The Struggles of Man

Religion, Society, and Nature—these are the three struggles of man.” ~ Victor Hugo

If all the human activity undertaken in the course of a day, month or year were put in a pot still and reduced to its fractions, there would be but three fundamental components: religion, society and nature. Every man who has ever lived has wrestled with these matters. Every book written, every movie produced, every opera composed deals with one or more of these three topics.

They present themselves to the mind and heart of man at every turn, begging understanding and attention. Some try to cultivate their understanding from the bottom up, building layer upon layer of the bricks of understanding in an effort to reach the highest levels of knowing. Others espouse a top-down approach, believing that comprehension comes not from mental strain, but from yielding heart and mind to a less tangible fountain of wisdom and inspiration. Most fall somewhere in between.

Living is, in a word, the process of dealing with these struggles. Great scientific thinkers, spiritual leaders, prophets and the like offer occasional and intriguing glimpses beyond the veil of usual human understanding, yet most spend their lives bouncing from pillar to post without ever really overcoming the struggles which guard the gates of understanding in religion, society and nature.

Henry David Thoreau once declared: “I have no designs on society, or nature, or God. I am simply what I am, or I begin to be that. I live in the present. I only remember the past, and anticipate the future. I love to live.” In a way you must relinquish your designs to be able to see the true design clearly, just as you would see a friend more accurately if you were to release all prejudices and judgments about him.

I see this as one of the greatest challenges that face our educators, leaders, and parents today: how to provide sufficient starting points in truth so that all truth can be known in these areas. Too few starting points and the individual will be lost at sea, adrift in wave after wave of mixed information and likely to be swayed by the strongest influence coming along – true or not. Too many starting points and the person’s heart and mind are no longer an alembic of creative thought, instead, they become megaphones for a dogmatic if not fanatic perspective. This imbalance occurs in religion, society and the study of science and when it does, it is devastating to the individual and a terrible loss to the whole of which he is a part.

The way you handle these struggles in your life define you. Acquiesce and accept another’s view on these components and the unique perspective you bring on the eternal truth of the matter is lost. See life as being strictly a mental exercise, a matter of mind of matter, and you will fail. Simply follow your heart, after swallowing the foolish notion that your heart alone can guide you into all knowing, and your life will likewise come to naught.

Your heart and your mind must cooperate in the process. A pure heart, a keen, supple and well-trained mind capable of original and rational thought are the means by which the wisdom which seems to sit so elusively on the other side of the veil of human understanding is made available to you.

The truth of these matters is at hand. To know the truth, you must share the truth and this, my friends, is not a laborious chore but a profound pleasure.

Stand upright, speak thy thoughts, declare The truth thou hast, that all may share; Be bold, proclaim it everywhere: They only live who dare.” ~ Voltaire

8 thoughts on “The Struggles of Man

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  4. Colin

    Especially with the rise of the internet, the signal to noise ratio of truth vs. untruth is looking pretty dismal. In a world of snap judgements, the man or woman who uses their heart and mind in coordinated effort can sometimes seem to be overrun by the talking heads. However, it isn’t all grim. A wise word, effectively placed, can outshine a world’s worth of mindless babble. This is what we have to understand and aspire to. We all have the access to wisdom ourselves, and the responsibility to help others find that font as well, if they will. We do this not by judging and condemning lack of wisdom, but by constantly doing our best in every circumstance. By holding ourselves to the highest standard and constantly raising the bar, we can make wisdom the norm and not the exception.


  5. Ricardo B.

    Yeah, we have to reserve a place in ourselves and guard it carefully if truth in life is to be made real. One has to spend precious, valuable time to cultivate what that means to themself, and in this era of great opportunity there are a great many distractions that come along with it. On one hand, there are starting points made available to most people at their very fingertips, and yet on the other hand there are multiple avenues for all of us to lose focus. Greater privileges, greater responsibilities – and more is required of us in the distribution of our energies as we grow up. The nature of our daily actions are highly dependant on what we have cultivated and will show first in effort and sincerity. Consistency and refinement will bring the accuracy and wisdom which eventually arrives in time – it has to if we are true. The choice indeed is ours as to how we choose to live.


  6. Coco

    How we live our lives proclaim a certain measure of our individual understanding as we also share in the results of the collective level of understanding the truth. If we listen carefully to what our heart and mind cares about, simply said what is it they emphasize,
    appreciation, thankfulness and kindness or do they consistently spew disappointment, derision and hatred? That is a measure of our understanding of the truth. The truth will expand our virtue not constrict it.
    Thanks for your thoughts. This is the subject that at some level is always stirring the heart and mind.


  7. Nicolai Kolya

    Your post really gets to the crux of the matter. How many people, do you suppose actually seek to know the truth of who they are for themselves? Perhaps many think they do, but when it comes down to not caring what other people think or standing tall in the midst of adversity or even persecution, the list begins to get quite small. As you said, heart and mind must be together in this and if so, it’s a duo that can’t be beat.


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