39. Latent decisions
40. Authority and authoritarianism
41. The theory of the germs
42. An exterior impulse
43. Learning to say"no"
44. Independence and education
45. Closed minds
46. The judgment of the children
47. Self-control and coherence
48. The problem of being a fool
49. The great men
39. Latent decisions
Julien Green describes with mastery that intimate, personal process, by which all the people listen in their interior a call to the responsibility, to be better, and that sometimes we listen and sometimes do not. There is a page of his diary that expresses it very well: "Such day of your infancy, while you played alone in the room of your mother and the sun shone on your hands, came toward you a certain thought, dressed as a messenger of the king, and you received it with happiness, but later you rejected it. And that thought should have been maintained. When you walked under the plane trees of such avenue, and your cousin told to you such words, you understood immediately that those words arrived to you from the part of God, but then you forgot them, because they contradicted in you the flavor of the pleasure. And such letter, that you broke and threw to the wastepaper basket, would have dissipated those doubts, but you didn't want to change. ..".
Some of those occasions have a special significance. They are seconds that seem to decide our destiny. And they are not somewhat accidental or unexpected, but the fruit of a long series of subtly joined acts. They are instants that seem imposed by a mysterious impulse, without any interior debate, but that apparent absence of deliberation doesn't imply lack of liberty. Our interior acts, those thousand of small details that we register in our interior almost without taking notice of them, all the numerous and negative lower-case letters that we leave to pass each day, they weave little by little, in a conscious or in a subconscious level, an interior framework. And a day, perhaps with occasion of an even indifferent, most minimum event in itself, arises in us an idea or a conviction that seems to have been born, but already that was formed in our mind, like Athene arose of the front of Zeus. They seem spontaneous acts or thoughts, but, in reality, they express the result of a battle that existed from time behind in a very personal level, in small hidden habits, in small hidden thoughts watched, in interior complicities. And a moment arrives in which our conscience is partly alienated, entangled in those nettings that we have gone weaving with the time and that they impede the expression of our true liberty.
In a similar way, our good deeds, our aspirations to the good, even our more insignificant acts of generosity, weave at the same time another deep network, that also appear a day in important personal decisions. The same as the habit of the many "no" brings a "no" at the moment of the truth; the habit to respond "yes" to the ambassadors of the truth is what straightens our life. Julien Green counts in his diary another small example. "The first time that I thought about the death as an event to which I would not escape, was when I was twenty years old. It was in the garden of my uncle, in Virginia. Evidently, I knew that I had to die, but, as says Bossuet, I didn't believe it. That day I made out what could signify the fact to die. It supposed a species of interior revelation, and that so simple thought -you will also die- I can affirm that changed me inside."
We live in the middle of a succession of decisions that conform our way to be. And it is not always easy to succeed. It would be simplistic to think that, when we close our heart to the call of good, comes immediately a feeling of anguish. Besides, it is possible even the existence of one initial interior relief, a feeling of liberation, of greater possession of oneself, as of a weight that one has been capable to remove from the top, of a responsibility that has left to weigh on us. The refusal of good doesn't always go accompanied by remorse, because the man that slides for the slope of evil lives in a species of magic that fascinates him. Evil can result attractive and good, while we do not taste it, can seem insipid and unreal. Only in the long run, evil discovers the satiety that it hidden, and then it doesn't always turn out to be easy to leave it. Therefore it is precise to keep our own heart, to watch for the sensibility of its doors; otherwise, quick we will find us possessed by ideas and feelings that mortgage our life.
40. Authority and authoritarianism
There are people that manage to gain a position of great respect through the force or the fear: they tend to utilize a coercive power to achieve what they propose. Their short-term efficacy uses to be high, but it is not easy to maintain it for a long time, because it produces a tense submission and causes attitudes of resistance that can come to be enormously active and ingenious.
This type of power is the one that some people exercise-in the work, in the school, in the family, etc. -, with generally deplorable long-term results, due that they enter with facility in a dynamic that encourages the simulation, the suspicion, the lie and the immorality.
In some extreme cases, when that tension is carried to the limit, it produces more serious personal conflicts, because -as wrote Alexander Solzhenitsyn- " the man only has power on the people while he doesn't press them too much; because, if a person is deprived of what he considers fundamental, he will consider that already he has nothing to lose and he will liberate himself of that subjection at any price".
The coercive power uses to disappear when disappears the capacity to exercise the threats or the fear, and then arise with facility, as a reaction, feelings of refusal, opposition or revenge.
