In the meantime we hold on. We do not propose to give up believing in it. Perhaps, after all, all that is the matter with goodness in the United States is the people who have taken hold of it.
They do not seem to be the kind of people who can make it interesting. We cannot help thinking, if these same bad people about us, or people who are called bad, would only take up goodness awhile, how they would make it hum!
I can only speak for one, but I do not deny that when I have been sitting (in some churches), or associating, owing to circumstances, with very good people a little longer than usual, and come out into the street, I feel like stepping up sometimes to the first fine, brisk, businesslike man I see going by, and saying, "My dear sir, I do wish that you would take up goodness awhile and see if, after all, something cannot really be done. I keep on trying to be hopeful, but these dear good people in here, it seems to me, are making a terrible mess of it!"
And, to make a long story short, Lim happened to be going by one day, and this practically is what I did. I had done it before with other business men in spirit or in a general way, but with him I was more particular. I went straight to the point. "Here are at least sixteen valuable efficient brands of goodness in America," I said, "all worth their weight in gold for a big business career, that no one is really using, that no one quite believes in or can get on the market, and yet I believe with my whole soul in them all, and I believe thousands of other men do, or are ready to, the moment some one makes a start."
I pulled out a little list of items which I had made out and put down on a piece of paper, and handed them over to him, and said I wished he would take a few of them—the first five or six or so—and make them work.
He already had, I found, made two or three of the harder ones work.
I would not have any one suppose for a moment that I am presenting Lim as a kind of business angel.
No one who knows Lim thinks of him, or would let anybody else think of him, as being a Select Person, as being particularly or egregiously what he ought to be. This is one reason I have picked him out. Being good in a small private way, just as a small private end in itself, may be practicable perhaps without dragging in people who are not quite what they ought to be. But the moment one tries to make goodness work, one comes to the fact that it must be made to work with what we have. We have a great crowd of unselected people, people both good and bad, and the first principle in making goodness work (instead of being merely good) seems to be to believe that goodness is not too good for anybody. Anybody who can make it work can have it, and what goodness seems to need, especially in America and England just now, is people who do not feel that they must at all hazards look good. Whatever happens, whatever else we do in any general investment or movement we may be making with goodness, we must let these people in. If there is one thing rather than another that those of us who know Lim all rely on and like, it is that nothing can ever make him slump down into looking good. We often find him hard to make out—everything is left open and loose and unlabelled in Lim's moral nature. The only really sure way any one can tell when Lim is being good is, that whenever he is being good he becomes suddenly and unexpectedly interesting. His goodness is daring, unexpected, and original. One has the feeling that it may break out anywhere. It is always doing things that everybody said could not be done before. It is true that some people are dazed, and no one can ever seem to feel sure he knows what it is that is going on in Lim when he is being good, or that it is goodness. He merely keeps watching it. There is a certain element of news, of freshness, of gentle sensation, in his goodness. It leads to consequences. And there always seems to be something about Lim's goodness which attracts the attention of people, and makes people who see it want it. So when I speak of goodness in this book, and put it down as the basis of the power of getting men to do as one likes, I do not deny that I am taking the word away and moving it over from its usual associations. I do not mean by a good act, a good-looking act, but an act so constituted that it makes good. For the purpose of this book I would define goodness as efficiency. Goodness is the quality in a thing that makes the thing go, and that makes it go so that it will not run down, and that nothing can stop it.
There is the inefficiency of lying, for instance, and the inefficiency of force, or bullying.
PROSPECTS OF THE LIAR
My theory about the Liar is that it is of no use to scold him or blame him. It merely makes him feel superior. He should be looked upon quietly and without saying anything as a case of arrested development. What has happened to him is that he merely is not quite bright about himself, and has failed to see how bright (in the long run) other people are.
