COMMON SENSE AND IMPULSE





Impulsive people are those who allow themselves to be guided by their

initial impressions and make resolutions or commit acts tinder the

domination of a special consciousness into which perception has

plunged them.



Impulse is a form of cerebral activity which, forces us to make a

movement before the mind is able to decide upon it by means of reflection

or reasoning. The Shogun deals with it at length and defines it thus:



"Impulse is an almost direct contact between perception and result.



"Memory, thought, deduction, and, above all, reason are absolutely

excluded from these acts, which are never inspired by intellectuality.



"The impression received by the brain is immediately transmuted into an

act, similar to those acts which depend entirely on automatic memory.



"It is certain in making a series of movements, which compose the act of

walking upstairs or the action of walking from one place to another, we

do not think of analyzing our efforts and this act of walking almost

limits itself to an organic function, so little does thought enter into

its composition.



"In the case of repeated impulses, it can be absolutely affirmed that

substance is the antecedent and postulate of the essence of being.



"Substance comprises all corporal materialities: instinctive needs,

irrational movements, in a word, all actions where common sense is

not a factor.



"Essence is that imponderable part of being which includes the soul, the

mind, the intelligence, in fact the entire mentality.



"It is this last element of our being which poetizes our thoughts,

classifies them, and leads us to common sense, by means of reasoning

and judgment.



"He who, having received an injury from his superior, replies to it at

once by corresponding affront, is absolutely sure to become the victim of

his impulses.



"It is only when his act is consummated, that he will think of the

consequences which it can entail; the loss of his employment first, then

corporal punishment, in severity according to the gravity of the offense;

lastly, misery, perhaps the result of forced inactivity.



"On the contrary, the man endowed with common sense will reflect in a

flash, by recalling all the different phases which we have described. His

intelligence, being appealed to, will represent to him the consequences

of a violent action.



"He will find, in common sense, the strength not to respond to an injury

at once; but will not forego the right, however, of avenging himself

under the guise of a satisfaction which will be all the more easily

accorded to him as his moderation will not fail to make an impression in

his favor."



"There is, between common sense and impulse," says Yoritomo, "the

difference that one would find between two coats, one of which was bought

ready-made, while the other, after being cut according to the proportions

of the one who is to wear it, was sewed by a workman to whom all the

resources of his art are known."



If impulses adopt the same character for every one, common sense adapts

itself to the mind, to the sensitiveness, to the worth of him who

practises it; it is a garment which is adjusted to the proportions of its

owner, and, according to his taste, is elaborate or simple.



Certain people have a tendency to confound intuition and impulse.



These two things, really very different in essence, are only related by

spontaneity of thought which gives them birth.



But whereas intuition, a sensation altogether moral, concisely stated, is

composed of mental speculations, impulses always resolve themselves into

acts and resolutions to act.



Intuition is a sort of obscure revelation, which reason controls only

after its formation.



Impulse never engages common sense in the achievements which it

realizes. It never decides upon them in advance, and almost always

engenders regrets.



It is the result of a defeat in self-control, which will-power and the

power of reasoning alone can correct.



Intuition is less spontaneous than impulse.



It is a very brief mental operation, but, nevertheless, very real, which,

very indistinctly, touches lightly all the phases of reasoning, in order

to reach a conclusion so rapidly that he who conceives it has difficulty

in making the transformations of the initial thought intelligible.



It is none the less true that intuition is always inspired by a predicted

reflection, but, in spite of this fact, an existing reflection.



Impulse, on the contrary, only admits instinct as its source of

existence.



It is the avowed enemy of common sense, which counsels the escape from

exterior insinuations that one may concentrate, in order to listen to the

voice which dictates to us the abstinence from doing anything until after

making a complete analysis of the cause which agitates us.



Some philosophers have sought to rank inspiration under the flag of

impulse, which they thought to defend; yes, even to recover esteem under

this new form.



"We should know how to stand on guard," says Yoritomo, "against this

fatal error."



"Inspiration," says he, "is rarely immobilized under the traits which

characterized its first appearance.