There are other styles of authority less despotic, which manage to maintain a position of control in a more utilitarian way, through the way of the consideration and of the equilibrium of powers, and the people obey them and follow them exactly in concrete points, in exchange for some specific advantages. The relation that is established uses to be of simple functionality, and that equilibrium of forces is maintained while it benefits to both parts, or at least while to continue thus damage them less than to break it. It is certain that offers a certain sensation of equity and justice, but it is the type of situation of precarious and rarefied relations in the labor or in the family.
There are, finally, other forms to exercise the authority in a more harmonious way that fits with the dignity of the man. It is the moral authority that possesses those people in which the people trust and that is respected because the people believe in them and in the task that they are carrying out. It is not a blind faith neither a blind servitude; neither is it consequence of the dragging of a great personal charisma, but a free and conscious reaction that those people produce in the others thanks to their uprightness, their value and their attitude toward the others.
All we have known people that have awoke in us those feelings of adhesion. Perhaps that person surprised us placing a greater confidence in us, he treated us in a different form, he encouraged us in difficult moments, or he offered to us his aid when we didn't expect it. The case is that he generated in us a special consideration toward him: an attitude of respect, of loyalty, of commitment, of responsiveness.
This situation can also be produced in front of a personage that the mass media present to us, or in front of figures that we discover in the history, or in front of writers or artists of another epoch, for example. They can awake in us a current of extraordinary sympathy or, on the contrary, of deep refusal. To study those figures and to analyze the characteristics that produce those effects will be always a source of interesting ideas for everyone who desire to gain in moral authority.
41. The theory of the germs
Until it came to be known with sufficient depth the pathogenic action of the microbes, by the second half of the 19th century, there was among the medical investigators an enormous worry in front of the serious problem presented by the frequent infections in the hospitals.
The septic complications after any surgical intervention were almost inevitable and of very serious consequences. Also it was frequent that, after small injuries, important suppurations or septicemia were produced, and a high percentage of women dye as a result of infections originated during the delivery. But nobody understood why all that happened.
After his important bacteriological discoveries in the field of the fermentation, Louis Pasteur announces in 1859 his idea that the infectious processes are consequence of the action of a germ. But from where those microorganisms came? Until then, who had expounded that possibility had thought that they arose for spontaneous generation. Nevertheless, Pasteur goes finding specific microbes of different illnesses and observes that they are live beings that go passing from a body to another.
Shortly after, the English surgeon Joseph Lister discovers that, applying energetic antiseptic measures, the infections are reduced drastically: for example, in the case of the open fractures, he manages to reduce the mortality from the 50% to less than 15%, thanks to the employment of phenols as antiseptic product.
Further on, Pasteur discovers that those germs responsible of the illness can be isolated and cultivated, and that, if they are inactivated and they are inoculated in small dose in healthy bodies -to this finding he nominated vaccine-, they have an immunizing effect.
As soon as the microbial theory was developed, a new way to understand the hospital attention and, in general, of all the medicine was established. A small change of focus caused to saw the facts in a very different way and generated powerful transformations. To understand better what happened made possible an extraordinary advance. In an analogous way, many people experience a notable change in their thought in determined moments of their life. They discover a new side of the reality, and this causes a change in the keys with which they were interpreting the reality. A discovery causes us to substitute old keys by another wiser one.
It happens, for example, when a person has a serious accident, or when he faces a crisis that threatens to change seriously his life, or he passes for the test of the illness and of the pain, and suddenly he sees his priorities under a different light. Or when he begins to exercise new responsibilities or he assumes a new role in his life, like that of husband or that of wife, father or mother, and then a change of his way to see the things is produced.
If in our life we want to carry out small changes, it is possible that it is enough if we try harder to improve our conduct and to fight against our defects. But, if we aspire to an important change, it is precise to change our way to see the things.
The life goes charging us day by day of routines, of adhesions that go hindering our path. At times one must stop and see what is what he wants, not to give for good without more analysis our status quo, not to continue submissively the inertia of everything that we have done up till then, but to think once more the things in depth. We cannot forget that those values and principles are the plot that gives consistency to the fabric of our life and, therefore, they are our greater treasure (besides, almost the unique thing that we have safe from robberies, fires, bankruptcies or stock exchange slides).
42. An exterior impulse
Balzac described in an incomparable way how the example of Napoleon had empowered a complete generation in France. The dazzling ascent of the small lieutenant Bonaparte to the imperial throne of the world, for Balzac signified not only the triumph of a person, but also the victory of the idea of the youth. The fact that it was not necessary to have be born prince or noble to reach the power in an early age, of that he could proceed of a modest, when not poor family, and, nevertheless, to come to be general at the age of twenty-four, sovereign of France at the age of thirty and, shortly after of the entire world. That success without equal pulled out to thousands of people of their small positions and of their small villages: the lieutenant Bonaparte awoke to a whole generation of youths, prompted to a higher ambition.
