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AESOP'S FABLE

Tell me thy company, and I'll tell thee what thou art." Some dogs once barked at a caravan. First let it be said, and justly, that not one of the dogs could have been of use to the caravan. Is it not remarkable that in the entire dark pack, although it was obviously a natural assortment of fitting companions, not one animal was fit to be acquired? There were small ones with crooked legs; red, and piebald ones, and black, slobbering mongrels; some limping, some without tails. This seeming variety was but one of purely outer appearance; the inner distinction throughout this entire batch of hounds was quite uniform  the same baseness, the same cruelty and blood-thirstiness, the same cunning and two-facedness.

Is it not astonishing that the pack came running from many different points  the well-fed, the hungry, greyhounds, and awkward cripples  all following an animal instinct to come running and bark at the passers-by as if so commanded. The traveler wonders by whom and by what means this vermin-ridden pack has been gathered, and why just this ugly brood, stained by their own bloodshed and by all kinds of beatings, must gather into a pack and, with tails flying high, rush through the village. Besides, this is not springtime. The cats have not yet begun their roof-top serenades, but the pack is already on the loose and runs about, growling and yapping. And how did it come to pass that not one thoroughbred joined this rackety pack?

There are, after all, certain laws of nature through which, in the human and likewise in the animal kingdom, "a fisherman sees another fisherman from afar." Old treatises about the natural selection of species are not far removed from truth. Indeed, sometimes "there is no family without a black sheep," but, also perhaps more often, "an apple does not fall far from the tree." And if the trunk of the tree is worm-eaten, the fruit from such a tree is bad.

Some Coachmen like to flick barking dogs with a wicked whip, and others smile, "Let him howl at the top of his voice." But if a mastiff gets under a side horse the coachman may remark only, "The beast got its due."

Bestia is a Latin word. It means a beast, an animal. It spread over the face of Earth, because this definition was needed in the most diverse circumstances. Bestiality and brutality have frequently struck human thinking. Mankind has tried by all possible means to get rid of beastly instincts. The worst of human conditions have been rightly termed bestiality and brutality.

It is said that want and suffering purify human consciousness. One may ask. What kinds of suffering are still needed? What other deprivations must humanity go through in order to remove itself from low bestiality? Someone warns that many more catastrophes must sweep over our beclouded Earth. Someone affirms that certain islands will sink, that new seas will rise; but how vast must the areas of these new aquatic expanses be before people will think Seriously about this! It is deplorable to think that people become so easily accustomed to even the most terrible state of affairs. It is as if there were some sort of demand for a hastened progression of reactions for the purpose of perplexing the contemporary mind in order to compel it to think about the paths of the near future.

It is said that most of today's young people look first of all for the sports and film pages in the newspaper. It is said that many of them have difficulty in enumerating the greatest philosophers, but at the same time will name without one mistake the prize fighters, sports celebrities, and moving picture stars. Maybe it is not quite so, but the stories told by professors and schoolteachers make one ponder about the contemporary trend of thought. Likewise, all this makes one reflect about what has pushed the present generation to such extremes. Whoever reads about the last years of the Roman Empire or about Byzantium finds perhaps to his amazement many parallels with today. Among these the most striking will be the gravitation toward the circus, prize fights, races, and all kinds of lotteries.

Very soon every village, and perhaps every street, will have its beauty queen, or its remarkable arm or leg, or its own special kind of hair! It is as if human imagination cannot be inspired by anything else, while at the same time the unsolved purely mechanical problems impede the flow of progress.

Countries, institutions, private persons, are living beyond their budgets, multiplying the grand total of earthly indebtedness. This material insolvency is not limited to earthly, mechanical conditions only. It will pass into another, far more dangerous, indebtedness; and if the planet becomes a spiritual debtor, this frightful debt can become an overwhelming impediment to all success.

"Dogs are barking  the caravan goes on," says optimism; and pessimism recalls how packs of wild dogs once devoured the watchman of a powder magazine. All that was left of him was his rifle, his cutlass, and a few buttons. And after this incident any passer-by could without interference set fire to the powder magazine and cause irreparable harm. But let us follow the ways of optimism, and let us accept each dog's bark as a sign of some new movement, useful undeferrably needed.

At times, even the worst pessimistic signs will be only that natural selection which, for the good of the constructive process, has to take place in any event.

Monsters are especially terrible when they are hidden in darkness. But when they sooner or later crawl to light, then oven their ugliest grimaces cease to be terrifying. To know will already be to advance.

Peking

December 23, 1934

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