Principles of Life

On December 17, 1903, the brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright became the first men to successfully pilot a heavier-than-air craft under both control and power.

Helen Hooven Santmyer is now 88 years old, crippled and half-blind. She also suffers from emphysema. Because of her infirmity, she resides permanently in a nursing home in Xenia, Ohio, U.S.A.

Over fifty years ago, when Helen Hooven Santmyer was working as a reference librarian, she started to write a book. At first she worked on it in her spare time. Then, when ill health forced her to retire, she continued her work in the nursing home where she now lives.

Mr. J. Krishnamurti, 90, is a well-known Indian thinker. When he is on a public stage, he folds his hands and says, “Sir, I am a nobody,” or, “Sir, I am just a passer-by.” Are we all nothing in reality? His answer is, “Yes, when you are as nothing, you are everything.” Islamic thinkers disapprove of thoughts of this kind for they lead to skepticism or monism, and both are just a philosophical license for irresponsibility and monism. Yet there is an example from Krishnamurti’s life, which can be quoted here with great pertinence.

As Dale Carnegie—that most pragmatic of modern thinkers—once remarked: “ The most important thing in life is not to capitalize on your gains. Any fool can do that: the really important thing is to profit from your losses. That requires intelligences; and it makes the difference between a man of sense and a fool.

According to Time Magazine of October 17, 1986, her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II had long voiced a desire to visit the People’s Republic of China. But as long as Britain ruled a piece of Chinese territory, the crown colony of Hong Kong, such a journey was impossible. The 1984 Sino-British agreement returning Hong Kong to China in 1997 provided the price of admission.

A dancer from South India, Sudha Chandran, was only sixteen years old when she broke her right leg in an accident on May 2, 1981. She was immediately taken to a local hospital. Without taking the necessary preliminary precautions, such as cleaning her wound and administering anti-tetanus injections, the doctors put her leg in plaster from thigh to toe. As the pain increased, her parents shifted her to a hospital in Madras. When the plaster was stripped off, it transpired that her leg had begun to blacken—a clear indication that infection had reached the bone and gangrene had set in.

By August 1945, Japan had been totally ruined having lost its political freedom as well as its economic stability. What Japan did subsequently was to refrain from touching the problem of political freedom and give its full thrust to economic stability. This policy proved so successful that Japan is today reckoned as an industrial super power. By 1990 Japan had already given five billion dollars credit to the world. It is estimated that by 1995 the amount of this credit will have increased to ten billion dollars.

In the Ohio University of the U.S.A. there is a department known as the Disaster Research Centre. It was established in 1963, and has so far studied over one hundred different calamities affecting human beings on a vast scale. It was discovered that at moments of crisis, an extraordinary new potential develops in people which saves them from succumbing to disasters and their aftermath. In 1961, for example, Texas was struck by a severe coastal tempest, but less than half of the inhabitants opted to vacate the area.

Psychologists have estimated that man puts to use only ten percent of the abilities with which he is born. Professor William James of Harvard University has very aptly observed, “What we ought to be, we are not ready to be.” In spite of the inborn qualities nature has endowed us with, the successes which should have been ours in this world keep eluding us for the simple reason that we quite unthinkingly consent to lead inferior lives. Then, discontented, we put the blame on others for not giving us our due.