20 November 1956
After reading a little of “Creative Writing”, I looked through a few of my old notebooks, and came to this conclusion: most of my writing is a reaction to what I have read. Actually, there is very little original thinking. Of course, that may be all I have to work with – as my social contacts are limited. Maybe the thing to do is limit my reading matter and see people more – pay more attention to the life around me, the people around me. Unfortunately, even as I write this, the prosaicness of everyday existence engulfs me with a reaction of monotony and lackluster. Maybe this feeling is due to a desire for the dramatic – like a person accustomed to heady wines and spicy food. The plain diet seems tasteless. Yet there must be small dramas going on all the time for which my observations have not been trained.
Albert Schweitzer: ”To rule with a whip, figuratively or literally, creates more problems than it solves. To assume and he quality which does not exist has no better results.” There was only one basis of real authority, Schweitzer found. The native has no way of judging the white man’s technical achievements as proof of his mental and spiritual superiority. But he seemed to have an unerring intuition for evidence of the possession of moral qualities. When he found kindliness, justice and integrity, he acknowledged a master. When he failed to find them, he was defiant.
To maintain these high qualities, to keep yourself human, and so maintain authority and leadership – that was a perpetual challenge.
The test, Schweitzer found, was the ancient Christian test whether or not you thought of men as masses or as people. . . From ego centered, materially centered to creative – and goodwill centered.
Through the ages (Western civilization) so many men have exercised “power over” people instead of giving them “power to” make life more human, that now when the individual man has been fixed governmentally for some kind of exercise of free will, even single humans amidst our modern civilization want the feel of “power over” their neighbors, their friends, in an ego-centered rather than a universally centered human kindliness.
The symbol of this “power over” is the possession of material items, and the demand for more from the self-centered man. Cooperation for the common welfare is most unpopular. Leaders set these patterns – that is exactly what was at stake in the Ruth Guenther mother singer hassle.
That’s the trouble (in spite of our love of institutions) with institutions – too often it is a perpetuation of the institution and its set up, rather than the ideals and principles upon which it had its original sparkling foundation. The blight under it all is when the individual decides self-interest seeking and personal profit is the only way to happiness and achievement versus cooperation for the common welfare – with human dignity and kindliness unmeasured by the latest gadget or the newest style car, or the presidency of a bank or club for prestige purposes, rather than genuine usefulness to the common good – not the bank’s good, or the corporations profit picture alone.
A war on the flight from thinking and organized efforts by social political and even religious bodies to discredit individuals thinking in their effort to persuade men to yield their minds to the authority of groups seeking strength not in ideas but in conformity – a war on those who worked to get man to relinquish his right to think for himself and reap only spiritual bankruptcy. Schweitzer says only in the reverence of life blanketing all human struggle to endure the simple elemental thinking which could help humans endure and somehow master the strain of labor and sorrow, the mystery of life, pain, and death, could bring serenity to mankind – not exploitation for personal gain – but a universal acceptance of responsibility for one’s fellow man in all the corners of the earth. And that not by compulsion but by example and moral love of one’s fellow humans.
Dorothea Brande says in her introduction to “Becoming a Writer” “The importance of words and short stories in our society is great fiction supplies the only philosophy that many readers know; it establishes their ethical social and material standards; he confirms them in their purchases or opens their minds to a wider world. . . If it is sensational, shoddy or vulgar our lives are the poorer for the cheap ideals which it sets in circulation. . . The movies can extend this process to those too young, too impatient, or too uneducated to read in this respect – writing needs no apology for serious intentions.”