Peter de Noronha
Peter de Noronha (1897–1970) was a prominent citizen of Kanpur, India. He was knighted by Pope Paul VI in 1965.
A major collection of his thoughts was published in his book The Pageant of Life (1964).
On Planning for a Better World
- (Pages 11-13)
- Planning is undoubtedly necessary to ensure progress. If Nations and Peoples are finding it difficult to fulfil their own Plans, then who is going to be so presumptuous as to plan for the whole world? In these times of Cold Wars and Bamboo and Iron Curtains do we suppose one Nation will sit idly by and let another take the initiative in this respect? Even suppose the impossible does occur do you think the other Nations will accept the Plan of another with whom they are outwardly in peaceful contact?
- This subject of Planning in the economic sphere is discussed in a separate paper. We will here deal only with the spiritual angle.
- Man is a free agent, not in many things but in all things, subject, of course, to the requirements of the Natural and the Moral Law. In fact, Man is so free that he can even defy and disobey his Creator. Man's freedom is however conditioned by rules of safety, morality etc., which counsel him that he may not do certain things. This is not however, a negation of Freedom.
- People state that the World is marching towards a prescribed goal laid down by the Creator, which means that no matter how brilliant the achievements of man may be, he can exert no influence whatever on the final result. No doubt man is a puny and insignificant creature in contrast with God, but If I were just to play a passive part like the animals, there would be no justification in endowing him with a free will and creating him to the image and likeness of His Creator. He could have been a Superior Animal only.
- Look up and below and all round and see the wonderful creations of God, not only our earth but the whole host of celestial worlds, planets, constellations etc. – many still unknown to us. See with what minute precision and order they move and are regulated. Only God could have created them. Ev all the accumulated genius of Mankind from the time of Creation through eons and eons of time and even to the end of existence, were all pooled together, yet it would not be able to evolve even a fraction of this order. God only could do so, and without him it would be utter chaos.
- So again, if the goal is already prescribed, none of the Plans proposed by man could be of any avail. Then why Plan? This is a cul-de-sac, but fortunately there is a way out. Man has to Plan but his Planning must be in conformity with God's Will.
- (Pages 32 - 33 & 33- 34)
- Some one has said, 'Through struggle and suffering man can pass from the freedom to choose j or evil to the higher freedom that abides in the steadfastly chosen good." And again the "Gita" in ( II Ver. 27 states that our existence is brief and death is certain and that our human dignity requin to accept pain and suffering for the sake of the right.
- Suffering is an excellent teacher, and Aeschylus says, "We learn by sufferings. "We are easily] up; sufferings keep us humble. We easily turn to worldly things. Sufferings make us turn to ( love ourselves; sufferings teach us to love God."
- On grounds of sheer character formation, the patient endurance of pain brings out in a man ( that enhance and ennoble his character. There is no finer man than a man who 'can take ft'J self-sacrificing care of invalids, of the sick, of the aged, is one of the most refining factors in the\ realm of human experience. Thoroughbreds don't cry and pain can be a blessed thing
- Remember that sufferings like medals have also a reverse side and ponder over the words of blind Helen Keller" Although the world is full of sufferings, it is full of the overcoming of it."
The drooping bud does not rejoice the onlooker but the smiling Rose, though encased in thorns. The bud evokes our pity but it is the fragrant Rose that is a joy to behold. Are you a drooping bud or a smiling Rose when suffering or pain comes your way?
On Promiscuity & Continence
- (Pages 37-38)
- The state of affairs in other Countries, which claim to be more highly advanced and progressive, is much worse. There it is stated that no man or woman approaches Marriage as a virgin. This is the direct result of provocative publicity. The case of the male is perhaps worse, for he boasts he cannot even recollect the number or wild oats he has sown and which is considered as a Passport to manhood (sic). Others again have disgraced their humanity in disgusting unnatural offences, which they are now trying to make their Governments legalise, and finally others again are subject to the Oedipus complex.
- This naturally leads us to the subject to Continence. Our soi-disant manly man with a false sneer of bravado and utter lack of stability considers that Continence is not possible, and like the ostrich tries to hide from the truth. For not only is Continence possible but it is practiced with brilliant success, voluntarily, by hundreds and hundreds of men and women in all walks of life and by all castes and creeds. (Please note the stress on the word voluntarily.) But its attainment needs courage and determination of the highest degree and which is naturally out of the reach of our flabby indolent moderns, who succumb to the slightest temptation and want to drag everyone down to their own low moral levels.
On Income Tax
- (Pages 42-43)
- Let us delve a little deeper into the matter of Income Tax. The long-suffering Public are blamed and where discovered heavily penalised for submitting wrong returns. No doubt there are many black sheep, as in all other walks of life, who deliberately do so, but, however, it is true that most of those who adopt this unsavory practice have been forced to do so. Let us consider what happens.
