In our world everybody thinks of changing humanity, and nobody thinks of changing himself. –Leo Tolstoy (‘Three Methods of Reform’ – 1900)
Greenleaf writes: ‘…it is important that one find in his work that which is uniquely oneself. …No other achievement, no other end sought will be worth the effort if through the work that occupies one’s best days and years one does not find a way to fan his own creative spark to a white heat.’
Greenleaf then offers us some ‘Considerations’ (‘To Consider’ means to reflect upon and NOT to immediately accept nor immediately reject).
Greenleaf writes: ‘All work…both develops and limits. It stretches one out in some ways and narrows one in others; it both fans the flame and seeks to quench it. …Whenever I think I have really achieved something, up come those powerful lines from Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road” – Now understand well/It is not provided in the essence of things that from any fruition of success, no matter what, shall come forth something to make a great struggle necessary.
Greenleaf adds: ‘The greater struggle that will be necessary comes because long exposure to stress and responsibility tends to narrow the intellect unless a valiant effort is made to achieve an ever-expanding outlook. …The intellectual life must expand constantly. The great risk which the bearers of responsibility assume is that intellectual curiosity and the capacity for a “feeling” response will atrophy and that only a calculating rationality will remain.
[When] one has a problem on which it is appropriate to act, and [when] one doesn’t know what to do…one should turn to the search for greater depth of understanding about the problem. The main reason one will ever feel the pressure of a problem, ANY kind of problem, is that one’s understanding of himself, of the other people involved or of the area in which the problem lies is limited. Therefore, the search for understanding is most practical, even though the “practical” people often spurn it. …It is difficult to seek to understand when the heat is on. …One should learn to seek to understand when the heat is not on; make a firm habit of it, and try to be aware that this will only serve one well if the habit is firmly enough fixed so that one can manage it when the going is rough, when the stakes are real and when the consequences of failing to understand may be overwhelming.
Well, Gentle Reader, this seems to provide us enough to reflect upon. Next time I will offer some of what emerges for me as I reflect upon Greenleaf’s words. Until next time – reflect, search, seek and pay attention to what emerges from within you.
Search in order to understand. –Robert K. Greenleaf