you can not control your circumstances,
but what you can determine is your attitude.
(chuck swindall - the quest for character)
--| Good Fortune |------------------------------------------------- Let us suppose that a man with very high ideas, even with the gift of an exceptional imagination, should have to work in some humble position. He had perhaps to spend almost all his life as a common soldier. I am speaking of a case that is indeed no legend, but the life of an exceedingly remarkable man, Josef Emanuel Hilscher, who was born in Austria in 1804 and died in 1837. It was his fate to serve for the greater part of his life as a common soldier; in spite of his brilliant gifts he rose to nothing higher than quartermaster. This man left behind him a great number of poems, not only perfect in form but permeated by a deep life of soul. He left excellent translations into German of Byron's poems. He had a rich inner life. We can picture the complete contrast between what the day brought him in the way of fortune and his inner experiences. The poems are by no means steeped in pessimism; they are full of force and exuberance. They show us that this life - in spite of the many disappointments inherent in it - rose to a certain level of inner happiness. It is a pity that men so easily forget such phenomena. For when we set a figure of this kind before our eyes, we can see - because indeed things are only relatively different from one another - we can see that perhaps it is possible, even when the external life seems to be entirely forsaken by fortune, for a man to create happiness out of his inmost being. ~ When we were struck by some misfortune, by some misadventure that might happen to us, we were to take it not simply as a blow, as the reverse of the success, but looking beyond the single earthly life, we were to see it as an end, as what comes last, as something the cause of which has to be sought in the past, just as the consequence when appearing as success has to seek its effects in the future - the future of our own evolution. We regard ill-fortune as an effect of our own evolution. How so? This we can make clear by a comparison showing that we are not always good judges of what has occasioned the course of a life. Let us suppose someone has lived as an idler on his father's money up to his eighteenth year, enjoying from his own point of view a very happy life. Then when he is eighteen years old his father loses his property; and the son can no longer live in idleness but is obliged to train for a proper job. This will at first cause him all sorts of trouble and suffering. "Alas!" he will say, "a great misfortune has overtaken me." It is a question, however, whether in this case he is the best judge of his destiny. If he learns something useful now, perhaps when he is fifty he will be able to say: Yes, at that time I looked upon it as a great misfortune that my father had lost his wealth; now I can only see it as a misfortune for my father and not for myself; for I might have remained a ne'er-do-well all my life had I not met with this misfortune. As it happens, however, I have become a useful member of society. I have grown into what I now am. So let us ask ourselves: When was this man a correct judge of his destiny? In his eighteenth year when he met with misfortune, or at fifty when he looked back on this misfortune? Now suppose he thinks still further, and enquires concerning the cause of this misfortune. Then he might say: There was really no need for me to consider myself unfortunate at that time. Externally it seemed at first as if misfortune had befallen me because my father had lost his income. But suppose that from my earliest childhood I had been zealous in my desire for knowledge, suppose that I had already done great things without any external compulsion, so that the loss of my father's money would not have inconvenienced me, then the transition would have been quite a different matter, the misfortune would not have affected me. The cause of my misfortune appeared to lie outside myself, but in reality I can say that the deeper cause lay within me. For it was my nature that brought it upon me that my life at that time was unfortunate and beset with pain and suffering... ...Now if, instead of moaning over our ill-luck, and throwing the whole blame upon the outside world, we look at the core of our inner being... then ill-luck becomes a challenge to regard life as a school in which we learn to make ourselves more and more perfect... ...And to him for whose central being good fortune is only an incentive to higher development, ill-fortune is also a challenge to further evolution. Thus the apparent contradiction is solved for us when, in observing life, we see the conception of good or bad fortune approaching us merely from the outside, converted into the conception of how we transform the experiences within ourselves and what we make of them. If we have learnt from the law of karma not only to derive satisfaction from success but to take it as an incentive to further development, we also arrive at regarding failure and misfortune in the same way... ...All external good fortune that falls to our share is characterized in what, according to legend, Solon said to Croesus: Call no man happy till you know his end. - All good fortune that comes to us from outside may change; good fortune may turn into bad. But what is there in the realm of fortune that can never be taken from us? What we make of the fortune that falls to us whether it comes from success or failure. Fundamentally the following true and excellent folk-saying can be applied to the whole of a man's relation to his fortune: Everyone is the smith of his own fortune... ...If a man, tossed to and fro in his life between good and bad fortune, feels like a sailor buffeted by stormy waves, who can rely on his own inner power. This must lead to a point of view which, with a slight adaptation of Goethe's words, we may describe thus: - Man stands with courage at the helm By wind and waves the ship is driven - The wind and waves do not affect him. Controlling them he looks in the green depths And trusts, no matter wrecked or safe in port, The forces of his inner being. (Excerpt from *Good Fortune*, Rudolf Steiner, Berlin, 1911) --
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