Provided that a single young reaches something that until then seemed unattainable, be it in whichever field, with that success he encourages to all the youth that surrounds him. Bonaparte proceeded of the same class that them, his genius had been forged in a house similar to that of them; he attended to an institute as that of them, he had studied the same manuals and he had sat during years in the same desks of wood, showing the same impatience and the same youthful agitation; and, while he moved through those same places, he managed to surpass the narrowness of the space in which others were.
With independence of the judgment that deserve the path of that man, the example can serve us of reference to think about the enormous force that encloses each person, by simple and current that he could seem to the eyes of all. Each human being possesses some enormous latent possibilities, frequently hidden even for him, and that need aid to leave to the light. There has to be an exterior impulse, a model, a reference that causes him to feel capable, that awake his hidden energies.
And besides those references, models and ideals, it is necessary also a level of personal demand that make possible to pass from the theory to the practice, from the projects to the executions. This is of vital importance when we spoke of education. Because, as it was said by Corts Grau, the youth is frequently flattered, imitated, seduced, tolerated, but it is not demanded, it is not truly aided, it isn't asked for responsibility. Perhaps it is because we don't perceive sufficiently its capacity, and this is what they perceive, and they act consequently.
To love them truly supposes to have the value to demand them, to give them responsibility, because to have responsibility it is necessary before to have received responsibility. It is precise to promote the fortitude, the capacity to resist in the good, to confront difficulties with serenity and temper. And all this goes very united to the sobriety, to know how to get rid of the superfluous things, to learn to value more the people that the things.
In that decisive battle that the man should give against the mediocrity, there are two types of languages. One is the apocalyptic, devastating and unequivocal, as if he sought a stormy conversion of his emotionality. It is an attitude that promotes titanic efforts of self-possession and of voluntariness, sterile agitations that tire, that use to result useless and empty of meaning, when not counterproductive.
The other style is more human. It is directed to the man that has an extensive experience of his limitation and of his fragility. To the man that knows well that, to obtain something, it doesn't suffice with desiring it with intensity, but, besides, he has to get a stronger will, to seek for aid, to stock up humility for surpass the low moments and, above all, to put in his life sufficiently high references that would be worthwhile.
43. Learning to say no
"I love a lot to my small daughter -explained a quite sensible woman in a conversation with other married couples friends-; and I try to declare it to her in a concrete way each day. But there are times in which really my daughter carries herself badly".
"I have friends that tell me that, at this age, nobody behave badly, and that they do innocently something that yet they haven't learned that it is bad. But I don't agree. Although she is a small girl, I have seen my daughter to behave badly and be conscious of it.
"It is true that there are small things, which content small maliciousness, to her level, but it is malice, finally. They are things that seem to us of little importance, but that for her do have importance. And for her profit and for my profit I have to act with firmness, I have to say her "no", a fully clear "no", so that she understands it and obeys immediately.
"It has no reason to happen frequently, but, when it happens, one must make her to see that by no means she should do that. And that there I am, willing to maintain my opinion firmly. And, if she doesn't like what I do, I don't like it, and she will even start crying and crying, and I will pass also a bad moment, but I will not give up, because I believe that this is bad, and there are times in which one must draw a line in the sand and she should understand that she shouldn't transfer that line. And thus I will do until she is capable of hearing in her interior the word "no", and not only the reasons that I tell to her."
"And when the children are already older?" he asked one of the presents. "It is a little different, but also one must learn to say "no". What do I do? I sit down and I speak with him, or with her. I do not shout to him or to her. But I tell him or her in what I believe and why, and I don't have hairs in the tongue. I try to go straight to the point. And I also listen with attention, because, at times, with their reasons they have done me to have a change of mind. I have no fear to have a change of mind if they convince me, but I do neither fear to employ the word "good" and the word "bad".
"But there are difficult themes and difficult ages. For example, how do you manage so that they listen to you in question of sex?" they asked her again. All they listened with attention. She didn't need a lot of time to collect their thoughts and to answer: "I speak separately with him, or with her, and always they listen to me. They don't always agree with me, mainly at the beginning, but, at the end, we manage to understand us almost totally. There are some times in which they don't understand, but at least they know well that I desire that they agree with me, although they don't understand it completely, that is to say, that I want they trust in which I tell them, because I am their mother and I want the best for them. And I told them thus. I do it few times, but at times I do it. I ask them that they obey me in that concrete matter, even although at the beginning they don't understand it completely and although they know that, probably, I will not be able to control them. I know that this will seem strange to many people, but I tell to my adolescent children that until they marry, they should not have sexual relations in any circumstance, with nobody at all.
