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~ Abai Kunanbaev ~


Word Fourteen

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Has man anything more precious than his heart? Calling someone a man of brave heart, people respect him as a batyr. [1] They have but a poor idea of any other virtues of the human heart. Mercy, kindness, the capacity to treat a stranger as a dear brother and wish him all the blessings one would wish one's self — all these are the commands of the heart. And love likewise comes from the heart. The tongue that obeys the heart will tell no lie. Only hypocrites forget about the heart. Yet those "men of brave heart" often prove to be unworthy of praise. Unless they value courtesy and honor their vows, are averse to evil and lead lost souls along the straight and narrow path, not following the crowd like a miserable cur, unless they stand up in defense of a righteous cause in the face of all difficulties and not turn from the truth when this is so easy to do — then the heart that beats in the breast of those respected as batyrs is that of a wolf, not a human being.

Indeed, the Kazakh is also a child of mankind. Many of the Kazakhs stray from the path of truth not through any deficiency of reason but because they lack the courage and staunchness in their heart to accept and follow wise counsels. I do not believe many of those who argue that they have done evil through ignorance. No, they have enough knowledge, but their shameful weakness of will and laziness cause them to ignore it. Having stumbled once, few will be strong enough to mend their ways.

Those who are praised as stout dzhighits, brave and clever, will more often than not put each other up to dark, sordid deeds. Their blind aping of one another and daredevil capers are a frequent cause of misfortunes. If a man who has indulged in evil and in unbridled bragging cannot stop and chasten himself, and does not attempt to cleanse himself before God or his own conscience—how can he be called a dzhighit? One may well question whether he can be called a man.

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FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 1: batyr: brave warrior, hero] Back to text