on which these reflections have been written are not exceptional.
The lives of most of us are not filled with adventure. Few
of us hunt big game in Africa or serve our country as secret
agents among the enemy. There is much of the ordinary in our
family life, in making a living, and in our community relationships.
The ordinary can be made to glow, though, sometimes dimly,
sometimes brightly, from the radiation of thought, not necessarily
prolonged or profound, but the casual kind that comes easily
as do free associations.
The life of the scholar is said to
be a life of thought rather than a life of action. They are,
though, complementary. The response to action without thinking
is merely the response of the animal in us, as when we fear,
hurt, or are in anger. Such reactions have no more significance
than a display of emotion. Thought about action clothes emotion
Action does not have a monopoly of adventure, for there is
much adventure in the realm of ideas. What a thrill there
was in the discovery of the concept of the "unconscious,"
and the role it plays in determining our behavior! Such a
thrill is quite comparable to that of a deep sea diver who
discovers a new world of life on the bottom of the sea. Then
there is the experience of readjusting one's whole system
of values to the discovery of a big new idea such as the one
so vividly set forth in Sumner's "Folkways," namely,
that the mores can make anything right or wrong.
But the pleasures of thinking are
generally quieter. The homes of well-to-do Hindus have a room
set aside for meditation, in which no other activity takes
place at any time. Here is a suggestion for American architects;
who might argue, though, that such a room would never be used!
Though meditation may be well set apart for a quiet hour in
a quiet place, reflection can take place anywhere at any time.
Elders are more contemplative than
youth, and reflection to them is one of their joys. They have
had a longer life of experience, of observation, and have
hence built up over the years more associations of ideas.
For them the tides or emotional drive are receding, leaving
more opportunity for detachment in thinking. The coming of
the age of contemplation varies with individuals. But there
is no reason why youth should not think as well as act. Certainly
life will have richer meanings if we cultivate early the habit
of detached thinking.
The preceding paragraphs may lead
the reader to expect something like the meditations of Marcus
Aurelius. The pages which follow are not a book of proverbs,
but a diary of day-by-day living interspersed with frequent
passages of comment thereon, which is modestly offered in
the hope that it shows that a life unadventurous in action
need not be a dull one, if we make a hobby of reflecting on
what we do and what we observe.
The pages of this chronicle reveal
another trait, curiosity, that makes living more interesting,
thought it may not lead to unusual happiness. Curiosity in
thinking is to be recommended, though, more than curiosity
in action. There is a homely saying that "curiosity killed
a cat," but a cat is not a thinking animal. A general
curiosity is associated with a wide range of interests, to
which the perfectionist may object. But many interests do
bring variety, which is the opposite of monotony. Many interests
are more likely to be associated with the amateur than with
the professional. Furthermore, amateurs have more opportunity
to enjoy the pleasures of learning something new, which is
itself adventurous, than does the specialist.
Contemplation, love of ideas and curiosity are general traits.
Two specific traits are manifest in these entries, traits
which have brought pleasure to the author, and which he thinks
should bring pleasure to others. These are love of nature
and an aesthetic appreciation. Surely the world of "nature"
and the world of the "beautiful" are great areas
where the limited exploration and observation of a novitiate
bring many delights especially to those who are much occupied
with self and are therefore in need.