"My theory consists of speaking with each son or daughter, to listen to them, to try to persuade them, but also sometimes -simply- to tell them "no". And I'm not afraid to employ moral values that in the family we have had always."
Listening to that conversation, came to my memory, by contrast, some words of the protagonist of that novel of Susanna Tamaro: "The largest remorse is that of not have had never the valor to face up to her, of having said never: "My daughter, you are wrong". To have felt that in her words there were some quite dangerous slogans. I should have removed immediately things, by her benefit, and, nevertheless, I was refrained to intervene. The matters that we spoke were essential. What caused to me to act -better said, not to act- was the idea that, to be beloved, I had to elude the collision, to simulate that it was what it wasn't.
"My daughter was dominant by nature, she had more character than I had, and I feared the open clash, I was afraid to oppose to her. If I had loved her truly, I would have had to become angry against her, even to treat her sometimes with hardness; I would have had to oblige her to do determined things or to not do them at all. Perhaps it was exactly what she wanted, what she needed. To know why the elementary truths are the most difficult to understand! If in that circumstance I had understood that the first quality of the love is the force, probably the events would have developed otherwise."
44. Independence and education
There are people that think that to form to others in some values supposes an imposition of those values. They say that it should be each one who recognize the values, that interest them; that to form to others in some specific values is to force the people, to mold them, to submit them to an influence more or less authoritarian and, in that measure, to destroy the personal originality.
Nevertheless, it seems clear that all our existence is woven with contributions of the others, and that it would be ridiculous to want to elude in an absolute way their influence. It suffices to think about the process that continues any person since his birth: the man comes to the world as the most helpless of the living beings, incapacitated for almost all during long years; and as well as his corporal development is not produced without a diet provided by others, something similar occurs with his intelligence, whose potentiality is developed by means of the influence of the others, an influence that during the first years results totally indispensable. In fact, the scarce known examples of children that were raised in a wild way, far away from the civilization, show clearly that reality.
The most recent studies about the factors that influence in the development of the intelligence coincide in offering a considerable value -at least statistically speaking- to the cultural medium in which he has lived. The man barely can progress in his own life, intellectual or moral, without being helped by the collective experience that the passed generations have accumulated and conserved. It could be able to say that the society hoards the past and that, thanks to it, in the man there is progress and history.
The pretension that all our actions are carried out in an absolutely autonomous and private way signifies not to know the limitation of the man. The search of the absolute personal autonomy would carry to an impoverished and exhausting existence, and even irrational in the measure in which it only would admit original solutions, renouncing systematically to all the verified and clear realities that the humanity has gone accumulating along the centuries.
It is a sad error to think that any thing that we do, in order to be considered truly personal, should be done in a totally alien, solitary and totally original way, alien to every influence or contribution, as if any influence attempted immediately against our personality. That would suppose to confuse the fact to have personality with adopting an attitude of self-sufficiency and absolutism, that is a blunder of the most frustrating in which we can fall. It is certain that it is correct to leave an extensive margin to the personal creativity, but without confusing the creativity with that pseudo infantile vanity that causes to someone to think that they are called to introduce genial news in everything that they do and that, besides, they will manage to get it only from themselves, without including alien contributions. That would cause to confuse the spontaneity with the wisdom.
The true creativity needs always of an equilibrium: it isn't neither the foolish originality of whom seeks to oppose to all the established things; neither the serialized and gray production of whom is incapable to introduce a personal contribution in nothing of what he does; neither the mimetic originality of that great quantity wave of mediocre men that use to follow to the true creators, imitating ingenuously their style without coming to grasp their substance.
Nobody from us has given himself the life; neither have we determined the characteristics of our personality. Nevertheless, it corresponds to us to develop them. The full execution of our personality is like a progressive self-colonization. And, to achieve it, there is no reason to consider as an obstacle the fact of being helped by others, that is to say, the fact to receive stimulus, counsel, spirit, and example. Certainly exists the danger that the counsel finishes into a certain domination on the part of another person, and therefore -as it has been written by José Antonio Ibáñez-Martin- a thing is to receive aid, to make use of that second hand that is offered to us, and another very different one is to convert our life in a second-hand existence. They are well different things, and from one of them it is not necessary to pass to the other.
