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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

eel, 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.