We Can't Just Play with Spools

Hershey, Lewis Blaine, 1893-1977


  • General Hershey laments society's fascination with technological progress and opines that society would be better off if people focused on understanding themselves, others around them and their relationships with one another.
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And now, This I Believe, a series of living philosophies presented in the hope they may help to strengthen and enrich your life. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Probably no decisions affect more vitally the lives of millions of young Americans than the decisions made daily by General Lewis B. Hershey, the boss of the nation's military draft. Reassuringly enough, his forthright creed places him squarely on the side of human, rather than material, values.
I believe that the greatest frontier of our ignorance lies in the relationship of man to man. I do not discount the marvelous development in the world of things, nor do I devaluate the contributions of those who made these developments possible. Yet all these are but means, and unless we can learn to shape and to control them to ends that are constructive for the inhabitants of this Earth, material miracles become not only futile, but worse--worse because they provide more means of destruction.
I believe the frontier of human relationship can be extended. It will not be easy to do so. Man must learn more about himself
than he already knows. The human emotions and the meaning of human behavior present difficulties in measurement much greater than those encountered in learning to measure steel or gold.
Perhaps the greatest impediment to the advancement of knowledge about us has been the fact that we have assumed we knew. The man who can predict accurately the smell or color of the vapor which arises when two substances are mixed, excites his fellow citizens far more than one who tries to predict the result of the clash of two personalities.
In the second phenomenon, we tend to solve by one of two methods: we dismiss as unpredictable prior to the clash; or, afterwards, we declare the result to have been inevitable and expected by everyone. In either case, we are denying our ignorance.
We shall have overlooked one of the largest obstacles to a solution of man's favorable relationship with man, when we know, and acknowledge, how little we know about ourselves. The step to follow our admission of ignorance is to seek the knowledge and understanding that we have concluded we do not have. This will be a long and difficult road--as long, perhaps, as from learning how to make fire to learning how to fission the atom.
Man must turn his eyes and interests inward. He has already made more gadgets than he understands or knows how to control. He resembles a child after Christmas, unable to manage the strange and complicated machine-toys that had challenged the interest of his parents. Our acceptance that we do not know, and must seek to learn, cannot wait. We have not the choice of the child. We cannot play with spools and leave the more complicated machines to our parents.
That was General Lewis B. Hershey, National Director of Selective Service, who has seen his share of human crises and who knows the importance of good faith and understanding in meeting them.