The party first makes a correct return to the best of his ability but is considered to be a simpleton and fool. His word or explanations are not accepted or are looked upon with suspicion by the Assessing Authority, who may be his inferior perhaps in status. Arbitrary and unwarranted deductions are made and the poor party is unfairly over-assessed without hope of getting any proper relief. If he appeals the Superior Officer supports his subordinate and it may take years, expense and the ruling of a High Court to see that Justice is done. So what can be the result in such a case? At the next encounter you may be sure the party will be ready to match his skill against his instigator and to throw as many red herrings as he can on the trail. It will now require all the subtlety, knowledge and acumen of the authorities to arrive at the proper conclusion, and failure is generally the result. Lakhs of rupees of Income Tax dues remain outstanding and years of litigation follow and eventually the Tax is time-barred and non recoverable.
- (Pages 44 -45,45- 46)
- Mr. Nixon, the [late] Vice-President of the U.S.A., has said that the time to lose one's temper is when it is deliberate, whilst another wiseacre has stated, "Speak when you are angry and you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret."
- Taking an example from Nature – One of the strangest facts about bees is that as soon as they sting anyone, they are doomed to die after a little while. The sting is attached to their intestines so that when they leave it in any other body, life become impossible for the bee that has stung. This is precisely what happens when one is angry.
- Many advocate aids to check Anger; the commonest being to count ten before you start; but if not constant, you tend to turn into the man who used to count ten before he lost his temper, but later counted in two's to get there quicker.
- Of Anger the Dhamnapada says, "He who holds back rising anger like a rolling chariot, him I call, a real driver, other people are but holding the reins."
On The Gita
- (Pages 63 - 64)
- A first reading of the "Bhagwat Gita" reveals that it preaches a gospel of complete detachment. A more intensified reading confirms this opinion but reveals some really beautiful verses which require careful understanding and implementation.
- The substance of the teaching of the "Gita" is contained in Chapter XI Ver. 55, which translated reads:
"He who does work for me, he who looks upon Me as his goal, he who worships me, free from attachment, he who is free from enmity to all creatures, he goes to me."
- Human perfection is a sort of marriage between high thought and just action. This must form man's aim according to the "Gita".
- A Sanskrit Scholar, J.W. Hauer, speaking of the central message of the "Gita" says, "We are not called to solve the meaning of life, but to find out the deed demanded by us and to work, and so by action to master the riddle of life." Whilst Sanskara says that the essential purpose of the "Gita" is to teach us a way out of bondage and not merely enjoin action.
On Problem Solving
- (Page 98)
- The safest refuge when dealing with urgent, ticklish problems is sought in shirking responsibility, in gaining time by the formation of Committees, with the requisite Sub-Committees to tackle the problem. It is the well-known practice of Promise, Pause, Prepare, Postpone and end by letting things alone. But this cannot last for ever. Now the secret of these Committees is that they consist of a group of men, who individually can do nothing, but collectively can meet and decide that nothing can be done, whilst they know that the best Sub-Committees consist of three persons, two of whom are always absent!
- Further it is mentioned that if you want to kill an idea in the world today, get a Committee working on it. Adds J.B. Hughes, "If Moses had been a Committee, the Israelites would still be in Egypt."
- (Pages 110, 111)
- The Politician uses the language of diplomacy of which he is a master, and it consists in telling some of the truth without necessarily exhausting it. This is a most subtle and potent weapon in his well-stocked armory. For when a woman says, "no", she means "perhaps", when she says, "perhaps", she means "yes", if she says, "yes", she is no lady; but it is different with a Politician; when he says, "yes", he means "perhaps", if he says, "perhaps," he means "no", but if he says, "no", he is no politician.
- The polls are the place where Politicians claim the lime-light. They fulminate with garnished oratory, display inherent and affected charm and poise and ingenuity in tackling hecklers and evading responses to tricky questions and acquire the knack of telling an untruth with utmost conviction.
- Polls are after all places where you stand in line for a chance to decide who will spend your money, and where the Candidate stands for what people will fall for.
- (Pages 118-119)
- Honest and peace-loving people shun the Courts and are prepared to suffer loss rather than fall into a Lawyer's clutches. However, the vagaries and inconsistencies of human nature are such that people are unwillingly dragged in and the experiences they undergo leave an indelible and nauseating impression. One of these is the flagrant and plausible manner in which clients are fleeced, and snowed under a series of documents and forms which not only puzzle them, but which are always accompanied with demands for payment. There is, of course, the Lawyer's fee, but this is accompanied with the fees of his clerk (real or imaginary), then typing charges, copying charges and numerous other innumerable heads and sub-heads. In this context it is refreshing to recall that eminent legal luminary, the late Pt. Motilal Nehru was paid Rs. 5/- as his first fee and the remuneration of Dr. John Mathai was a bunch of bananas. These latter have increased immeasurably in value and are good foreign exchange getters and it is not so easy now to slip on a banana peel!
- (Pages 134-135, 138-139)
- In former days this maxim was displayed in Business Offices, "Call upon a Businessman, at business hours, on'business only. Go about your business and thus enable him to finish his own business. This is purely a business matter." There are two reasons why some people don't mind their own business; one is that they haven't any mind and the other that they haven't any business. However, now the Businessman is plagued at all hours by a spate of visitors with no business in view, who just drop in for free information or hospitality and more often than not for contributions to all sorts of charities, often of doubtful flavour or unauthorised.