We would be able to compare it to what happens with other human phenomena as, for example, with the language. The language can seem that limits the liberty because obliges us to use a stereotyped repertoire; nevertheless, there is an enormity of possibilities to express our ideas: suffices to see the difference that there is between a good speaker and who speaks clumsily. In the same way, to receive from others a good education is very different to be dominated and to be manipulated by them. It is evident that the man can relinquish of his personality where he should have maintained it, so that the aid stops being a contribution to transform him into a dictatorship, but that would be a perversion -or at least a trivialization- of the straight sense that has the fact of the education.
Where is the limit among an influence really educational and legitimate and another that was authoritarian and invading? In order that this influence would be legitimate, it is necessary that it seeks to form an authentic interiority in those to who is directed. An interiority that can resist, among other things, to the superficial and dispersive tendencies of each epoch. A solid personal nucleus that don't leave the person under the swaying of the fashion in the world of the thought.
On the other hand, to have a notable personal autonomy is not incompatible, at all, with showing a convenient responsiveness, that is to say, a broad mindedness that seek a constant personal enrichment thanks to the contributions of the others. Responsiveness that, as it is natural should be shown only in front of whom deserves that attitude, and that shouldn't be passive but active, so much in the search of the opinions that deserve us authority as in the effort by maintaining later an open attitude in front of them. To manage it, it is necessary to surpass the pride and the laziness, to maintain the necessary coolness of imagination and to proceed with a total submission to the demands of the truth that we perceive.
And who assumes the task to form, should try always to cause to think to the others, since to form is not to shape from outside the spirit of the other to our image and resemblance, but to awake in his interior to the latent artist that will carve from inside his work. A work that, many times, will be unforeseeable for us and perhaps strange to our desires. By means of the education, we don't try to obtain the execution of some specific acts, neither we seek simply to transmit some criteria for the conduct. It is a matter of seeking in each person the development more fully human of his capacities, so that from there flow with naturalness a way of being and a way of acting harmonious with the education that he has gone assimilating.
45. Closed minds
"With him you can speak, he doesn't seem an adult". Thus was explaining, referring himself to one of his professors, a fourteen years old boy in an informal comment with a companion of the school.
By hearing it, I remained thoughtful. I asked myself why would think that boy that with the majority of the adult people he couldn't speak. To disqualify without more reason that self-assured appreciation of that young seemed to me too simple, too comfortable. Besides, that was a good way to confirm it. It was precise to undertake that matter with a little more of self-criticism on the part of the adult people. I have some ideas on this matter and I would try to explain them.
There are insecure people, which fail to stop their tendency to feed their doubts, which are tormented continuously with perplexities and with hesitancies. To decide any thing they need support, endorsement, adhesion. Nevertheless, it is quite common that those people fear to declare their insecurity and, therefore, they try to hide it, at least in front of those with who they don't have a great confidence. The result is that, at least usually, the insecure people don't use to reveal their insecurity, but they try to show themselves externally as confident and determined. In many cases, besides, that attitude becomes a hypercompensated insecurity that carries them to speak with great firmness of things that they aren't convinced at all or they want to show themselves as very determined persons when it is clear that they aren't.
There are other people whose problem is the opposite, although the final result is similar. They are those that, by nature, have an excess of evidences and of confidence. They think, they speak and they act without standing on ceremony, shamelessly. Their ideas use to be clear and flat. They have little capacity of surprise and little eagerness to learn. Their mind seems as if it was already almost finished. They seem to be already in complete possession of the truth. When they speak, they instruct. It costs them to take charge of the emotional situation of the others and, therefore, they speak with little opportunity. With facility they disqualify or they stigmatize to who thinks otherwise. Their mental outline is so closed that any new data always reinforces their previous ideas. They think few times if their ideas are wise or if they are the better ones, but all new data is always to their favor, everything that they listen confirms their old line of thinking. As they use to be simple, they tend to do appreciations of group: good is that which is mine or that which is of ours; bad is what is not mine, or what is not of ours. They don't judge the ideas, but, above all -or exclusively-, from where do the ideas come, of from who are there. They are as shielded against the onslaught of any thought of self-criticism.
They are distinguished easily by seeing them how they behave in a conversation. So many years living in that attitude have carried them to some manners that do them difficult to listen. They are always thinking about what are going to tell next. And if they cannot insert their ideas, they are immediately absent minded, and then perhaps they ask what has been just said. They think that they have the reason, and with facility they interrupt, they don't leave the others to finish, because they don't listen, because they have already judged and they only think about putting their idea or, at the most, in convincing the person they are speaking to.
