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the Message Continues ... 9/89



Newsletter for January 2009


Article 1 - Article 2 - Article 3 - Article 4 - Article 5 - Article 6 - Article 7 - Article 8 - Article 9 - Article 10 - Article 11 - Article 12



Enthusiasm, the life of Gifted Spirits.

Mohamedarif Suleman (Dares Salaam, Tanzania) 

It is often seen that the individuals with a rather high potential value to a group or organization which they serve, eventually fall out for one reason or another. It may be because of enthusiasm or emotion. We have at different times observed this, or may even have been victim ourselves, of high charged battle that sees the flaunting of issues convert into a wit of personalities, lobbying and other political gimmickry.  Yet the bitter truth of the matter  is that public service - defined here as community service, national service or even international representation, is least tolerant to emotions that drive individuals. 

In contrast, if you look at the corporate world in your own country, you seldom find people bashing one another at that higher level of the hierarchy more or less on emotional issues, becuase these individuals, through years of training and experience, know how to play the survival game.  And this survival game is not about truths or feelings; it is more about knowing your allies (those who share the same ideals as yours), knowing when to hold back (in winning the confidence of those with higher powers), and when to express your views or to literally lobby for them. Many people with years of experience will tell you that timing is of the essence in when one can rise above the flock to assume incontestible leadership of a group of like-minded individuals. 

The original intention must have been to maintain sanity, they say, for how would work get done if all were howling at the same time, each driven by their justified spurt of emotional likings.  What it then turned out to be is a totally different scenario.  Indifference, irrational silence and a skin so thick that it is impossible to penetrate even with the most logical of argument as people gradually turned into self serving individuals. The vocal artistry of how one should be clever enough to manipulate a given situation to yield a predetermined result is yet another hallmark of today's leadership in many walks of life. 

But it is not all that bad.  Henry Theodore Tuckerman in his classic "A Defence of Enthusiasm" (1870) could not have dressed the feeling of such a situation in a more admirable way...

"Let us recognize the beauty and power of true enthusiasm; and whatever we may do to enlighten ourselves and others, guard against checking or chilling a single earnest sentiment. For what is the human mind, however enriched with acquisitions or strengthened by exercise, unaccompanied by an ardent and sensitive heart? Its light may illumine, but it cannot inspire. It may shed a cold and moonlight radiance upon the path of life, but it warms no flower into bloom; it sets free no icebound fountains. Dr. Johnson used to say that an obstinate rationality prevented him from being a papist. Does not the same cause prevent many of us from unburdening our hearts and breathing our devotions at the shrines of nature? There are influences which environ humanity too subtle for the dissecting knife of reason. In our better moments we are clearly conscious of their presence, and if there is any barrier to their blessed agency, it is a formalized intellect. Enthusiasm, too, is the very life of gifted spirits. Ponder the lives of the glorious in art or literature through all the ages. What are they but records of toils and sacrifices supported by the earnest hearts of their votaries? 

There is an impending danger that people with emotional "outbursts" are seen as "spoil sports" in a party of quiet and silence, where procedure rules the roost - procedure designed to muffle the pervading thought processes through the use of systematic analysis and defence of why things are the way they are.  In community situations, for years we have hardly valued intellect.  Our emotional way of leading our societies, undoubtedly led us to many pitfalls.  Some exceptions exist everywhere naturally, but in a wholesome case, we lost more years than we gained.  Does such a fact make it then mandatory, nay, sensible to completely discard the heart in favour of what we call the mind?  The author has this to say: 

".... some of our most intelligent men speak of mastering a subject, of comprehending a book, of settling a question, as if these processes involved the whole idea of human cultivation. The reverse of all this is chiefly desirable. It is when we are overcome, and the pride of intellect vanished before the truth of nature, when, instead of coming to a logical decision, we are led to bow in profound reverence before the mysteries of life, when we are led back to childhood, or up to God, by some powerful revelation of the sage or minstrel, it is then our natures grow. To this end is all art. Exquisite vocalism, beautiful statuary and painting, and all true literature, have not for their great object to employ the ingenuity of prying critics, or furnish the world with a set of new ideas, but to move the whole nature by the perfection and truthfulness of their appeal. There is a certain atmosphere exhaled from the inspired page of genius, which gives vitality to the sentiments, and through these quickens the mental powers. And this is the chief good of books. Were it otherwise, those of us who have bad memories might despair of advancement." 

Islam provides a balance of heart (emotion) and mind (aql) and it would be a fallacy to divide the house into two opposing views based on these complementing features of human creation.  As much as reason must always prevail, it is what comes out of the heart that stays, and is more often genuine.

The article is slightly edited for






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