"Before expressing itself in a work of art or of utility, it was the

embryo of that which it must afterward personify.



"The ancients when relating that a certain divinity sprang, fully armed,

from the head of a god, accredited this belief to instantaneous creation.



"If musicians, painters, poets, and inventors want to be sincere, they

will agree that, between the thought which they qualify as inspiration,

and its tangible realization, a ladder of transformations has been

constructed, and that it is only by progressive steps that they have

attained what seemed to them the nearest to perfection."



Impulse, then, is only distantly related to inspiration and intuition.



Let us add that these gifts are very often only the fruit of an

unconscious mental effort, and that, most of the time, the thoughts,

which in good faith one accepts as inspiration or intuition, are only

nameless reminiscences, whose apparition coincides with an emotional

state of being, which existed at the time of the first perception.



There, again, the presence of reasoning is visible, and also the presence

of common sense, which tries to convert into a work of lasting results

those impressions which would probably remain unproductive without the

aid of these two faculties.



Impulses are, most of the time, the vassals of material sensations.



Definite reasoning and impartial judgment, inspired by common sense, are

rarely the possession of a sick man.



Sufferings, in exposing him to melancholy, make him see things in a

defective light; the effort of thinking fatigues his weak brain, and the

fear of a resolution which would force him to get out of his inactivity

has enormous influence upon the deductions which dictate his judgment.



Before discussing the advantages of conflict, he will instinctively

resign himself to inertia.



If, on the contrary, his temperament disposes him to anger, he will

compromise an undertaking by a spontaneous violence, which patience and

reflection would otherwise have made successful. It is possible also that

a valiant soul is unable to obey a weak body, and that instinct, awakened

by fear, leads one on to the impulsive desires of activity.



Inadequate food or excessive nourishment can produce impulses of a

different nature, but these differences are wholly and completely

distinct as to character.



The most evident danger of impulses lies in the scattering of mental

forces, which, being too frequently called upon, use themselves up

without benefiting either reason or common sense.



The habit of indulging in movements dictated only by instinct, in

suppressing all the phases of judgment leaves infinitely more latitude to

caprice, which exists at the expense of solid judgment.



Perception, being related to that which interests our passions, by

getting in direct contact with the action which should simply be derived

from a deduction, inspired by common sense, multiplies the unreflected

manifestations and produces waste of the forces, which should be

concentrated on a central point, after having passed through all the

phases of which we have spoken.



In addition, the permanency of resolutions is unknown to impulsive

people.



Their tendency, by leading them on toward instantaneous solutions, allows

them to ignore the benefits of consistency.



"They are like unto a peasant," said the old Nippon, "who owned a field

in the country of Tokio. Scarcely had he begun to sow a part of the field

when, under the influence of an unhappy impulse, he plowed up the earth

again in order to sow the ground with a new seed.



"If he heard any one speak of any special new method of cultivation,

he only tried it for a short while, and then abandoned it, to try

another way.



"He tried to cultivate rice; then, before the time for harvesting it, he

became enthusiastic for the cultivation of chrysanthemums, which he

abandoned very soon in order to plant trees, whose slow development

incited him to change his nursery into a field of wheat.



"He died in misery, a victim of his having scorned the power of

consistency and common sense."



Now Yoritomo, after having put us on our guard against impulses, shows us

the way to conquer these causes of disorder.



"To control unguarded movements, which place us on a level with inferior

beings. That is," said he "in making us dependent on one instinct alone.

This is," said he, "to take the first step toward the will to think,

which is one of the forms of common sense.



"In order to reach this point, the first resolution to make is to escape

from the tyranny of the body, which tends to replace the intellectual

element in impulsive people.



"When I was still under the instruction of my preceptor, Lang-Ho, I saw

him cure a man who was affected with what he called 'The Malady of the

First Impulse.'



"Whether it concerned good actions or reprehensible ones, this man always

acted without the least reflection.



"To launch a new enterprise, which the most elementary common sense

condemned, he gave the greater part of his fortune in a moment of

enthusiasm.



"He allowed himself to commit acts of violence which taught him

severe lessons.