When a man lies or does any other wrong thing, his real failure consists not in the wrongdoing itself, but in his failure to take pains to focus his mind on the facts in himself, and in the people about him, and see what it really is that he would wish he had done, say in twenty years. It seems to be possible, after a clumsy fashion, to find out by a study of ourselves, and of our own lives and of other men's lives, what we would wish we had done afterward. Everything we have learned so far we have learned by guessing wrong on what we have thought we would want afterward. We have gradually guessed what we wanted better. We began our lives as children with all sorts of interesting sins or moral guesses and experiments. We find there are certain sins or moral experiments we almost never use any more because we found that they never worked. We had been deceived about them. Most of us have tried lying. Since we were very small we have tried in every possible fashion—now in one way, now in another—to see if lying could not be made to work. By far the majority of us, and all of us who are the most intelligent, are not deceived now by our desire to tell lies. Perhaps we have not learned that all lies do not pay. A child tells a lie at first as if a lie had never been thought of before. It is as if lying had just been invented, and he had just thought what a great convenience it was, and how many things there were that he could do in that way. He discovers that the particular thing he wants at the moment, he gets very often by lying. But the next time he lies, he cannot get anything. If he keeps on lying for a long time, he learns that while, after a fashion, he is getting things, he is losing people. Finally, he finds he cannot even get things. Nobody believes in him or trusts him. He cannot be efficient. He then decides that being trusted, and having people who feel safe to associate with him and to do business with him, is the thing he really wants most; and that he must have first, even if it is only a way to get the other things he wants. It need not be wondered that the Trusts, those huge raw youngsters of the modern spirit, have had to go through with most of the things other boys have. The Trusts have had to go through, one after the other, all their children's diseases, and try their funny little moral experiments on the world. They thought they could lie at first. They thought it would be cunning, and that it would work. They did not realize at once that the bigger a boy you were, even if you were anonymous, the more your lie showed and the more people there were who suffered from it who would be bound sooner or later to call you to account for it.
The Trusts have been guessing wrong on what they would wish they had done in twenty years, and the best of them now are trying to guess better. They are trying to acquire prestige by being far-sighted for themselves and far-sighted for the people who deal with them, and are resting their policy on winning confidence and on keeping faith with the people.
They not only tried lying, like all young children, but they tried stealing. For years the big corporations could be seen going around from one big innocent city in this country to another, and standing by quietly and without saying a word, putting the streets in their pockets.
But no big corporation of the first class to-day would begin its connection with a city in this fashion. Beginning a permanent business relation with a customer by making him sorry afterward he has had any dealings with you, has gone by as a method of getting business in England and America.
One of our big American magazines not long ago, which had gained especially high rates from its advertisers because they believed in it, lied about its circulation. The man who was responsible was not precisely sure, gave nominal figures in round numbers, and did what magazines very commonly did under the circumstances; but when the magazine owner looked up details afterward and learned precisely what the circulation was for the particular issue concerned, he sent out announcements to every firm in the country that had anything in the columns of that issue, saying that the firm had lied, and enclosing a check for the difference in value represented. Of course it was a good stroke of business, eating national humble pie so, and it was a cheap stroke of business too, doing some one, sudden, striking thing that no one would forget. Not an advertisement could be inserted and paid for in the magazine for years without having that action, and the prestige of that action, back of it. Every shred of virtue there was in the action could have been set one side, and was set one side by many people, because it paid so well. Every one saw suddenly, and with a faint breath of astonishment, how honesty worked. But the main point about the magazine in distinction from its competitors seems to have been that it not merely saw how honesty worked, but it saw it first and it had the originality, the moral shrewdness and courage, to put up money on it. It believed in honesty so hard that suddenly one morning, before all the world, it risked its entire fortune on it. Now that it has been done once, the new level or standard of candour may be said to have been established which others will have to follow. But it does not seem to me that the kind of man who has the moral originality to dare do a thing like this first need ever have any serious trouble with competitors. In the last analysis, in the competition of modern business to get the crowd, the big success is bound to come to men in the one region of competition where competition still has some give in it—the region of moral originality. Other things in competition nowadays have all been thought of except being good. Any man who can and will to-day think out new and unlooked-for ways of being good can get ahead, in the United States of practically everybody.
PROSPECTS OF THE BULLY
The stage properties that go with a bully change as we grow older. When one thinks of a bully, one usually sees a picture at once in one's mind. It is a big boy lording it over a little one, or getting him down and sitting on him.