- Visson has said, "Today's profits are yesterday's good will ripened," and though friendship is no basis for Business yet Business is an excellent basis for lasting friendship. To cement this friendship the Businessman recalls the fact that the memory of quality remains long after the price is forgotten, and keeps Buskin's dictum in mind that there is nothing in this world that cannot be made a little worse and sold a little cheaper. While it is equally true that men will make a beaten path to your door to acquire a better quality article even if it be a mouse trap. Nevertheless, a man is known by the Company he floats, or the Secretaries he employs, though the latter fluctuate more than the market, especially if of the gentler sex!
On Teachers & Education
- (Pages 144 -145, 149 - 150)
- There are some silly canards that die hard and some that should have been buried long ago such as 'Those that can, do; those as cannot, teach," or the definition of a Professor as a man whose job is to tell students how to solve the problem of life, which he himself has tried to avoid by becoming a Professor; or the more hurtful one that a Professor is a text book wired for sound.
- This vocation is sometimes termed a harried one and it is said that the abuse of School-masters was scribbled on the Pyramids long before the Monument was complete and that the general hatred and contempt for the pedagogue dates back to the very beginning of recorded things. These and other similar foolish accusations are the additional burden this class of people have to bear. Consider the gibe of that arch-cynic G.B.S., "When a man teaches something he does not know to somebody else, who has no aptitude for it and gives him a certificate of proficiency, the latter has completed the education of a gentleman."
- It has also been said that your Education has been a failure no matter how much it has done for you, if it has failed to open your heart. Dr. Zakir Hussain, when Vice-Chancellor of the Aligarh University, said, that the aim of Education was that students should become responsible citizens and not merely bundles of styles and sophistication like articles in a furniture shop – the product now being churned out lacks even that saving grace..... The old system may have produced 'snobs' what is being spewed out now are 'slobs'. The young student in Indian Schools is being smothered under a dead weight of books and notes dealing with a host of subjects imaginable and unimaginable. Busy cramming from morning till night and repeating parrot-like that he does not understand, he is fast becoming a literate moron. Initiative, leadership and education in the real sense of the term are encouraged only in a few public Schools.
- (Pages 164, 166, 168)
- This reminds one of the story of two eminent surgeons who were leaving the operation room, and one turned to the other and said, 'That was a close one, one inch either way and I would have been out of my speciality."
- This brings to mind the story of the Doctor speaking tactfully, "I do not like to bring it up but the cheque you gave me has come back." Replied the patient, "I do not like to mention it either, but so did the complaint."
- There are types and types of Specialists, and one Doctor when asked why he specialised in skin diseases, naively answered, 'There are three perfectly good reasons – my patients never get me out of bed at night, they never die and they never get well."
On Priests & Bishops
- (Pages 185 -186)
- The greatest sacrifices are called for in this Profession and therefore it not only merits but demands our respect and admiration.
- To get an idea of the sacrifices entailed, listen to the words of the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, "If aiding the lepers is so dear to the Missionaries, particularly the Catholic Missionaries, it is because there is no other service, which requires a greater spirit of sacrifice. Working in a leper asylum demands the highest ideals and the most perfect abnegation. The world of politics and journalism can point to few heroes who compare with Father Damien of Molokai. The Catholic Church on the other hand, counts by the thousand, those who after the example of Father Damien have vowed themselves to the service of the lepers. It is worth inquiring into such heroism!"
- "It is an illusion," says Ernest Raymond," that Bishops should be chosen for their scholarship, their administrative ability, their force of will, their social gifts or other more worldly abilities, instead of the one thing needful – their sanctiity."
- (Page 197)
- Now turning to Writers in general. The urge to write is analysed as 50% Ambition, 45% Vanity and 5% something to say. This is rather drastic and later revised by a famous Author as 80% earning a living, 10% Vanity and 10% something to say. Though both may not be acceptable to all, yet using them as norms, one can classify to some extent the written effusions one reads. William Faulkner says he writes what people will believe and for that they will pay, as even a Writer has to make money.
- One writer quite cutely remarks that his best work of fiction was his Income Tax Return.
- However, there are all kinds of Writers. Some who know only one field themselves. Next those who know two or three fields in depth, and nothing more, and thirdly the majority who know a little about many things. Lin Yutang says, "It seems to me that simplicity is almost the most difficult thing to achieve in scholarship or writing," presumably because simplicity pre-supposes digestion and also maturity.
- (Page 209)
- Again there is a trite saying that good Soldiers never think. Though this may not be true, yet it explains the cautionary advice that War is too serious a matter to be left to Soldiers and that a very good Soldier should not be in charge of the War Office. His place should be on the battle field where he is unsurpassable. Actually, "Young men don't make War, they fight them. Old men make Wars and survive them. They are immensely brave about other people's sons," says Nicholas Montsarrat. They are the ones that jest at scars, who never felt a wound.
- Old Soldiers never die, they only fade away, which has now been commuted to, they never die but only get slightly out of focus. However, the focus must be pretty sharp, for we find our retired Soldiers are in great demand and they secure ready employment in large organisations in the public and private sectors.