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Chapter 53 - What energy will make us move out of the commonplace?
What we are the world is. In the family, in society, we have made this world with its vulgarity, brutality, cruelty and coarseness and destroy each other. We also destroy each other psychologically, exploiting one another for our desires and gratification. We never seem to realize that unless each one of us undergoes a radical change the world will continue as it has for thousands of years, with us maiming each other, killing each other and despoiling the earth. If our own house is not in order, we cannot possibly expect society and our relationships to one another to be in order. It is all so obvious that we neglect it. We discard it as being not only simple but too arduous, so we accept things as they are, fall into the habit of acceptance, and carry on. This is the essence of mediocrity. One may have a literary gift, be recognised by the few, and work towards popularity; one may be a painter, a poet or a great musician; but in our daily lives we are not concerned with the whole of existence. We may perhaps be adding to the great confusion and misery of mankind. Each one wants to express his own little talent and be satisfied with it, forgetting or neglecting the whole complexity of man's trouble and sorrow. We accept this, and it has become the normal way of life. We are never an outsider and remain outside; we feel ourselves incapable of remaining outside, or are afraid not to be in the current of the commonplace.
As parents and educators, we make the family and the school what we are. Mediocrity really means going only half-way up the mountain and never reaching the top. We want to be like everybody else, or if we want to be slightly different, we keep it carefully hidden. We are not talking of eccentricity, which is another form of self-expression, which is what everyone is doing in his own little way. Eccentricity is only tolerated if you are well-to-do or gifted, but if you are poor and act peculiarly, you are snubbed and ignored. But few of us are talented; we are workers carrying on with our particular professions.
The world is becoming more and more mediocre. Our education, our occupation, our superficial acceptance of traditional religion are making us mediocre and rather sloppy. We are concerned here with our daily life, not with the expression of talent or some capacity. As educators, which includes parents, can we break away from this plodding, mechanical way of living? Is it the unconscious fear of loneliness that makes us fall into habits-the habit of work, the habit of thought, the habit of general acceptance of things as they are? We establish a routine for ourselves and live as closely as possible to that habit, so gradually the brain becomes mechanical. This mechanical way of living is mediocrity. The countries that live on established traditions are generally mediocre. So we are asking ourselves in what way mechanical mediocrity can end and not form another pattern which will gradually become mediocre too?
The mechanical use of thought is the issue; not how to step out of mediocrity, but that man has given complete importance to thought. All our activities and aspirations, our relationships and longings, are based on thought. Thought is common to all, whether they are highly talented or villagers without any kind of education. Thought is common to all of us. It is neither of the East nor of the West, the lowlands or the highlands. It is not yours or mine. This is important to understand. We have made it personal and, by doing so, have further limited the nature of thought. Thought is limited, but when we make it our own we make it still shallower. When we see the truth of this, there will be no competition between thought of ideals and everyday thought. The ideal has become all-important and not the thought of action. It is this division that breeds conflict, and to accept conflict is mediocre. It is the politicians and the gurus who nourish and sustain this conflict and so mediocrity.
Again we come to the basic issue: what is the response of the teacher and the parent, which includes all of us, to the coming generation? We may perceive the logic and the sanity of what is said in these letters, but the intellectual comprehension does not seem to give us the vital energy to propel us out of our mediocrity. What is that energy which will make us move-now, not eventually-out of the commonplace? Surely it is not enthusiasm or the sentimental grasp of some vague perception, but is an energy that sustains itself under all circumstances. What is that energy, which must be independent of all outside influence? This is a serious question each is asking himself. Is there such energy, totally free from all causation?
Now let us examine it together. Thought is the outcome of cause which is knowledge. That which has a dimension always has an end. When we say we understand, it generally means an intellectual or verbal comprehension, but comprehending is to perceive sensitively that which is, and that very perception is the withering away of that which is. Perception is this attention that is focussing all energy to watch the movement of that which is. This energy of perception has no cause, as intelligence and love have no cause.