Sunday, May 25, 2008

White cloth can be dyed to any color

"White cloth can be dyed to any color. Such is the way of the mind. It can assume any trait, good or bad. As such the ideal set before it should be great. God is held to be the repository of everything good. Adoration of God is therefore salutary." Swami Chidbavananda
David Seaton's News Links
A regular reader of News Links wrote in today about the usefulness of ideology, his critique was brilliantly devastating:
Ideology gives me hives and I often imagine a certain sector of hell that Dante forgot to describe where the condemned enter a restaurant, and instead of taking the order, the diners are forced to listen to interminable verbal descriptions of all the marvelous specials. This goes on for hours, and then, finally the ordering. But no dinner, not even the appetizer is even served. Then, the waiter re-emerges and the specials list is repeated, as the kitchen hasn't available what the diners ordered.
That is really good! However I don't quite agree.

What is ideology? Webster defines ideology as "visionary theorizing". Having a vision, which is embodied in a system.

I was pleased that at almost the same time the reader wrote, I came across, in truly serendipitous fashion, a "message for today" (May 25th) in an old Hindu almanac written by
Swami Chidbavananda, which is pasted above.

It is interesting to note that in this passage by Swami Chidbavananda, the great Indian sage makes no actual claim that God, in fact, exists, he only states that since, "God is held to be the repository of everything good. Adoration of God is therefore salutary". What is salutary is adoring a great ideal, because, "White cloth can be dyed to any color. Such is the way of the mind": That, "the ideal set before it should be great."

In short, great ideals ennoble the mind. In the end, what is in your head is all you've really got.

It is important to have ideals even though nothing ever turns out how you first planned it. Probably no general ever planned more meticulously than Prussia's, Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, considered the greatest general in the second half of the 19th century, yet his most famous quote is the classic,
"No battle plan survives contact with the enemy"
Napoleon said,
"On s' engage, puis on vois"
Which means get started and then see what happens, but Napoleon always had before him the ideal of victory and planned for it.

When you swing at a baseball you never know if you'll actually hit it, but you try to hit through it, and follow through. If you don't do that, even if you connect with the ball, it won't go very far.

A home run is the result of
"visionary theorizing".

If someone accepts the idea that nothing can be changed, be sure that nothing will be changed... especially and most importantly in that person. DS

1 comment:

RC said...

Thanks for taking the time to read the comments, David. I meant to amend the comment so that it read "not even the appetizer is ever served" and of course, once again, I so much appreciate your knowledge of history.
Perhaps one might respect the visionary theories, which are in and of themselves very useful as an inspiration to act or even just as pure inspiration, but when one is face to face with the Russian winter, maybe it is best to avoid frostbite and spend less energy upon the theoretical and more on marching, fast. I offered the comment vis a vis the beauty of the pragmatic, although I am ready to accept that ultimately, pragmatism may lead to the end justifies the means argument, which I am reluctant to endorse, but often tempted.
My favorite gleanings from your posts are the historical references which I follow up on as my education in that field is limited.
Thanks for the inspiration! But I wish to point out that I can't go along with the sage, as I experience that while whatever is held in the mind may give great strength, the body must be dragged along and sometimes mortality or infirmity trump inspiration. Sometimes it's just bad luck or bad timing. Ask Hillary.