Chapter 14 — Maps and Instructions
Did you ever start out on a cross-country trip of a hundred miles or more, from a height which gave you a view of the whole road you had to travel, from beginning to end? It would be a high mountain indeed that would give you such a view. There are doubtless places in our Rockies from which we can see the country for long distances, sometimes perhaps for fifty miles, maybe much more. Sometimes the air is so clear that distant things seem much closer than they actually are. Sometimes we can actually see the road itself, its turns and twists, its straight stretches, its climbs and descents, its bridges, the towns along the way, even the detours, so far ahead that we can anticipate nearly all the conditions we shall have to meet on the way to where we plan to go.
But usually the road ahead of us is no such open path. Usually we get out the road map and study it, and lay out our route by what somebody else—the mapmaker—tells us is the most practical, the most direct, the easiest way. Then we get reports from some automobile club as to the condition of pavements, shortcuts, points of interest, places to find food and shelter, the safe, comfortable highways to follow—all based on actual experience in driving over the route we intend to follow. Then we watch the signs along the way: “Twelve Miles to Pleasantville,” “Turn Right for Delight Valley,” “This Way to Big Vision Mountain,” “Slow—Sharp Turn,” “Steep Hill—Go into Second Gear,” “Crossroad,” “ School—Slow,” “Men at Work,” “Fresh Oil,” “Toll Bridge Ahead,” “Gingergas and Smoothoil,” “Welcome to Ourtown,” “Drive Carefully, Please,” “Thank You.” Road signs, these, put up by people who came this way before we did, and who made it their business or thought it a privilege to make the road safe and easy and pleasant for us!
All this for our guidance. All we have to do is to observe simply and follow instructions quietly and easily and naturally, and we “get along fine”! If we follow this guidance simply and naturally. Guidance!
But what do we do about guidance on a long, long road, very little of which we can commonly see from any height, the road we call life? Do we get a road map, ask people who know from experience, watch and obey the signs along the way?
Some of us do strange things. Some of us spend hours, weeks, years turning over road maps, skeptical concerning their dependability. Some of us distrust everybody who tells us his experience. Some of us “don’t believe in signs.” Some of us pull up beside the road and stop and wait and guess and worry. We seem to have an idea that some good angel is going to come along and take us in tow, or do our driving for us. Some of us just throw away all available information, release our brakes, step on the gas, and go roaring along reckless of curves and hills and traffic and crossroads and men at work and all the rest, as if luck were the rule of the road, as if we had a heaven-given right to think that some special dispensation of Providence might guard us from danger and carry us through. Then when things happen that we do not like, when “accidents” occur, or when nothing happens at all, or insurmountable obstacles oppose us, we grow sour, or bitter, or furious, or despairing, or resigned, and resent the fact that we have to travel the road at all, and abuse fate, or fortune, or God—whatever we think we believe in—for allowing us to suffer, for requiring anything of us, for putting us here in the first place!
Some of us do still stranger things. I know a man who spends his time telling other people how to travel the road, but who neglects his family, dodges obvious duties, borrows money without any idea of paying it back, changes his plan every few weeks, yet sets himself up as an authority on life and living. I know a woman who always picks out the hardest thing she can find to do and tries to do that, who is a martyr at every opportunity, who looks upon life as a vale of tears, who seems to think that getting to heaven is mostly a matter of dodging hell, and who considers it her duty, or right, or privilege to meddle in other people’s affairs as if she had been divinely appointed to set them right by mixing them up. I know another man who professes to be searching for Truth, but who always puts up an argument against every idea that is presented to him. I know a man who has an ambition to achieve great things along a certain line of work, but who is always waiting for more favorable circumstances, for better ideas, for inspiration—and who devotes most of his time and effort to other things. I know boys and girls who profess to believe that everything in the way of maps and directions and signs is all “bunk.” They go along “making whoopee,” indulging in wild parties and getting over their effects, and sneering or making wisecracks about everything that has even a flavor of seriousness about it. Yet they cynically assert that life is a mess, a chaos, a joke, a mystery, a meaningless experience, a mechanical torture device, a game of chance, a grab bag!
But let’s use a little common sense. Isn’t life a road that we should look upon exactly as we would look upon any other road we have to travel? In the first place, all of us want to go places and do things, don’t we? All right, that means activity on our own part. If we don’t want other people to get all our rewards, and have all our fun for us, we have to bestir ourselves. If we sit down idly, twiddle our thumbs, and wait, some fruit may fall into our lap, but not much. It requires activity, effort on my part just to enjoy eating, to dance, to play baseball or hockey or ping-pong or contract. I have to do something about it just to be well dressed or clean. I have to climb into bed just to sleep! Agreed?
Well, I want to go to the City of Happiness. The Great Mapmaker says that the only road is service. His instructions are “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.” The only rule of the road that He stresses is “Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them.” He says, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” And He adds, “Give, and it shall be given unto you.”
Then, in case any of us might be in doubt at any time about just how to follow any of these simple instructions, He has given us a traveling companion that is called “the Spirit of truth,” who “shall guide you into all the truth.” He is the interpreter of my map and my instructions.
Very well. The name God means “good.” I am to love the good with all there is in me. I am to treat my neighbor as I want him to treat me, not only giving him a square deal, but being as helpful to him as I can be, always. I am to act kindly toward him, speak kindly of him, think kindly about him—exactly as I want him to do toward me. Then I am to ask, seek, and knock actively in search of the things that are my heart’s desires.
“Delight thyself also in Jehovah;
And he will give thee the desires of thy heart.”
I am to give out what I want to get back. And when in doubt, I am to consult the Spirit of truth, who travels along with me in my heart.
Plain instructions, surely. The only thing that ever confuses me is how to consult the Spirit of truth. “Going into the silence” is a mystery to many of us. But it need not be if we just realize that it means not merely relaxing the body and calming the mind, though both are preparations for hearing the still small voice of Spirit. It means simply getting honest with ourselves. It means shutting out of the closet of a person’s heart all the voices of self-deception, expediency, trickery, pretense, splurge, and letting the voice of Spirit tell him what really is good, what really is right, what really is kind, what really is giving. It means disregarding outside considerations of reward or punishment, and just trying genuinely to see what is Truth, with the purpose of doing the thing that is right and trusting God for the results. It means submitting a definite problem to Spirit, for His solution—not offering argument. It is quite true that sometimes Spirit, wise traveling companion that He is, will just smile at me, and say, “Look at your map” or “Review your instructions” or “Wait for road signs.” Each and all are given me for guidance. But He will tell me the truth always—if that is what I want—about the road to happiness.