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I recall an unforgettable episode from my first exhibition in America. In one of the large cities a wealthy patron of art arranged a festive dinner in my honor. Everything was luxurious and on a large scale, and the best people of the city were present. As usual, many speeches were delivered. The host and hostess, both already grey-hared, heartily and cordially entertained the guests. Everything was magnificently arranged, and the hostess drew my attention to the rooms, which were decorated in blue and purple flowers, and said, "It is precisely these shades that I love so much in your paintings."

After dinner one of the lady guests present said to me, "This is indeed a remarkable reception,'' and added confidentially, "probably this is the last dinner in this house."

I looked at my companion in amazement and she, lowering her voice, explained, "Don't you know that our host is absolutely ruined and only yesterday he lost his last three millions?"

Naturally I was shocked. But the lady added, "Of course, it is not easy for him, especially considering his age. He is already seventy-four."

The incongruity of this revelation with the calmness of the host and hostess was amazing. After this conversation I began to take especial interest in their fate. Three months after this dinner they moved to their former garage. It seemed that everything was lost, but after three years this businessman was again a millionaire and again lived in his former palatial home.

When I spoke to his friends about my surprise as to why his numerous friends and, after all, the city itself to which he had given so much had not offered to help him, I was told, "First of all, he would not have accepted any help, and secondly, he is used to such storms in life".

This last conversation took place in a large club where, near tall windows, in easy chairs, many distinguished members were sitting, reading newspapers and talking. My companion, pointing to them, said, "These are all millionaires. Ask how often every one of them ceased to be a millionaire and then became one again."

And the club members continued to read quietly and to chat cheerfully, as if no troubles ever disturbed them. I asked my friend how be explained this. He shrugged his shoulders and replied with one word, "Steadfastness."

Verily, the concept of steadfastness should be greatly stressed, among other basic principles of life. Courage is one, a second is goodwill and magnanimity. A third is desire to work. A fourth is perseverance and inexhaustibility. A fifth is enthusiasm and optimism. But among all these foundations, and also many other luminous affirmations so greatly needed, steadfastness always remains as something apart, irreplaceable, providing a firm basis for progress.

Steadfastness issues from true equilibrium. Such equilibrium is not a heartless calculation, neither is it a despising of the surroundings, or conceit, or selfishness.

Steadfastness always stands in relation to responsibility and a sense of duty. Steadfastness will not be allured, or slip or waver. Those who advance firmly to the very end are truly steadfast.

In our days of confusion, of many disillusions, of narrow distrust, the basic quality of Steadfastness is especially blessed. When people so easily become unworthily panic-stricken, only a steadfast person can provide healthy understanding and can thus save many from the horror of falling into chaos. When people try to convince themselves of all sorts of antiquated mirages, only a firm person can decide in his heart where there is a safe way out. When people fall into such madness that even a short squall appears to them like an endless storm, then only Steadfastness will remind them about true co-measurement.

Perhaps someone will say that Steadfastness is nothing other than common sense. But it will be more correct to say that from common sense Steadfastness is born. The quality of Steadfastness is already an expression of reality. Steadfastness is required precisely here on the earthly plane where there are so many circumstances against which one has to hold out. Therefore, it is so useful, amidst many concepts of good will, cooperation, and progress to perceive the meaning and value of Steadfastness. Not without reason people always emphasize with especial respect how a person steadfastly withstood various attacks, strain, and unexpected blows. In such cases vigilance and presence of mind are stressed, but Steadfastness will also be acclaimed as something positive, based upon firm realization.

As an example of Steadfastness and firmness, I recall a story I heard in San Francisco. A foreigner had arrived.

Apparently he was wealthy. He was received everywhere in society. He acquired many friends. He won the reputation of being a good, kindhearted, and rich friend. Once he asked his self-proclaimed new friends to lend him ten thousand dollars for a new business. Something curious, though quite usual, happened. All these friends found sufficient reasons to refuse or evade his request. More than that, everywhere people showed alienation and coldness toward him. Then this foreigner went to visit another person who from the very beginning had been rather cool toward him. He explained his project and asked for a loan of ten thousand dollars. This time the checkbook appeared on the table at once and the required amount was handed over to him. The next day the foreigner again came to see the same person. The latter asked, "What has happened, did you miscalculate the amount? Perhaps you need more?"

But the foreigner took the check from his pocket and, returning it to the giver, said, "No, I need no money. What I need is a partner, and I invite you to join me."

And to all the other so-called friends, who began again to return most amiably, the foreigner said, "You have fed me with your dinners. Remember, my table is always ready to serve you." (Mr. L. in San Francisco remembered this story.)

How many instructive experiences are presented by life itself! Imagination is nothing but recollection.


February 6, 1935

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