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  Home > Banner of Peace > The Red Cross of Culture
It is added on November, 9th 2009


In a recent cable from New York, we have read that there were about 800,000 unemployed in that city alone. In the United States the number of unemployed exceeds nine millions. Besides, we know that this number does not include a multitude of professional workers, although they are going through poverty and an unemployment no less severe. Such numbers are a true disaster; they show that the crisis has not only penetrated to all strata of society, but is already a destructive factor. By the same mail we are informed that the very existence of the Metropolitan Opera House is threatened. Letters inform us not only about new curtailments of educational institutions but also about losses of many millions by people who were considered invincible pillars of financial wisdom.

When, under our eyes, such pillars of life-long wisdom are being shaken, does this not indicate a sign that these materialistic foundations have already reached their limit and are passing away? And is not this sign one more testimony that it is necessary to raise the forgotten and dusty banners of spirit out of the dust in order to counterbalance the apparent destruction, by invincible values?

When, if not now, should the hearts of children be kindled by the records of heroic deeds of true education and knowledge? Perhaps there has never as yet been a time when one needed so urgently to penetrate into the difficulties of the family and, based upon historical examples, to indicate exactly what means were used to overcome the recurring crises in the history of humanity.

One cannot any longer hide that the crisis has taken place; it is impossible to console oneself with the hope that daily collections will feed all the unemployed and starving. It is quite obvious that that which has occurred lies much deeper.

The folk wisdom long ago, had the saying, “Money lost, nothing lost; courage lost, all is lost.” Now we must remember this wise proverb, because we have gotten into the habit of speaking about the crisis; those who have suffered as well as those who have for some reason suffered only a little, blame equally the crisis, equally arresting all their initiative and creative efforts.

Thus, if basic counteraction is not begun, this crisis may be only a prelude to something much more colossal.

We optimists must primarily divert any panic, any despair, whether on the stock market or in the Holy of Holies of the Heart. There is no horror which, after a greater tension of energy is evoked, cannot be transmuted into a luminous solution. It is especially horrifying to hear people who are not ill-intentioned but burdened by the crisis, begin to say that now is not the time to think of Culture. We have already heard similar words, inadmissible in their cowardice and despair.

Know, my dear readers, that now one must think with especial urgency not only of culture as such, but of how to apply this source of life for the new generation. One may imagine how the trend of thought of youth, which has just begun to form, will express itself, if it hears in school and at home about the horrors of despair, if youth hears only of the necessity of renouncing that which is most vital, and forgetting the very sources of Light and Progress.

The terrible expressions “One cannot,” “This is not the time,” “Impossible,” lead the new consciousness into a dark prison. And nothing, nothing in the world will illumine these obscurities of the heart if they are once admitted. Nor must we think only of youth; we must at the same time also think about childhood. Every educator knows that the foundations of a person’s attitude towards the world, often ineradicable through one’s entire life, are being laid, not during adolescence, but far earlier. It is often only the silent gaze of a child which reveals that the surrounding conditions are not at all beyond his comprehension, as it seems to adult conceit. How many basic problems are being solved in the brain and heart of a four or six-year-old child!

Every one who has watched the development of children will of course remember those remarkable definitions, remarks, and counsels which have been uttered by the child quite unexpectedly. But besides these spoken expressions, what innumerable sparks of consciousness are also revealed in the silent look of a child. And how frequently these little ones divert their gaze from the grown-ups, as though protecting some decisive thought which, according to the opinion of children, the grown-ups would probably not understand.

And now one should fill this agile mind of a child by the most luminous thought. Not with empty hopes—because idealism is expressed not in nebulous words, but in an immutable force, which can be proven by historians as a most exact mathematical problem.

Is it not now the time in our schools, beginning from the lower classes, to bring in the attracting and inspiring message of the heroic deeds of humanity, of its most useful discoveries and of that luminous Bliss, which of course is predestined, but which has not yet been consummated because of the absence of vision.

We began with the mention of New York—amazed by the last newspaper reports, amazed by the fact that in the seemingly wealthiest city, the municipality is in immediate need of dozens of millions, in order to prevent starvation.

