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Series II - Chapter 43 - ‘Mediocrity’
THE STORM HAD lasted for several days, with high winds and torrential rains. The earth was soaking up the water, and the dust of many summers was being washed from the trees. In this part of the country it hadn’t really rained for several years, but now it was making up for it, at least everyone hoped so, and there was gladness in the noise of the rain and the running waters. It was still raining when we all went to bed, and the patter of rain was very strong on the roof. It had a rhythm, a dance, and there was the murmur of many streams. Then what a lovely morning it was! The clouds were gone, and the hills all around were sparkling in the early morning sun; they had all been washed clean, and there was a benediction in the air. Nothing was yet stirring, and only the high hilltops were aglow. In a few minutes the noises of the day would begin; but now there was a deep peace in the valley, though the streams were gurgling and the cock had begun to crow. All the colours had come to life; everything was so vivid, the new grass and that enormous tree which seemed to dominate the valley. There was new life with abundance, and now the gods would receive their offering, gladly and freely given; now the fields would be made rich for the coming rice, and there would be no lack of fodder for the cows and the goats, now the wells would be full and marriages could be performed with gladness. The earth was red, and there would be rejoicing.
“I am well aware of the state of my mind,” he explained. “I have been to college and received a so-called education, and I have read fairly extensively. Politically I have been of the extreme left, and I am quite familiar with their literature. The party has become like any organized religion; it is what Catholicism was and continues to be, with the excommunications, the threats and deprivations. For a time I worked ambitiously in politics, hoping for a better world; but I have seen through that game, though I could have gone ahead in it. Long ago I saw that real reformation doesn’t come through politics; politics and religion don’t mix. I know it is the thing to say that we must bring religion into politics; but the moment we do, it is no longer religion, it becomes just nonsense. God doesn’t talk to us in political terms but we make our own god in terms of our politics or economic conditioning.
“But I haven’t come to talk politics with you, and you are quite right to refuse to discuss it. I have come to talk over something that is really eating me up. The other evening you said something about mediocrity. I listened but couldn’t take it in, for I was too disturbed; but as you were talking, that word ‘mediocrity’ struck me very forcibly. I had never thought of myself as being mediocre. I am not using that word in the social sense, and as you pointed out, it has nothing to do with class and economic differences, or with birth.”
Of course. Mediocrity is entirely outside the field of arbitrary social divisions. “I see it is. You also said, if I remember rightly, that the truly religious person is the only revolutionary, and such a person is not mediocre. I am talking of the mediocrity of the mind, not of job or position. Those who are in the highest and most powerful positions, and those who have marvellously interesting occupations, may still be mediocre. I have neither an exalted position nor a particularly interesting occupation, and I am aware of the state of my own mind. It is just mediocre. I am a student of both western and eastern philosophy, and am interested in many other things, but in spite of this my mind is quite ordinary; it has some capacity for coordinated thinking, but it is still mediocre and uncreative.”
Then what is the problem sir? “First, I am really quite ashamed of the state I am in, of my own utter stupidity, and I am saying this without any self pity. Deep down in myself, in spite of all my learning, I find that I am not creative in the most profound sense of that word. It must be possible to have that creativeness of which you spoke the other day; but how is one to set about it? Is this too blunt a question?”
Can we think of this problem very simply? What is it that makes the mind-heart mediocre? One may have encyclopaedic knowledge, great capacity, and so on; but beyond all these superficial acquisitions and gifts, what makes the mind deeply stupid? Can the mind be, at any time, other than what it has always been? “I am beginning to see that the mind, however clever, however capable, can also be stupid. It cannot be made into something else, for it will always be what it is. It may be infinitely capable of reasoning, speculation, design calculation; but however expansible, it will always remain in the same field. I have just caught the significance of your question. You are asking whether the mind, which is capable of such astonishing feats, can transcend itself by its own will and effort.”
That is one of the questions that arise. If, however clever and capable, the mind is still mediocre, can it through its own volition ever go beyond itself? Mere condemnation of mediocrity, with its wide scope of eccentricities, will in no way alter the fact. And when condemnation, with all its implications, has ceased, is it possible to find out what it is that brings about the state of mediocrity? We now understand the significance of that word, so let us stick to it. Is not one of the factors of mediocrity the urge to achieve, to have a result to succeed? And when we want to become creative, we are still dealing with the matter superficially, are we not? I am this, which I want to change into that, so I ask how; but when creativeness is something to be striven after, a result to be achieved, the mind has reduced it to its own condition. This is the process that we have to understand, and not attempt to change mediocrity into something else.
“Do you mean that any effort on the part of the mind to change what it is, merely leads to the continuation of itself in another form, and so there is no change at all?”
That is so, is it not? The mind has brought about its present state through its own effort, through its desires and fears, through its hopes, joys and pains; and any attempt on its part to change that state is still in the same direction. A petty mind trying not to be, is still petty. Surely the problem is the cessation of all effort on the part of the mind to be something, in what ever direction.
“Of course. But this does not imply negation, a state of vacuity, does it?”
If one merely hears the words without catching their significance, without experimenting and experiencing, then conclusions have no validity. “So creativeness is not to be striven after, It is not to be learnt, practiced, or brought about through any action, through any form of compulsion. I see the truth of that. If I may, I shall think aloud and slowly work this out with you. My mind, which has been ashamed of its mediocrity, is now aware of the significance of condemnation. This condemnatory attitude is brought about by the desire to change; but this very desire to change is the outcome of pettiness, so the mind is still what it was and there has been no change at all. So far I have understood.”
What is the state of the mind when it is not attempting to change itself, to become something? “It accepts what it is.”
Acceptance implies that there is an entity who accepts, does it not? And is not this acceptance also a form of effort in order to gain, to experience further? So a conflict of duality is set going, which is again the same problem, for it is conflict that breeds mediocrity of mind and heart. Freedom from mediocrity is that state which comes into being when all conflict has ceased. but acceptance is merely resignation. Or has that word ‘acceptance’ a different meaning to you?
“I can see the implications of acceptance, since you have given me an insight into its significance. But what is the state of the mind which no longer accepts or condemns?”
Why do you ask, sir? It is a thing to be discovered, not merely to be explained. “I am not seeking an explanation or being speculative, but is it possible for the mind to be still, without any movement, and yet be unaware of its own stillness?”
To be aware of it breeds the conflict of duality, does it not?