" Ganges




Thunder, etc.

It is a choice between many ways that is being offered to us at every moment. Our attention is being called from a great number of directions at once. There is an endless competition among the objects of the senses for our notice; there is likewise an endless competition among the ideas within the world of the mind for our attention. The attention finds itself surrounded with various alluring baits. Which will he take at any given time ? Will he prefer the hearth-rug or the milk ?

In the succession of ideas, what is the nature of that internal mood which determines that one idea rather than another shall be appropriated, shall be raised to the throne in our minds, in the succession that takes place there ? Why should it not be some other idea, which is quite as closely associated with the original one?

Let me put the problem in another way. Suppose I am sitting at my desk in the centre of my room when suddenly all the four doors open at once, and with the precision of the cuckoo from an old cottage clock my friends Smith, Brown, Jones and Robinson enter and exclaim with one voice: "Ah, Wood, I want to consult you about something !"

Which will first claim my surprised attention ? This will certainly depend upon something. It will depend upon the mood of my mind. The only other thing which could determine it would be some unusual peculiarity in attire or gesture, which we are not supposing to be present. If Brown were dressed as a Turk he would claim first attention; but in the absence of any such startling or abnormal thing, nothing but the mood of the mind at the moment could determine which selection the attention would make.

Again, suppose that I am engaged in the work of putting a book through the press, and someone comes to the door and calls out: "Proofs!" I have visions of printed sheets and the drudgery of correcting them. If I am engaged in studying a scientific problem, the same sound will immediately awaken a totally different set of ideas. Here it is clear that the difference which determines the sequence lies in the mind, not in the outside world.

Similarly, if Mr. Lincoln Inn, the eminent barrister, is in London, and someone utters in his hearing the word "bag," he at once thinks of briefs and all the paraphernalia of his profession; but if it is the vacation and he is engaged in his favourite sport of shooting upon the Scottish moors, the word at once brings before him gratifying visions of forlorn-looking birds tied by the legs, and pleasant recollections of his skill and prowess and past triumphs on the field of sport.

At different times different moods—purposes, habits, and interests—dominate our minds, and it is the mood which is the cause that one idea rather than another should be selected from the many that surround every thought and object. As a powerful magnet polarizes soft iron within a considerable area, not only in immediate proximity, so does the temporary or permanent mood polarize each incoming idea as soon as it approaches the outermost sphere of the field of attention.

Most of us are familiar with the schoolboy experiment with a test-tube loosely filled with iron filings. We corked it and laid it flat upon the table, and as we passed a magnet slowly over it we watched the filings rise and turn over and lay themselves all in the same direction, so that they became a lot of little magnets all acting together. And we then found by experiment that the tube of filings had become a magnet.

At first the filings lay higgledy-piggledy; even if they had then been magnets the influence of one would have neutralized that of its neighbour, because of their different directions ; but now that they lie in line they act together as a magnet, influencing all soft iron that is brought near to them.

So also if your thoughts lie higgledy-piggledy in the mind, pointing in all directions, their effects will destroy one another. If you want to know the present condition of your mind, observe the nature of your thoughts when you are not deliberately thinking of something definite—they form the background of the mind, and it is possible that they may be a confused and sorry crowd. If we desire success in any particular pursuit, we had better polarize those thoughts.

We can now understand that success in the pursuit of any aim may be promoted by our establishing a permanent mood in its direction. When this is done, even the most trifling or the most adverse events will fall into line and prove of service to us in the gaining of our end. The will controls thought. It can form a mood covering a period of time or a specific enterprise.

If you would like to undertake a little experiment in keeping a mood through a series of ideas try the following—

Open a book at random, and note the first noun that catches your eye; this idea will be your starting-point. Next open it at a different page, and again take the first noun; this will be your goal. You are interested in reaching that goal. It determines your mood for the time being. Then think consecutively from the starting-point to the goal.

For example, I have turned up "law," then "portal"; I must think away from "law," keeping "portal" in view until I reach it. This proves to be an easy matter, for I think of a certain law court that I know, which has a strikingly gloomy entrance.

A second case: "cloak" and "bottle." Again it is easy because my wife has a bottle-green rain-coat.

A third case: "turmoil" and "wall"; I might think of many things in connexion with turmoil, but under the present conditions I find myself thinking of a medieval battle against the wall of an old fort near which is a college where I served as Principal for some years.

These exercises will help you to realize how a mood imposed by the will actually works, and will assist you to impose one permanently or temporarily on the mind at any time, so that your life may be concentrated on a definite purpose. In addition to its general purpose in life, you will find the power to impose moods very useful as enabling you to turn rapidly and effectively from one piece of work to another.

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