Everybody recognizes what is going on immediately, pitches in nobly and beautifully, and licks the big boy.
The trouble with the bully in business has been that he is not so simple and easy to recognize. He is apt to be more or less anonymous and impersonal, and it is harder to hit him in the right place.
But when one thinks of it perhaps this pleasant and inspiring duty is not so impracticable as it looks, and is presently to be attended to.
Any man who relies, in getting what he wants, on being big instead of being right, is a bully.
Modern business is done over a wide area, with thousands of persons looking on, and for a long time and with thousands of people coming back. The man who relies on being big instead of being right, and who takes advantage of his position instead of his inherent superiority, is soon seen through. His customers go over to the enemy. A show of force or a hold-up works very well at the moment. Being bigger may be more showy than being right, and it may down the Little Boy, but the Little Boy wins the crowd.
Business to-day consists in persuading crowds.
The Little Boy can prove he is right. All the bully can prove is that he is bigger.
The Liar in Business is already going by.
Now it is the turn of the bully.
Not long ago a few advertisers in a big American city wanted unfairly low rates for advertisements and tried to use force with the newspapers. Three or four of the biggest shops combined and gave notice that they would take their advertising away unless the rates came down. After a little, they drew in a few other lines of business with them, and suddenly one morning five or six full pages of advertisements were withdrawn from every newspaper in the city. The newspapers went on publishing all the news of the city except news as to what people could buy in department stores, and waited. They made no counter-move of any kind, and said nothing and seven days slipped past. They held to the claim that the service they performed in connecting the great stores with the people of the city was a real service, that it represented market value which could be proved and paid for. They kept on for another week publishing for the people all the news of the city except the news as to how they could spend their money. They wondered how long it would take the great shops with acres of things to sell to see how it would work not to let anybody know what the things were.
The great shops tried other ways of letting people know. They tried handbills, a huge helpless patter of them over all the city. They used billboards, and posted huge lists of items for people to stop and read in the streets, if they wanted to, while they rushed by. For three whole weeks they held on tight to the idea that the newspapers were striking employees of department stores. One would have thought that they would have seen that the newspapers were the representatives of the people—almost the homes of the people—and that it would pay to treat them respectfully. One would have thought they would have seen that if they wanted space in the homes of the people—places at their very breakfast tables—space that the newspapers had earned and acquired there, they would have to pay their share of what it had cost the newspapers to get it.
One would have thought that the department shops would have seen that the more they could make the newspapers prosper, the more influence the newspapers would have in the homes of the people, and the more business they could get through them. But it was not until the shopowners had come down and gazed day after day on the big, white, lonely floors of their shops that they saw the truth. Crowds stayed away, and proved it to them. Namely: a store, if it uses a great newspaper, instead of having a few feet of show windows on a street for people to walk by, gets practically miles of show windows for people—in their own houses—sells its goods almost any morning to the people—to a whole city—before anybody gets up from breakfast—has its duties as well as its rights.
Of course, when the shopkeepers really saw that this was what the newspapers had been doing for them, they wanted to do what was right, and wanted to pay for it. One would have thought, looking at it theoretically, that the department stores in any city would have imagination enough to see, without practically having to shut their stores up for three weeks, what advertising was worth. But if great department stores do not have imagination to see what they would wish they had done in twenty years, in one year, or three weeks, and have to spell out the experience morning by morning and see what works, word by word, they do learn in the end that being right works, and that bullying does not. Gradually the level or standard of right in business is bound to rise, until people have generally come to take the Golden Rule with the literalness and seriousness that the best and biggest men are already taking it. Department stores that have the moral originality and imagination to guess what people would wish they had bought of them and what they would wish they had sold to them afterward are going to win. Department stores that deal with their customers three or four years ahead are the ones that win first.
GOODNESS AS A CROWD-PROCESS
The basis of successful business is imagination about other people. The best way to train one's imagination about other people is to try different ways of being of service to them. Trying different ways of merely getting money out of them does not train the imagination. It is too easy.
