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Inter-relation Of Impression And Expression

No impression without corresponding expression has become a maxim in
both physiology and psychology. Inner life implies self-expression in
external activities. The stream of impressions pouring in upon us hourly
from our environment must have means of expression if development is to
follow. We cannot be passive recipients, but must be active participants
in the educational process. We must not only be able to know and
feel, but to do.

THE MANY SOURCES OF IMPRESSIONS.--The nature of the impressions which
come to us and how they all lead on toward ultimate expression is shown
in the accompanying diagram (Fig. 20). Our material environment is
thrusting impressions upon us every moment of our life; also, the
material objects with which we deal have become so saturated with social
values that each comes to us with a double significance, and what an
object means often stands for more than what it is. From the lives
of people with whom we daily mingle; from the wider circle whose lives
do not immediately touch ours, but who are interpreted to us by the
press, by history and literature; from the social institutions into
which have gone the lives of millions, and of which our lives form a
part, there come to us constantly a flood of impressions whose influence
cannot be measured. So likewise with religious impressions. God is all
about us and within us. He speaks to us from every nook and corner of
nature, and communes with us through the still small voice from within,
if we will but listen. The Bible, religious instruction, and the lives
of good people are other sources of religious impressions constantly
tending to mold our lives. The beautiful in nature, art, and human
conduct constantly appeals to us in aessthetic impressions.

impressions may be subdivided and extended into an almost indefinite
number and variety, the different groups meeting and overlapping, it is
true, yet each preserving reasonably distinct characteristics. A common
characteristic of them all, as shown in the diagram, is that they all
point toward expression. The varieties of light, color, form, and
distance which we get through vision are not merely that we may know
these phenomena of nature, but that, knowing them, we may use the
knowledge in making proper responses to our environment. Our power to
know human sympathy and love through our social impressions are not
merely that we may feel these emotions, but that, feeling them, we may
act in response to them.

It is impossible to classify logically in any simple scheme all the
possible forms of expression. The diagram will serve, however, to call
attention to some of the chief modes of bodily expression, and also to
the results of the bodily expressions in the arts and vocations. Here
again the process of subdivision and extension can be carried out
indefinitely. The laugh can be made to tell many different stories.
Crying may express bitter sorrow or uncontrollable joy. Vocal speech may
be carried on in a thousand tongues. Dramatic action may be made to
portray the whole range of human feelings. Plays and games are wide
enough in their scope to satisfy the demands of all ages and every
people. The handicrafts cover so wide a range that the material progress
of civilization can be classed under them, and indeed without their
development the arts and vocations would be impossible. Architecture,
sculpture, painting, music, and literature have a thousand possibilities
both in technique and content. Likewise the modes of society, conduct,
and religion are unlimited in their forms of expression.

LIMITATIONS OF EXPRESSION.--While it is more blessed to give than to
receive, it is somewhat harder in the doing; for more of the self is,
after all, involved in expression than in impression. Expression needs
to be cultivated as an art; for who can express all he thinks, or feels,
or conceives? Who can do his innermost self justice when he attempts to
express it in language, in music, or in marble? The painter answers when
praised for his work, If you could but see the picture I intended to
paint! The pupil says, I know, but I cannot tell. The friend says, I
wish I could tell you how sorry I am. The actor complains, If I could
only portray the passion as I feel it, I could bring all the world to my
feet! The body, being of grosser structure than the mind, must always
lag somewhat behind in expressing the mind's states; yet, so perfect is
the harmony between the two, that with a body well trained to respond to
the mind's needs, comparatively little of the spiritual need be lost in
its expression through the material.

Next: The Place Of Expression In Development

Previous: Problems In Observation And Introspection

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