~ Abai Kunanbaev ~

Word Forty-Three

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Man is endowed by nature with a body and a soul. One should know which of their properties are innate and which are acquired by toil.

The need for food, drink and sleep is natural, instinctive. The desire to see and learn something comes from a natural instinct, too, but intelligence and learning are gained through work. By hearing with his ears, beholding with his eyes, touching things with his hands, tasting with his tongue and inhaling through his nose, man gets an idea of the surrounding world.

The sensations, pleasant or unpleasant, thus received by the five organs of the senses are ordered in the human mind according to a definite pattern and produce a certain imagery.

To be pleased with the good and to be repelled by the bad are aptitudes natural to man. At first these shoots are very frail. Man must cultivate and amplify these aptitudes, for without due care and attention, they wither and become useless or die. A person who looks and listens a good deal, drawing knowledge from the external world gains much: he will be able to reason lucidly and tell what is useful from what is harmful. A person capable of analyzing facts and events is counted among the intelligent.

An ignorant person who cannot think and is unused to work will shift the blame for his idleness to God. "What can I do if God has not given me brains?" or "God has not made us equal, you and me!" That's how he will try to justify himself.

But did not God enjoin him to look and listen, and to remember what he sees and hears? Did God say: eat your fill, enjoy yourself, be content with boasting and turn into a beast, having lost all spiritual riches?

Other people will argue: "Well, a good mind comes with time, but nature endows us with aspiration. He who is endowed with aptitudes acquires good mind as well. Those who lack aptitudes will remain stupid anyway." Yet this is wrong, too.

Indeed, small children may have aspiration, that's certain. As we have already said, man's aptitudes, at first weak, should be cultivated and improved. Even a craftsman's skill improves from day to day if he works with enthusiasm. Unless you practice your skills, you may lose them and turn into a different person without even noticing it. Will skill and aptitude, forsaking you, warn you of that in advance? Greater effort is needed to regain them than to preserve them.

Now, mental aptitudes are so varied and diverse that they defy description. The vigor of the human soul can preserve the skills of an acquired trade for a long time. Yet without due care these skills will diminish and in time the very power that helps retain them may run out. It will be impossible to regain this vigor.

The power of the human soul possesses three special properties which must be treasured and cherished, for without them a man becomes an animal.

The first one is called the "driving element". What is it? This force helps us not only to be seen and heard, but also to vividly perceive cause and effect. Voracious reading is useless without this quality of the mind, for it produces no result. Not having done this or that in good time, not having thought about and said something at the right moment, and being late everywhere, you will fret and be vexed all your life: "What a pity! I should have done this or that at such and such a moment!"

Another is called the "attractive force of the like". Learning something new to you, you start comparing it to similar things. Are they similar in every way or only in some respects? Until you elucidate all the causes of similarity for yourself, enquire about them and verify your suppositions, your mind cannot rest.

And the third property of the human soul, called "sensibility of the heart". Should you manage to keep your heart from four vices: conceit, cupidity, frivolity and carelessness, the impressions that you receive of this world will be clearly reflected in the mirror-like chastity of your heart. These impressions will provide nourishment for the mind and will be long remembered. But if you do not preserve the purity of your heart, the mirror of your soul will grow dim, and everything will be blurred and distorted in it and your notions of this world will be warped.

Everything that is gained by work and lies outside you is called wealth. Unless you know all the problems and details of managing a household, you will find it hard to keep your goods. But it is equally hard to keep the spiritual wealth that you have gained— intelligence and learning, which, incidentally, may cause considerable harm as well. Not knowing of that and losing your vigilance, you may easily forfeit what has been acquired.

There is a measure to everything on earth, the good things of life included. It is a great blessing to have a sense of measure. The ability to think is praiseworthy, true, but some people know no measure in this: carried away, they get lost in their thoughts and lose their common sense.

One ought to show the right measure in eating, drinking, amusing one's self and getting rich, in seeking power and even in practicing caution and vigilance in order not to be tricked. All that is excessive is evil.

The wise men of old used to say: "In what we seek too persistently we find evil." You should know that the two qualities of spiritual power which we have defined as "the attractive force of the like" and "the driving element" conceal both the good things and the evil things of this world. Lust for power, selfishness, anger and deception, everything that defiles man, springs from the same source. Therefore man's spiritual vigor should be directed towards improving his good and useful points and nipping in the bud whatever is vicious.

Reason distinguishes the beneficial from the harmful; yet even the force of reason cannot vanquish evil. Only he who unites in himself the force of reason with the force of will can succeed in that. A man combining reason and willpower will be like a swift Arab horse, he will have dominion over everything.

But if these qualities are feeble, or one of them is present and the other is not, your spiritual might will carry you like a wild, unruly steed, flinging you now against the rocks, now into the water, now down into the abyss. You are powerless. Off you dash headlong, pell-mell, with the edges of your chapan flying, and your eyes uplifted to the sky... And till the end of your days you will not wipe out this disgrace.

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