Perhaps I am describing some extreme cases. We would be able to draw a more moderate profile, in which all of us, in a way or another, should see us appealed to, because to all of us happens us in a greater or in a smaller degree. It is bad that, when reading this, almost all of we think about distant intractable personages, and we don't realize when passes does exactly to us. Why they are not recognized – or we don't recognize us- when it is described? Perhaps because we know us little, because we have fear to change, to present us doubts on ways to be that are shelters that seem comfortable to us and, in reality, they are dark and cold.
Which is the solution? The solution is to awake the interest toward the things, to learn to listen. To instill love towards the serene reflection, explaining the reasons of the things, facilitating the fluent communication among the people. To do an effort seeking to understand the mind of the others, by asking and by listening until we understand the reasons of the others, and only then exposing the own arguments, if this turns out to be necessary.
To this there would be added perhaps a certain defense of the perplexity, an effort by not trivialize the complex things, by not to label the things in a simple way, avoiding to reject them after with a weight that turns out to be distressing. We can't say constantly "this is thus and no more comment", because the reality uses to resist to those judgments and to those so simple diagnoses.
It is logical that, with the pass of the years, each one of us goes forming an opinion on the things. This is positive, evidently. But, if that carries us to have an attitude to close the mind, to consider the things as already finally resolved, this is, in the long run, an error of serious consequences. Because even our deeper convictions need reflection, they require that we try to improve their foundation that we make an effort to improve in that self explanation of our own principles. We must know how to express our ideas, to know how to respond to the criticisms that are presented to them, instead of disqualifying those objections without any reasoning. It is precise to be exercised in a healthy and oxygenated intellectual debate, contrasting our ideas with those of the others. This is what I think many adults lack, and what causes that, sometimes, the young people see us as saw us that boy of fourteen years.
46. The judgment of the children
I read not long ago an interesting comment on the story of Little Red Riding Hood. It came to say that the children of our days react of different form when they listen to the narration of that old story or when they see it in the puppet theater.
The children of today think that the family of Little Red Riding Hood was scarcely exemplary. A mother that has her mother, with so many years, living many leagues away of her house is, at first sight, a woman that loves very little. A mother that permits that her daughter, in this case, Little Red Riding Hood , enters alone in the forest to carry to the abandoned granny a basket with an assortment of homemade products is an egotistical and little responsible mother. If she has had slightly more of common sense, she would have had accompanied her daughter in this so long and risky crossing. The big bad wolf does what he has to do. He receives the information, he advances to Little Red Riding Hood, he eats the grandmother, that lives alone because her daughter doesn't want her to live at home, he dresses with the nightshirt of the grandmother, he adjusts his hairnet in the head and he goes to the bed waiting to the naïve girl that has given to him all the details. And Little Red Riding Hood arrives and she doesn't recognize her grandmother, and she believes that the wolf is the granny, what shows how silly the girl was and the few times that she had visited to her granny. And the wolf eats her because she has deserved it. Therefore, when the wolf gobbles her down, the children of today applaud wildly, to the point that in many puppet theaters it has been eliminated out of the story the figure of the hunter that saves to both, because it would not result popular.
It demonstrates that the children of today are not moved by the tenderness or by the moral, and they expect, above all, coherence and sensibleness. The children of today don't forgive to the shameless mother of Little Red Riding Hood, her bad attitude towards the grandmother, because a mother must not be sick and alone in the forest. And they neither forgive the forgetfulness of Little Red Riding Hood, incapable to distinguish between a grandmother and a wolf put in the bed with the nightshirt and the hairnet of the granny.
Every child is, in principle, a little psychologist, that judges to his parents, and, in general, to all the adults. He studies them and sounds out them unceasingly and soon he determines which the limits of his power and of his liberty are. He uses to this effect all his small weapons, mainly, the tears or the annoyances. A creature of six months, for example, knows already how to read in the face of his father or of his mother to discern what he should do or not, his approval or his disapproval. And, the more is spoiled the child, the more defenseless he or she is left, as did that woman that left her mother in the middle of the forest and send her alone daughter to visit her.
When the time passes, the children will judge with hardness the abandonment that supposes to have spoiled them. They will be hurt of that zeal to have saved every sacrifice to them, of to have avoided so many opportunities to strengthen their will. Therefore it is so important for us not to confuse what is object of our affection with what can be our perdition. The parents that, by blinded love, by comfort or by ingenuousness, have tried to satisfy always the whims of their children, quick they find that they are not able to deal with the horse that was not tamed when he was a colt. And the worse thing is that by then the children have already enough age to notice the damage that their parents have caused to them with so much condescendence.
