Light on the Sense of Proportion


Light on life’s Difficulties. By James Allen. The James Allen Free Library

Light on the Sense of Proportion

IN A NIGHTMARE there is no relation of one thing to another; all things are haphazard, and there is a general confusion and misery. Wise men have likened the self-seeking life to a nightmare. There is a close resemblance between a selfish life, in which the sense of proportion is so far lost that things are only seen as they affect one’s own selfish aims, and in which there are feverish excitements and overwhelming troubles and disasters, and that state of troubled sleep known as nightmare.

In a nightmare, too, the controlling will and perceiving intelligence are asleep; and in a selfish life the better nature and spiritual perceptions are locked in profound slumber.

The uncultivated mind lacks the sense of proportion. It does not see the right relation of one natural object to another, and is thereafter dead to the beauty and harmony with which it is surrounded.

And what is this sense of proportion but the faculty of seeing things as they are! It is a faculty which needs cultivating, and its cultivation, when applied to natural objects, embraces the entire intelligence and refines the moral character. It enters, however, into spiritual things as well as things natural, and here is more lacking, and more greatly needed. For to see things as they are in the spiritual sphere is to find no ground for grief, no lodging place for lamentation.

Whence spring all this grief and anxiety, and fear and trouble? Is it not because things are not as men and women wish them to be? Is it not because the multiplicity of desires prevents them from seeing things in their true perspective and right proportion?

When one is overwhelmed with grief, he sees nothing but his loss; its nearness to him blots out the whole view of life. The thing in itself may be small, but to the sufferer it assumes a magnitude which is out of proportion to the surrounding objects of life.

All who have passed the age of thirty can look back over their lives at times when they were perplexed with anxiety, overwhelmed with grief, or even, perhaps, on the verge of despair, over incidents which, seen now in their right proportion, are known to be very small.

If the would-be suicide will today stay his hand and wait, he will at the end of ten years marvel at his folly over so comparatively small a matter.

When the mind is possessed by passion or paralyzed with grief, it has lost the power of judgment. It cannot weigh and consider. It does not perceive the relative values and proportions of the things by which it is disturbed. Awake and acting, it yet moves in a nightmare which holds its faculties in thrall.

The passionate partisan lacks a sense of proportion to such an extent that, to him, his own side or view appears all that is right and good, and his opponent’s all that is bad and wrong. To this partiality his reason is chained, so that whatever reason he may bring to bear upon the matter is enlisted in the service of bias, and is not exercised in order to find the just relation which exists between the two sides. He is so convinced that his own party is all right, and the other, equally intelligent party is all wrong, that it is impossible for him to be impartial and just. The only thing he understands as justice is that of getting his own way, or placing some ruling power in the hands of his party.

Just as the sense of proportion in things material puts an end to the spirit of repugnance, so in things spiritual it puts an end to the spirit of strife. The true artist does not see ugliness anywhere; he sees only beauty. That which is loathsome to others fills, to him, its rightful place in nature, and it appears in his picture as a thing of beauty. The true seer does not see evil anywhere; he sees universal good. That which is hateful to others, he sees in its rightful place in the scheme of evolution, and it is held dispassionately in his mind as an object of contemplation.

Men and women worry, and grieve, and fight because they lack this sense of proportion, because they do not see things in their right relations. The objects of their turbulence are not things-in-themselves, but their own opinions about things, selfcreated shadows, the unreal creations of an egoistic nightmare.

The cultivation and development of the ethical sense of proportion converts the heated partisan into a gentle peacemaker, and gives the calm and searching of the prophet to the hitherto blind instrument in the clashing play of selfish forces.

The spiritual sense of proportion gives sanity; it restores the mind to calmness; it bestows impartiality and justice and reveals a universe of faultless harmony.

James Allen

James Allen

James Allen was born, on 28th November 1864, at 21, Brunswick Street, Leicester. His mother, Martha Allen, formerly Whalton, or Whotton, aged 37 years, registered the birth of her eldest son, on December 2nd with an ‘X’, the mark of the mother.

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