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THE FOURTH DIMENSION OF PERSONALITY
Humanity's problem today is how to be saved from itself. One need not be indicted for pessimism in declaring that "all is not well" with the world. Throughout history man has indulged in self adulation and preached the gospel of human progress. Great advancement has been made, but in spite of successes, there can be no doubt that human relationships are still far from complete adjustment. There are, in short, vital conditions in human associations which bode only ill for man's future.
It did not require the Great War to convince us of this sobering fact, although that supreme catastrophe seared deeply into the heart of humanity the burning realization that the world is in distress. Nor did the greatest of human conflicts prove an antidote for humanity's poisoning. Among the nations there are yet wars and rumors of wars. Prejudices - antipathies - hatreds still disrupt with their sinister influences the equilibrium of the world. It has, however, contributed its "jot of good" - it set mankind in universal quest of a panacea for its suffering. Wherein lies the cause of this prolonged distemper with which humanity is afflicted? Some men argue economic causes; others political; still others, racial, religious or geographical. There is, perhaps, a measure of validity in each - but behind each the ultimate cause is to be found in human nature itself. It would seem that there must be some defect - some "structural weakness" in the very nature of man.
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The diagnosis? Man professes strict moral codes; promulgates them through great educational systems; and solidifies them in his law. But invariably his subsequent deeds belie and pervert his original intent. He conjures up bitter prejudices, petty jealousies and hatreds against his fellow-men. The world is periodically scourged and scarred by fiendish wars. Man learns and knows but he does not do as well as he knows. This is his weakness. The future peace and harmony of the world are contingent upon the ability - yours and mine - to effect a remedy.
Indisputably, society is essential to civilization. Each of us must be trained as a social being. This is not so much an individual concern, as it is that of the educational systems of the world, - the "training grounds" of society. If these institutions are to fulfill their proper obligations to society, they must develop and give to the world socially valuable men, - not alone intellectuals, but men purged of those fictitious, foolish animosities which have caused the world such misery through the ages.
The socially valuable individual is he whose personality is fully grown. Ordinarily, personality is considered individuality, whose component elements are reason, self-consciousness, and self-activity. Yet these elements of themselves suffice only to make a man, not the socially valuable man.
The good ship "Humanity" often lists badly from an over ballast of cold intellectuality. Mere intellectuality, per se, is barren, without feeling or conscience. Rabelais has said that science without conscience "conscience" - is the depravation of the soul. Since the beginning the world has boasted sons who have attained the loftiest pinnacles of intellectual development. But with all its mental genius humanity has ever been and is still plagued by hatreds which lead inevitably to war.
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We of this day may be indicted on other counts. Our acquisitive instincts are over-emphasized. We, though not inherently so, too soon become materialists in a hyper-materialistic world. Monetary reward becomes an obsession. We learn to get, perhaps to do, but seldom to be. We become highly imitative, stereotyped, standardized. Our conceptions of moral values assume an increasing vagueness. We are rational, but we live too much in our own immediacy. Our personalities are developed, but, as has been so well written; too many of us "build as cathedrals were built, the part nearest the ground finished, but that part which soars toward heaven, the turrets and the spires, forever incomplete."
If we are to develop our personalities to their fullest, we must add a fourth dimension to this ordinary self, - that we may expand up and out from our narrow, immediate world. This fourth dimension - call it "bigness", soulfulness, spirituality, imagination, altruism, vision, or what you will - it is that quality which gives full meaning and true reality to others. It is that which is the spark of self-development; this which enables man to grow outwardly as well as inwardly; with Hale to
Vision: It is the quality which all men may have in common. It is that "bigness" of soul and heart which enables man to understand, - to understand and to love his fellows.
There are scoffers who make light of reference to this visional quality. They deem it airy, mythical. For such as these there is an ancient tale. Many centuries ago there was a dreamer named Joseph, who became so hated by his brethren that
― 4 ―they sold him into slavery thinking thus to be rid of the dreamer, and he had the corn. It is well said that "The dreamer dies, but never dies the dream."