We are quoting this newspaper communication because it is not only not far from the truth, but in its essence it doesn’t even express the entire truth. That which was communicated about New York refers of course to all cities, not only those of America, but of the entire world. Often these communications are concealed either by conditioned limitations or by the dark dust of eruptions as is now being reported from South America, in the accounts of aeroplanes which were sent to places stricken by cataclysms where “nothing was to be seen.” Verily from many parts of the globe “nothing is to be seen”; and when the darkness of the eruption disperses, then we see a still greater calamity of the human spirit.

He who now considers the inevitability of the crisis is in no way a Cassandra, uttering ominous prophecies, “which at least in the case of Cassandra were fulfilled.” He who now points out the crisis is assuming a rôle analagous to the flagman of a train who, seeing the impending catastrophe, waves his flag of warning, hoping with his entire heart that the engineers will be vigilant and see his warning. Let us be such flagmen.

Let us raise the banner for the protection of Culture! Let us remember the Universal Day of Culture suggested last year as a day in schools when recitations of the greatest achievements of humanity, instead of the ordinary lessons, would kindle young hearts, through their luminous message. If last year we had in mind a League of Youth and at least one Day which would manifest the Beautiful Garden of humanity, then we now ask that the urge for this manifestation be increased. A single day will no longer strengthen the consciousness which is now shaken by social and family misfortunes. One must speak more frequently about the saving, creative, inspiring beginning.

To educate, does not mean to give a record of technical information. Education, the forming of the world-consciousness, is attained by synthesis; not by the synthesis of misfortunes, but by the synthesis of the joy of perfection and creativeness. But, if we shut off all flow of this joyous illumination of life, then what type of educators will we be? What education can the pedagogue offer, who spreads around him sorrow and despair? Not far from despair is also the pretense of joy; hence, it is, that each forced smile, has been called, not without reason, the smile of the skull. It means that we must convince ourselves how necessary and vital is the program of Culture as a salutary beginning, as a life giver.

From the medical world we know that the so-called, vitalizing remedies cannot act suddenly. Even for the best vitalizer, time is needed so that it should penetrate to all nerve centers, to stimulate them not only mechanically (because each stimulant induces a reaction) but truly to strengthen and revitalize the nerve substance. If we see in all examples of life, the necessity of a certain period for the process of revitalization, then how undeferrably necessary it is to think and to begin to act under a sign like the Red Cross of Culture.

Humanity has become accustomed to the sign of the Red Cross. This beautiful symbol has penetrated life not only in times of war, but has afforded to all existence an affirmation of the concept of humanitarianism. And the same realization of humanitarianism, the same un-deferrable necessity from small to great, must surround this sign of Culture similar to the Red Cross. One must not think that it is possible only to think of Culture at certain times when digesting the tasty food of a dinner. One should know that just during hunger and cold it is needed; as the sign of the Red Cross shines luminously to the wounded, so to the physically and spiritually famished should the Sign of Culture burn radiantly.

Is it now the time to obstruct, to protest, to disagree and to wrangle pettily? When a Red Cross Ambulance hurries through the streets, all traffic stops to make way for it. Likewise for the undeferrable Sign of Culture, let us also give up at least some of our usual habits and all the vulgar sediments and dusty limitations of ignorance from which in any case we will sooner or later have to purify ourselves.

For people who have not come close to questions of education, the Sign of Culture may seem only an interesting experiment. Of course, we will not hide our opinion that people will thus show their lack of education in history. But if it seems only an experiment to some we also will agree to this, because no one may say, that this experiment can be destructive or create decay. Creativeness of thought about Culture is so apparent that it is even ridiculous to speak of it.

During serious danger on a ship, the command is given “Act according to your ability.”

And also now thinking about Culture one must say to friends and enemies, “Let us act according to our abilities.” It means let us double all our forces for the glory of the creative concept of Culture undeferrable in its vitality.

April 17, 1932.
The Fiery Stronghold,
The Stratford Company, Boston 1933