Five Conversations 5th Conversation
Thought can never penetrate very deeply into any problem of human relationship. Thought is superficial and old and is the outcome of the past. The past cannot enter into something that is totally new. It can explain the new, organize it, communicate it, but the "word" is not the new. Thought is the word, the symbol, the image. Without this symbol is there thought? We have used thought to reconstruct, to change the social structure. Thought, being old, reforms that structure into a new pattern, based upon the old. And basically, thought is divisive, fragmentary, and whatever it does will be separative and contradictory. However much it may explain philosophically or religiously the new and necessary social structure, in it there will always be the seed of destruction, of war and of violence. Thought is not the way to the new. Only meditation opens the door to that which is everlastingly new. Meditation is not a trick of thought. It is the seeing of the futility of thought and the ways of the intellect. Intellect and thought are necessary in the operation of anything mechanical, but the intellect is a fragmentary perception of the whole and meditation is the seeing of the whole. Intellect can operate only in the field of the known and that is why life becomes a monotonous routine from which we try to escape through revolts and revolutions - merely to fall back once again into another field of the known. This change is no change at all as it is the product of thought which is always old. Meditation is the flight from the known. There is only one freedom: it is, from the known. And beauty and love lie in this freedom.
It was a small room overlooking a lovely valley. It was early in the morning, the sun breaking through the clouds and giving light here and there to the hills, to the meadows, and to the flashing stream. Probably later it would rain; there would be wind, but now the valley was still and undisturbed. The mountains seemed very close, almost as if you could touch them, though they were far and hard to reach. They had snow upon them, and it was melting in the early summer sun. When the sun was out the hills cast deep shadows on the valley, and the dandelions and the bright wild flowers in the field would be out. It was not a very wide valley and a stream ran through it swiftly, with the noise of the mountains. The water was clear now, a grey-blue, and as the snow melted would become muddy and fast-moving. There was a red-coated squirrel who sat on the grass and looked at us, full of curiosity, but always on guard, ready to scurry up the tree on to a higher branch. When it did, it stopped and looked down to see if we were still there. It soon lost its curiosity and went on with its own business.
The room was small, with uncomfortable chairs and a cheap carpet on the floor. He sat on the most comfortable chair, a big man and an important man, a high bureaucrat, very high indeed. And there were others, students, the hostess and some guests. The official sat quietly, but he was tired. He had come a long way, many hours in the air, and was glad to sit in a more or less comfortable chair.
The student said:You people have made a terrible world of blood and tears. You have had every chance to make a different world. You are highly educated, hold an important position - and you can't do anything. You really support the established order with its brutalities, inequalities, and all the ugly mess of the present social world. We, the younger generation, despise all this, we're in revolt against it. We know that you're all hypocrites. We are not of any group or of any political or religious body. We have no race, we have no gods, for you have deprived us of what might have been a reality. You have divided the world into nationalities. We are against all this, but we don't know what we want. We don't know where we're going, but we know very well that what you offer us, we don't want. And the gap between you and us is very wide indeed; and probably it can never be bridged. We are new, and we are wary of falling into the trap of the old."
"You will fall into it," he said, "only it will be a new trap. You may not kill each other, and I hope you won't, but you'll kill each other at a different level, perhaps not physically but intellectually, with words, cynicism and bitterness. This has been the age-old cry against the older generation, but now it is more articulate, more effective. You may call me a bourgeois, and I am. I have worked hard to bring about a better world, helped to allay antagonism and opposition, but it isn't easy: when two opposing beliefs, ideologies, meet, there is bound to be hatred, war and concentration camps. We're also against it, and we think we can do something but there really is very little we can do." He wasn't defending himself. He was just stating simple facts as he saw them. But the student, being very bright, saw this and smiled unyieldingly.
"We're not accusing you. We have nothing to do with you; and that is the trouble. We want a different world, of love; we want matters of government decided by computers, not by personal interests and ambitions, not by power groups, religious or political. So there is this gulf. We have taken a stand, and some of us at least won't yield on this matter."
The important man must have been young once, full of zeal and brightly curious, but now it was over. What makes the mind dull? The clamorous demands of the younger generation will soon calm down when they get married, settle down and have children and responsibilities. Their minds which were once so sharp will become dull. They, too, will become bourgeois. Perhaps a few escape from this agony - if they don't become specialized and astonishingly capable.
"I suppose," he said, "my mind has lost its elasticity, its flame, because I really have nothing to live for. I used to be religious but I've seen too many priests in high positions and they have dispelled all my hopes. I've studied hard, worked hard, and I'm trying to bring opposite elements together, but it's all part of a routine now, and I'm well aware that I'm fading away."
"Yes," said the student, "there are some of us who are very bright, sharp as needles, brilliantly articulate, but I can see the danger of their becoming successful leaders. There is the hero worship and gradually the brilliance of youth and brightness of perception fade. I, too, have often asked myself why it is that everything becomes dull, worn out, and meaningless - sex, love and the beauty of the morning. The artist wants to express something new, but it is still the same old mind and body behind the paintings."
This is one of the common factors of the relationship between the old and the young - the slow contagion of time and sorrow, the anxieties, and the bitter pill of self-pity. What makes the mind dull? The mind, which is so extraordinarily capable of inventing new things, of going to the moon, of building computers - of so many things that are really extraordinary, almost magical? Of course, it is the collective mind that has produced the computer or composed a sonata. The collective, the group, is a common thought which is both in the many and in the one. Therefore there is not the collective or the one - only thought. The individual fights the collective and the collective fights the individual, but what is common to both is thought. And it is thought that makes the mind dull, whether the thought be in the interests of the one or of the many, the thought of self-improvement or the social upheaval."Thought is always in search of the secure - the security that is in the house, in the family, in the belief, or the security that denies all this. Thought is security, and the security is not only in the past from which the future security is built, but also the security that it tries to establish beyond time."
There was a silence. And a sparrow came on to the balcony where there were a few crumbs of bread and was pecking at them. Soon its young came too, fluttering their wings, and the mother began to feed them, one after the other. And a patch of blue sky, so intense, appeared over the green hill.
"But we can't do without thought," said the student."All our books, everything that's written, put down on paper, is the result of thought. And do you mean to say all this is unnecessary? There would be no education at all if you had your way. Is this so? It seems rather strange and fantastic. You appeared a few moments ago quite intelligent. Are you going back into primitivism?',
Not at all. What are you educated for, anyway? You may be a sociologist, an anthropologist or a scientist, with your specialized mind working away at a fragment of the whole field of life. You are filled with knowledge and words, with capable explanations and rationalizations. And perhaps in the future the computer will be able to do all this infinitely better than you can.
So education may have a different meaning altogether - not merely transferring what is printed on a page to your brain. Education may mean opening the doors of perception on to the vast movement of life. It may mean learning how to live happily, freely, without hate and confusion, but in beatitude. Modern education is blinding us; we learn to fight each other more and more, to compete, to struggle with each other. Right education is surely finding a different way of life, setting the mind free from its own conditioning. And perhaps then there can be love which in its action will bring about true relationship between man and man.
Five Conversations 5th Conversation
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