Chapter 8 — Ideas in Trust
There is a remarkable little book called “Finding Youth,” by Gertrude Nelson Andrews, that tells the story of a man who lost his position when he was sixty years of age, after a lifetime of faithful service to others. In despair, he did not know which way to turn to make a living for himself and his beloved wife. In his own trade, printing, no place was open for him; and he knew no other trade. Want and the shame of failure stared him in the face. But through the chain of circumstances that makes up the body of the story, he found in himself a creative faculty, which he began to use. He found that by giving attention to this creative urge he could reconstruct his work and his life. He found that by giving heed to its suggestions and dictates he could reconstruct his youth. And he did. He built a new career for himself, and happiness and prosperity.
The author tells me this story is not fact but fiction. It doesn’t matter, for whichever it is, it is true. Man does have a creative faculty in him that will reconstruct his work and his career and his youth if he will pay attention to it and obey it. Every woman has creative ability that she could use, if she would, to remake her home, her family relations, her domestic happiness, her outside career. The trouble is that we do not usually trust this inner urge to create. We haven’t any confidence in our own ideas—because they are our own.
Maybe you think this is not true in your case. But stop and review some of your experiences. Don’t you often look at some device or plan or fabrication that somebody else has made and see a better way of doing it? Don’t you sometimes know there is a better way, and aren’t you sure it could be worked out if more time were given to it? Don’t you frequently believe you could build a house, run a school, launch a business, sail a boat, play bridge, raise radishes—anything whatever that happens to interest you—better than somebody else you see doing it, if you only had time to gain the requisite fundamental information with which to equip your creative impulses?
And haven’t you had the experience of thinking of what seemed momentarily a good idea; then discarding it because it was your own and so couldn’t be worth much—and soon after finding that somebody else had conceived the selfsame idea, used it, put it over successfully, and reaped the profits and the credit that might have been yours? And how cheap you felt, when all you could say to yourself was “I thought of that first. Why didn’t I do it?”
I know a man who had the idea for the internal-combustion engine—gasoline engine—long before it was put on the market, but who never got round to working it out till somebody else “beat him to it.” I knew the boy who invented the first fly swatter made of wire screen with a handle, and who made a few and sold them in the local hardware store in the town where he lived—and then let the device slip away from him because he did not value his own idea. And later—you know what happened—another man or men took the same idea and made a fortune out of it.
You know, it would be a good thing for every one of us about once a year, at least, to read over Russell Conwell’s famous lecture “Acres of Diamonds” and Emerson’s essay “Self-Reliance.” Have you ever read them? Could you read them without a tremendous stir inside of you urging you to go and do the thing that you wanted to do, carry out your idea, build your structure, execute your plan, win your prize? Well, as Emerson says in that very essay, that is the creative urge within you stirring for expression. And that very urge, in the man or woman who pays attention to it, is the source of achievement and fortune and fame and usefulness—and the only source; because it is the voice of the Spirit offering guidance, just as much and just as truly as truly as conscience, rebuking our mistakes, is the same voice dealing with another theme.
The English writer A. C. Clutton-Brock has written two books that every Truth student could well afford to read. One is called “What Is the Kingdom of Heaven?” and the other “Studies in Christianity.” In one of them he calls attention to the fact that every person has within him what might be called an “artistic conscience” that tells him what is beautiful. And he goes on to say that this is the voice of the Spirit within. Then he argues that this same voice tells us also what is true in experience, as surely as the ear tells us the true ring of genuine silver coin. The same voice tells us what is right, what is kind, what is honest. And it is the same voice that tells us what to do, and how to do it; that urges us to create useful, beautiful, amusing, delightful things. And if we only would listen! Oh, it’s the tragedy of life that we don’t listen!
Perhaps it is your own personal tragedy at this moment that you are refusing, or neglecting, to listen to the voice that is telling you exactly what would get you out of your troubles and into your highest happiness, if you would only obey. And maybe you haven’t “the courage of your own ideas,” maybe you think they are no good because they are yours. Perhaps it never really occurs to you to trust them, because they are yours. Perhaps you tremblingly guess that they might be some good if only somebody else thought so, but you don’t dare to propound them or execute them or work on them—because they are yours.
But oh, my friend, they are not yours! They are simply offered you for use—like everything else we call our own in this world. And they—these ideas that press upon us for utterance or expression—they are not merely something we have the privilege of expressing; we have an obligation to express them. We have the option—oh, yes!—the option whether we will express them or not. We have the option whether we will do something worth while in the world’s thinking, in invention, in industry—or remain merely followers and trailers of the men and women who do use their ideas, and lead.
Now the purpose of all meditation, of all going into the silence, of all listening for the voice, is to receive ideas. Sometimes ideas pop into our mind when we are not consciously seeking them. Sometimes they come as the result of deliberate seeking for them. Sometimes they come promptly and easily; sometimes after long labor and “cudgeling of brain.” And sometimes they come after we have given up the effort to get them—they just rise up out of the subconscious mind, like people whom we have invited to dinner and who come after we have given up expecting them.
Some of us study this operation of going into the silence, yearning and longing for the rewards that it promises yet utterly overlooking the ideas that come to us in our silent thought, just because they are not exactly what we expected.
I knew a man who was working on an invention. His purpose was so dear to him that he began to think that it might be wrong in him to cherish it. He was a student of Truth, and so tried to practice the silence to learn what was right for him to do. But he found that whenever he tried to get still and listen, all he would get would be a mind full of seething ideas for his invention. He tried desperately to crowd them out of his thoughts, to think only of abstract good, to look for abstract guidance; but he found himself helpless against the inrush of ideas for his invention. Finally, in despair, he turned away from his efforts after “guidance” and went back to working out his invention, using with half a sense of guilt some of the ideas that had come to him when he was trying to “meditate.” And lo, his invention began to work out and ultimately became a success, and the inventor prospered. And then one day he woke up to the fact that all the time the voice had been trying to tell him exactly what he wanted most to know, while he himself had been trying desperately not to listen—or rather trying desperately to hear something else that he thought he ought to hear.
That is a great trouble with many of us. We try so hard to hear something we think we ought to hear, or something we simply want to hear, that we fail to hear the actual voice at all. Inspiration—your own creative urge—waits in your heart, and it will transform your life, your career, your happiness, your prosperity if you will only listen and let it. It will tell you what you want to know or how to learn what you want to know. Sometimes it will tell you to go and learn what other people have learned and said or written about your problem. Sometimes it will tell you to go to work and do the best you can, and trust for results. Sometimes it will give you a great flash of illumination, with the whole plan of your enterprise complete in a picture before your inner eye. But usually it works for you a step or two at a time—and works as you work. Goethe, the famous German poet, expressed in a familiar verse one of the best of all methods of getting ideas, namely illumination, guidance:
“Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute,
What you can do, or dream you can, begin it;
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
Only engage, and then the mind grows heated;
Begin, and then the work will be completed.”
That verse has a world of inspiring helpfulness in it. Goethe seemed to know how God likes to work with us. God has a way of helping us when we start to do something for ourselves. We get along better when we begin. We obey the commandments, the urge, the inspiration—begin to obey—and then the reward begins to come. Try that way. Results will surprise you.
Of course, we don’t rush to work things out in wood, or steel, or marble, or printed page, until we have first worked them out in mind. But—begin! Begin with the execution of the first glimmer of your idea. And often it will seize the pencil, or the chisel, or whatever the implement or instrument of your craft may be, and do the thing for you—or seem to do it for you—and amaze you with the usefulness or beauty, or both, of the product. Trust the voice, believe in the idea, begin to work it out. There’s magic in it!