"Finally, vexed beyond measure, dissatisfied with himself and others, he

so brutally maltreated a high dignitary in a moment of violent anger that

the latter sent for him that he might punish him. Learning of this, the

man, crazy with rage, rushed out of his house in order to kill the prince

with his own hand.



"It was in this paroxysm of passion that my master met him. Like all

impulsive people, he was full of his subject, and, joining the perception

of the insult to the judgment of it, which his instinct had immediately

dictated to him, he did not conceal his murderous intentions.



"My master, by means of a strategy, succeeded in dissuading him from

accomplishing his revenge that day. He persuaded him that the prince was

absent and would only return to town upon the following day.



"The man believed him, and allowed himself to be taken to the house

of Lang-Ho.



"But it was in vain that Lang-Ho unfolded all his most subtle arguments.

Neither the fear of punishment, nor the hope of pardon, could conquer the

obstinacy which can always be observed in impulsive people when their

resolution has not accomplished its purpose.



"It was then that my master employed a ruse, whose fantastic character

brings a smile, but which, however, demonstrates a profound knowledge of

the human heart when acting under the influence of common sense.



"During the sleep of his guest, Lang-Ho took off his robe, replacing it

by a garment made of two materials. One was golden yellow, the other a

brilliant green. After attacks of terrible anger, in spite of the

solicitation of his impulsive nature which incited him to go out, he did

not dare to venture into the streets in such a costume.



"That which the most subtle arguments had been unable to accomplish, was

obtained through fear of ridicule.



"Two days passed; his fury was changed into great mental exhaustion,

because impulsive people can not withstand the contact with obstacles for

any length of time.



"It was this moment which my master chose to undertake the cure, in which

he was so vitally interested.



"With the most delicate art, he explained to the impulsive man all the

chain of sentiments leading from perception to judgment.



"He caused common sense to intervene so happily that the man was

permeated by it. My master kept him near by for several weeks, always

using very simple arguments to combat the instinctive resolutions which

were formulated in his brain many times a day.



"Common sense, thus solicited, was revealed to the impulsive one, and

appeared like a peaceful counselor.



"The ridiculous and odious side of his resolution was represented to him

with such truth that he embraced Lang-Ho, saying:



"'Now, Master, I can go away, and your mind can be at rest about me.



"'The arguments of common sense have liberated me from bondage in which

my lack of reflection held me.



"'I return to my home, but, I beg of you, allow me to take away this

ridiculous costume which was my savior.



"'I wish to hang it in my home, in the most conspicuous place, that, from

the moment my nature incites me to obey the commands of impulse, I may be

able to look at once upon this garment, and thus recall your teachings,

which have brought sweetness and peace into my life.'"



All those who are inclined to act by instinct should follow this example,

not by dressing up in a ridiculous robe half green and half yellow, but

by placing obstacles in the way of the accomplishment of impulsive acts,

which the dictates of common sense would not sanction.



"For those whose mind possess a certain delicacy," again says the old

master, "these obstacles will be of a purely moral order, but for those

who voluntarily allow themselves to be dominated by a diseased desire for

action, obstacles should adopt a tangible form; the difficulty in

conquering anything always makes impulsive people reflect a little.



"Under the immediate impression of the perception of an act they are

ready for a struggle to the death; but this ardor is quickly

extinguished, and inertia, in its turn, having become an impulse, makes

them throw far away from them the object which determined the effort.



"In proportion as they encounter obstacles, which they have taken the

precaution to raise, the encroachment of the impression will make itself

less felt.



"The mere fact of having foreseen will become a matter for

reflection for them.



"The feeling of the responsibilities will be roused in them, and they

will understand how difficult it is to escape the consequences of

impulsive acts."



Would one not say that these lines had been written yesterday?



More than ever our age of unrest makes us the prey of impulses, and to

the majority of our contemporaries, the robe, half green and half yellow

(by recalling to them the worship of common sense), will become a fetish,

more precious than all the amulets with which superstition loves to adorn

logic, or to incorporate fantastic outline in the classic setting of

beautiful jewels.





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