Here this morning, after four arduous years of "higher" education, we confront a new world. If the mission of this education be filled, there is planted in each of us those seeds from which fourth-dimensional personality will spring. We shall have become more altruistic and less selfish. We shall love more, and hate less. We shall have become more internationally-minded - less insular-minded. We shall have succeeded in "slipping into the skins of others." We need not be less intellectual, - we need be more spiritual. We need not think less, we need only feel more. We shall not only have developed the intellect, - we shall have educated the heart.
There is some indication in our modern world that human sympathies, imaginings, visions, are becoming mouldy with neglect, or perverted with abuse. The incalculable value of vision - the human element in human relations is being lost to sight in the mad scuffle for material supremacy. We forget that "man is just as much a man as his sympathies are wide," that imagination is the social periscope" through which we see round the rough corners of our fellows; that the great man - the leader, the socially valuable man, is he whose personality includes the visional dimension.
With the growing world organization of trade and means of communication, wider and wider avenues open for increasing visualization and action. If one can visualize Central America, the Orient, Russia - yet not neglect in imagination and fact his neighbor, he is just so much more the large-hearted citizen of the Universe - member of the universal society.
We have now come to recognize the truth, both psychologically and sociologically, that only in proportion as our world grows does our self grow. We know ourselves only as we know other selves. It f [sic]
― 5 ―We know ourselves only as we know other selves. It follows that our one object in an institution of higher learning should be the development of a fully-grown personality - a socially valuable individuality. Without such development we can have no broad and abiding sympathy; without it we are mere clansmen or tribesmen, or narrow members of a guild, trades-union or profession. We become self-contained recluses. As we develop a vigorous, responsive imagination, we attain that Olympian sympathy which overleaps the boundaries of craft or class or country, and creates new worlds from old. Each of us may stimulate this process consciously by the development of a dominant idea of self as devoted to the building up of a rich and efficient personality in terms of other equally rich and efficient personalities. It becomes primarily a problem of capturing the imagination, - of injecting a new idea into the mores. It is a problem of making good will "good form".
In identifying myself with my fellows and seeking to cooperate in hearty good will and understanding with them, I find my life in deed and in truth. And this is simply formulating into a conscious policy what humanity and the animal and vegetable world, as well, have been doing unconsciously for eons as the price of salvation. The principle of mutual aid and sympathy runs through all nature. In the plant and animal life of the desert there is an unconscious but real cooperation between plant and animal. Plant shades and feeds animal, animal digs and fertilizes for plant. The harsh conditions of desert life originate and enforce a solidarity between flora and fauna which serves the two-fold purpose of alleviating their misery and saving them from extinction. The world may learn a great lesson from this simple natural phenomenon, and by applying it, make the theory of human brotherhood a living, social fact. Humanity, in its own interest, must number among its
― 6 ―members more who can say with Ben Ahdem, "Then write me down as one who loves his fellow-men."
I think that human nature is already biased toward fellowship and service. Psychologists tell us that there is a genuine instinct, insofar as there are instincts, in all normal people for seeing others happy. Men are beginning but faintly to glimpse their real social nature, and human groups are still stumbling about in the twilight like "blind men among tombs", trying to know themselves, seeking release from their toils, struggling to formulate some purposive goal, and to lay out a highway thither. If Goethe be right, and we must win self-knowledge through eating our bread with bitter tears and through living nights in sorrow, human society has surely paid the full price and ought now to be in a fair way to receive its promised guerdon.
My fellow graduates: we are youth, and have the world yet to face. The dawn of each individual career is even now breaking grey and uncertain. Our success, our happiness in the future will be determined by what we will. We are told that we have daring, vigor and resourcefulness. Then let us dare to live as men live! Let us dedicate our vigor and our resourcefulness to the cause of human fellowship! Let us not confine ourselves each to his own little sphere, but expand in heart and soul, and become true friends of man! So much we have in common with the youth of all lands - as we go, so goes the world.
I commend you to the lines of Edna St. Vincent Millay: