so concerned with our careers, with our own pleasures, with our own importance, that we neglect the great beauty of affection.
There are two words that one must continually bear in mind-diligence and negligence. We diligently apply our mind to acquiring knowledge from books, from teachers; we spend twenty or more years of our life in that, and neglect to study the deeper meaning of our own life itself. We have both the outer and the inner. The inner demands greater diligence than the outer. It is an urgent demand. And this diligence is in the affectionate study of what one is.