By fortune, also they know how to value when they that have been educated in the effort and in the personal demand and they thank to their parents as a great treasure that they have bequeathed to them.
47. Self control and coherence
Seneca appreciated a lot the self control and regretted about that the people that were left to be enslaved by their own passions. In his writings he used to cite as an example of this degradation to Alexander the Great: "Alexander devastated and put to flight to the Persians, to the Hircans, to the Indians and to all the countries that extended for the East to the ocean, but he himself, some times by having a friend killed, other by having lost a friend, he was laying on the darkness, regretting sometimes his crimes, sometimes his solitude, and the winner of so many kingdoms and towns succumbed to the wrath and to the sadness. Because he had behaved so that he had legal authority on all the things, but not on his own passions. What a great error made the man that desire to carry his control beyond the seas and he was considered very happy if he obtained fighting many provinces and he added new ones to the old, without knowing which the largest and equal to gods' kingdom is. The self-domination itself is the major of the empires. To whom can you admire in greater measure that to whom governs himself, to whom is maintained under his own dominion? It is easier to govern rebellious and barbaric nations that to contain the own soul and to deliver it to one same".
Seneca was right when he said that to govern oneself is the most difficult and necessary government. A government that turns out to be indispensable to be a good person, because it is utopian to want to be generous and worried about the others if there is no eagerness to be in control of the own desires. Who is left to be dominated by them, perhaps desires of heart the good to the others, but, at the end, almost all the times he will finish priorizing his desires and his interests, and will be not a reliable person.
A weakened will is incapable to manage well the own life. To let oneself be carried by the winds of the passion is not liberty, because this doesn't carry to do what oneself wants, what he really wants but what spontaneous and trivially the desire says. Therefore it is precise to form oneself to put passion in the good thing and to feel displeasure towards the bad thing: that will be the sign that the liberty goes penetrating and leaving trace in the own body.
The student that asks when all the others are in silence; or the one that takes a step forward when he is asked about the responsible for a destruction; or the one that is capable of maintaining the opinion or the comment against the usual opinion, or to assume the quota of unpopularity that almost always suppose the difficult decisions; the one that knows to say "no" in a reasoned and constructive form to the chief, to the adolescent son, or to the group, eluding the easy option to please the others when that supposes a surrender; all that, although it is costly, goes writing down a coherence of life and a mature character. The talent is wasted and lost without exercising the muscle of the will.
This doesn't signify to understand the personal improvement, or the strengthening of the "muscle" of the will, like a species of psychological or spiritual "bodybuilding". Among others reasons, because the voluntarism or the prepotency uses to function badly. One must live together always with the conscience of the own weakness, knowing that any person, in determined time of his life, and despite his will and his conscience of the duty, can feel defenseless in front of the power of mysterious forces. There are moments of great confusion for who have experienced certain enjoyment in being judged stronger, more moral and straighter than the others. But for all these are moments that help us to understand better to the others, to count more with them and, for the ones that are believers, to count also more with the aid of God.
48. The problem to be a fool
"We find us, therefore, with the same difference that eternally exists between the fool and the perspicacious. The perspicacious always get surprised on the point to be a fool; thus he has to do an effort to escape of the imminent foolishness, and the intelligence consists in that effort.
"The fool, on the other hand, doesn't suspect his condition: he seems very sensible, and from that the enviable tranquility with which he is installed in his own clumsiness. As those insects that are impossible to extract out of the orifice in which they inhabit, there is no way to get the foolish out of his foolishness, to carry him to take a walk a while beyond his blindness and to oblige him to contrast his clumsy habitual vision with other more subtle ways to see.
"The fool is for the entire life and without pores. Anatole France said that a fool is a lot more ill-fated than a villain, because the villain rests some times; the fool, never."
These reflections of Ortega y Gasset turn out to be very interesting for all, because all we have something of stupidity and, above all, because only we show to be intelligent when we know how to notice our own stupidity and when we know how to escape from it with normality. We declare us intelligent exactly when we note that, with our totally foreseeable intuitions, with our bored reiteration of prejudices and stereotypes, with our incapacity to change of point of view on the people or on the matters, or with our ridiculous effort in appear like more documented and intelligent people of what we are, what we show in reality with all this is that we have not noted that we were near to be fools, or that we have noted it but we haven't known how to stop it in time.
