Some time ago I saw an amusing sketch in Punch which needed no caption to explain it. A husband and wife were seated on opposite sides of the breakfast-table, each with head buried behind a propped-up newspaper. Engrossed in his "Daily," the husband held up his empty coffee-cup high above the "News" for a refill. Equally absorbed, but apparently aware of the other's requirement, the wife, with coffee-pot poised above her paper, was pouring a dark stream of the liquid, not into the extended cup, but down on to the table-cloth.
The artist had portrayed the humor of the situation so beautifully I just had to make a copy of it. But having done so, it struck me that there was something else to be gleaned from this sly dig at matrimonial felicity. How many of us, I wondered, engrossed in the fascinating mental stimulation of philosophical technicalities, or absorbed in great intellectual explorations, fail to discover the ever-present needs of others around us? How many of us fail to lower the newspaper, as it were, to attend to the cry for help or sympathy from the fellow across the way?
Or how many of us, thrilled by what we have learned, anxious to impart our own exciting discoveries in the depths of the ocean of knowledge, pour out the strong brew where it is not needed and cannot be assimilated? The coffee goes on the table-cloth, and there is nothing but dregs for the thirsty one.
The warmth of human understanding, given where it is craved by a lonely soul, a little practical help to a neighbor faced with economic problems, even an inquiry as to someone's welfare, may do more to awaken an interest in that treasure which we seek to share, than either a brilliant discourse on the constitution of Man and the Universe, or a lofty lecture on Impersonality.
Do not mistake my meaning. Study, erudition, lectures, the enviable ability to "put it over," these all have their place. They are extremely important. But we may find ourselves in circumstances and times that neither permit nor call for these methods; when the temptation to shut ourselves away from our fellow men and bury ourselves behind a barrier of knowledge debars us from either receiving or giving wisdom. We may be so unaware of what is happening on the other side of the barrier that our presentation of such knowledge as we have imbibed is outdated, and not suited in any way to the modern mind, even when that mind is open to a more understanding approach.
Let us not be blinded by custom or isolation to our real aim, to pour the warmth and inspiration of the Divinity that is in Humanity into the cups stretched out for it.
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