Thursday, December 08, 2022

To pursue ‘A Magnificent Obsession’

By EMN Updated: Feb 14, 2015 10:34 pm

Jack T. Chakhesang

[dropcap]Y[/dropcap]ears ago, I read a novel which is still in my possession. It tells the story of a rich man’s son who grew up enjoying fun and games—what many would say are the so-called good things of life—with practically no responsibilities.
Nearby his father’s mansion was a lake as well as a locality. One day, he went for a boating and swimming as well. As luck would have it, he almost drowned and had to be resuscitated with a cylinder of oxygen. This oxygen cylinder was owned by a retired doctor who lived alone in a house overlooking the lake, and who in his old age kept it as he frequently suffered from breathing problems.It so happened that as this young man was being treated the old doctor returned home to find that his oxygen cylinder had been borrowed by attendants nursing the boy. As it was not returned in time the doctor breathed his last. No wonder the nurses attending the young man were not so polite but they did their duty as he was convalescing under the supervision of a local doctor and also because of his father.
When the young man recovered fully he did not retain any ill will towards the medical staff that had looked after him. Rather, he managed to visit the old man’s house by the lakeside and went through the latter’s belongings especially his personal library for the old man had been a reputed doctor. He went through the old man’s books looking for something—he had no idea what—but something, anything that would give a clue as to what really made the doctor so revered.
After days of going through books and periodicals etc he finally chanced upon a diary on which ideas and messages were written in code. When at last, the young man deciphered the code the first word he read was “Congratulations.” Obviously, it was for breaking the code.
Then the lines went on in code in a sort of parable about another parable in the New Testament notably somewhere in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Intrigued and fascinated, the millionaire’s son got hold of a Bible (which he probably never read before nor even prayed either) and slowly but steadily perused the Gospels absorbing the numerous messages they held forth. Finally, he found the particular passage he was looking for although in the process he became enamored of the entire Holy Bible. The particular passage in this context is as follows:
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’
“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ “
And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1-8).
The parable of the persistent widow reads and sounds simple enough. However, when one ponders it carefully as the young millionaire did in the book, the belief and conviction clearly emerge that if you want something truly (and badly enough) then you must pursue it relentlessly.
For instance, if a locked door does not open on your first knock and subsequent knocks, the parable succinctly implies that even if your knuckles bleed and the bones show, anyone who continues relentlessly can open any kind of a door.
The essence of this parable of the persistent widow who bent the unjust judge to her will is that any genuine venture will be fruitful if you follow the tenets of your religion and with faith.
And so, the young man decided to study medicine and eventually he became a renowned neurologist in the world. The book (more of a novel) is “A Magnificent Obsession” by Lloyd C. Douglas.
In a book by Basil King, there is a quotation which advocates “Be bold—and mighty forces will come to your aid.” In this context, Norman Vincent Peale wrote in “Courage and Confidence—An Anthology” that to be bold is “no exhortation to be reckless or foolhardy….And there was nothing vague or mysterious about the mighty forces referred to. They were the latent powers that all of us possess: energy, skill, sound judgment, creative ideas—yes, even physical strength and endurance in far greater measure than most of us realize.”
Boldness, in other words, creates an emergency to which the body responds. A famous British mountaineer once said that occasionally a climber will get himself into a position where he can’t back down. He added that sometimes he put himself in such a spot on purpose. When there is nowhere to go but up,” he said, you jolly well go up!”
The same principle works, less dramatically but just as surely, in something commonplace as well. In any case you know you’ll have to deliver—or else. And unless you’re hopelessly unqualified, you will deliver. Your pride, your competitive spirit and your sense of obligation will see to it that you do. So, if you are bold enough, even the laws of motion will come to your aid.
This personality trait of a willingness to put yourself in a position where you will have to extend yourself to the utmost, is not acquired overnight. But it can be taught to children and developed in adults. Confidence is a cumulative thing.
Of course, there will be setbacks and disappointments in any programme of expanded living; boldness in itself is no guarantee of success. But, as someone said, the man who tries to do something and fails is a lot better off than the man who tries to do nothing and succeeds. Nevertheless, boldness like any other virtue also has its limits. We have to serve high ideals, and yet use practical methods.
Theodore Roosevelt said: “Above all, let us shrink from no strife, moral or physical, within or without the nation, provided we are certain that the strife is justified; for it is only through strife, through hard and dangerous endeavour, that we shall ultimately win the goal of true national greatness.”
Time is the inexplicable raw material of everything. With it, all is possible; without it, nothing. The supply of time is truly a daily miracle, an affair genuinely astonishing when one examines it.
In a few days we will know the decision of the Supreme Court as to the status of the three BJP MLAs who were disqualified by the Speaker according to prescribed rules of the Constitution. The Speaker’s ruling was, however, overruled by the Gauhati High Court.
If the Supreme Court upholds the High Court’s decision, then it is for sure that they will be accommodated in the new Ministry. But before that, everyone is awaiting the decision of the Election Commission of India (ECI) as to who it will recognize as the rightful NPF between the two contending groups.
Of course, the Shurhozelie group’s contention was validated when the entire Members of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly including the Opposition Congress voted in favour of Chief Minister TR Zeliang’s leadership. But the case does not end as yet and there is no need for any prognostications. Let us just wait and watch. We have enough other things to be concerned about. And life will go on happen what may.
This brings to mind the matter of a General of the Northern Army which had put the Southern Confederate forces on the run during the Great American Civil War (1861 – 65). The General had his HQ in a city in the South which was dependent on the large scale export of cotton. One day, two ladies one elderly and a very beautiful young woman arrived at the General’s office and made their plea,
The elderly lady conveyed to the General that the United States had no reason to wage a war with Great Britain whose ships were anchored in international waters in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico and waiting to load with much needed cotton. She requested the General to garner all available wagons and load them with cotton and dispatch them post haste to the coast. She then handed over gold certificates worth 250,000 Dollars (worth millions today) and a slip of paper to the general. And the two ladies left leaving the General very much disturbed and holding in his hand the slip of paper on which was written the young lady’s address.
The General had his orders clear from Washington that no wagons and no cotton were to move to the coastal areas. So he instructed his Aide-de-Camp (ADC), Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Macarthur who was witness to the interview, to forthwith send a telegram to the President of the United States.
The telegram read: “I have just received 250,000 Dollars and met the most beautiful young woman in my life. I am depositing the money in the United States Treasury and request immediate relief from my command. They have come too close to my price!”
In a similar vein, I was once with a VVIP in his residence when a very successful businessman joined us and made a request for which he proffered Rs one lakh! The VVIP thanked him but said that the amount was not worth the trouble especially with a journalist present plus several innuendoes from reptiles of the media. So the visitor considerably hiked the ante but the VVIP then said, regretfully, that the amount was “getting too close to my price!”
Hopefully, there are similar VVIPs around still.

By EMN Updated: Feb 14, 2015 10:34:04 pm