All we incubate stupidity, and perhaps we should follow the advice of Ortega and dare us to take a walk beyond our securities, to endeavor for contrasting our vision of the things with those of other people, to the ones that perhaps up to now we have underestimated without bothering for understanding them.
To be a fool is not to have greater or smaller Intelligence Quotient. All we know people with a modest IQ but with an enormous sensibleness. And supposedly very intelligent but so conceited people that are truly foolish. The fools have become to be so based on repetitive actions in which they are blinded in front of a foolish vanity, a foolish sensitivity, a stupid sufficiency or a clumsy envy.
All we have limitations, and we show intelligence when we note them and when we try to accept them and to surpass them little by little. The fool, on the other hand, doesn't note them, and if he notes them, he tries to conceal them at any cost, and that never turns out well. Therefore, in order not to be a fool, the first thing is to have the will to recognize the truth of the things. "I don't know another way to eradicate a defect or a personal vice that to declare it and to put it on the table of the sincerity", wrote Gregorio Marañón. If we are sincere, we will note that, too often, we impel us in maintaining our opinion although it is obviously capable of improvement, or we intend to pretend a security that we don't have and we do then the most frightening ridiculous, or we are too much pending of our rank and we turn out to be pathetic.
To be a fool has a lot of relation with the prejudice and with the stereotype, because both are consequence of our retirement of the effort of thinking. We judge to all in accordance with what seems us well, in accordance to our intuition perhaps a little aged by manias and stubbornnesses. We let us to carry for intellectual whims that conduct us to the confusion and to the obstinacy. We permit that the fixed ideas substitute to the free and open thought. We lose thus the mental freshness and we approach step by step to the problem of being a fool.
49. The great men
Stefan Zweig relates in his autobiography an interesting anecdote happened during his stay in Paris, in 1904. By then, he was not more than a young novice of 23 years, but he had the luck to coincide occasionally with some of the most famous writers and artists of his time. The relation with some of those great men resulted to him of great profit, but -according to the narration of Zweig- still he hadn't received the decisive lesson, the one that would be of worth for him for the rest of his life.
It was a gift of the chance. It arose because of an impassioned conversation in the house of his friend Verhaeren. They spoke about the value of the painting and the sculpture of the moment, and his friend invited him to go together the following day to the house of Rodin, one of the then more prestigious artists. In that visit, Zweig was so restrained that he didn't dare to take the word neither a single time. Curiously, his confusion seemed to please to the old Rodin, that when he was saying good-bye asked to the young writer if he would like to know his study, in Meudon, and he invited him to eat there with him. He had received the first lesson: the great men are always the kindest.
The second lesson was that the great men almost always are the ones that live in a simpler form. In the house of that man, whose fame filled the world and whose works were known by all of his contemporaries in detail, as are known the most intimate friends. In that house the meal was eaten with the same simplicity as in that of the average peasant. That simplicity instilled spirit to the young writer to speak with ease, as if that old man and his wife were his friends since many years ago.
The following lesson arose when Rodin conducted him to a pedestal covered with some dampened clothes that hid his last work. With his heavy and wrinkled hands he withdrew the cloths and went back some steps. When he showed the image, he noted a small detail to correct. "Only here, in the shoulder, it is a moment." He asked excuses, he took a spatula and with a magisterial line smoothed that soft skin that breathed as if it was alive. Then he went back some steps. "And here also", murmured he. And again he highlighted the effect with a petty detail. He advanced and he went back, he changed it and he corrected it. He worked with all the force and the passion of his enormous and strong body. By doing so he elapsed near an hour. Rodin was so absorbed, so plunged in the work, that he forgot completely that behind him was a silent young, with his heart in his mouth and a lump in his throat, happy to be able to observe in full work to a unique master as Rodin was. Zweig had seen the revelation of the eternal secret of the magnificent art and, deep down of every human work: the concentration, the collection of all the forces, of all the senses. He had learned something for all the life.
This simple event sufficed to that young student to discover how the great men were, the truly large spirits. Their humility and their capacity of work are something very distant of what we use to see in many people that are considered great but that are only contemptuous of the others, personages covered with a clumsy pride that causes them to be considered inhabitants of sublime solitudes. They are fatuous men that are considered as if only they were chosen and intelligent souls. That sufficiency of the office worker, in the style of "you don't know who I am", is the opposite of the authentic autonomy of judgment of the great men, that never go accompanied by contempt towards the neighbor, and that when they speak about the human stupidity, they know well that they are neither immune to it, but that some times they will be more intelligent and sometimes more foolish than the one that is at their side.