Business is going to be before long among the noblest of the professions, because it takes the highest order of imagination to succeed in it. Goodness is no longer a Sunday school. The whole world, in a rough way, is its own Sunday school.
To have the most brains render the most service—render services people had never dreamed of before.
Why bother to tell people to be good? It bores us. It bores them. Presently we will tell them over our shoulders, as we go by, to use their brains. Goodness is a by-product of efficiency.
Being good every day in business stands in no need of being stood up for, or apologized for, or even helped. All of these things may be expedient and human and natural, because one cannot help being interested in particular people and in a particular generation; but they are not really necessary to goodness. It is only when we are tired, or when we only half believe in it, that we feel to-day that goodness needs to be stood up for. In a day when men make vast crowds of things, so that the things are seen everywhere, and when the things are made to stand the test of crowds—crowds of days, or crowds of years—and when they make them for crowds of people, goodness does not need scared and helpful people defending it. I have seen that goodness is a thing to be sung about like a sunset. I have seen that goodness is organic, and grounded in the nature of things and in the nature of man. I have seen that being good is the one great adventure of the world, the huge daily passionate moral experiment of the human heart—that all men are at work on it, that goodness is an implacable crowd process, and that nothing can stop it.
THOUGHTS ON BEING IMPROVED BY OTHER PEOPLE
But Fate has so arranged our lives that we all have to live cooped up in one particular generation. Living in all of them, especially the ages just ahead, and seeing as one looks out upon them how goodness wins, may be well enough when one is tired or discouraged and is driven to it, but in the meantime all the while we are living in this one. The faces of the people we know flit past us; the gaunt, grim face of the crowd haunts us—the crowd that will slip softly off the earth very soon and drop into the Darkness—a whole generation of it, without seeing how things are coming out; and there is something about the streets, about the look of women as they go by, something about the faces of the little children, that makes one wish goodness would hurry. One cannot think with any real pleasure of goodness as a huge, slow, implacable moral glacier, a kind of human force of gravity, grinding out truths and grinding under people, generation after generation, down toward some vast, beautiful, happy valley with flowers and children in it and majestic old men thousands of years away. One wishes goodness would hurry. We are not content, some of us, with having the good people climb over the so-called evil ones and gain the supremacy of the world, and all because the evil people do not see what they really want to do or would have wished they had done afterward. We want the evil ones, so called, to see what they really want now. We cannot help believing that there is some way of attracting their attention to what they really want now.
I have seen, or seemed to see, in my time that there is almost no limit to what people can do if they can get their own attention, or if some person or some event will happen by that can get their attention for them.
Paralytics jumped from their beds at the time of the San Francisco earthquake and ran for blocks. The whole earth had to shake them in order to get their attention; but it did it, and they saw what it was they wanted, and they ran for it at once, whether they were paralytics or not. In the fire that followed the earthquake, people that had been sick in bed for weeks were seen, scores of them, dragging their trunks through the streets.
I have seen, too, in my time scores of people doing great feats of goodness in this way, things that they knew they could not do, dragging huge moral trunks after them, or swinging them up on their shoulders. I have seen men who thought they were old in their hearts, and who thought they were wicked, running like boys, with shouts and cheers, to do right. It was all a matter of attention. The question with most of us would seem to be: How can one get one's attention to what one would wish one had done in twenty years, and how can one get other people's—all the people with whom we are living and working—to do with us what they would wish they had done, in twenty minutes, twenty days, or twenty years?
Letting the Crowd be Good, all turns in the long run upon touching the imagination of Crowds.
In the last analysis, the coming of the kingdom of heaven, as it has been called, is going to be the coming slowly, and from unsuspected quarters, of a new piety and of new kinds of saints into the forefront of modern life—saints who can attract attention, saints who can make crowds think what they really want.
Using the word in its more special sense, the time has come when it is being keenly realized that if goodness is to be properly appreciated by crowds, it must be properly advertised.
How can goodness be advertised to Crowds?
Who are the people that can touch the imagination of Crowds?
The best and most suggestive truths that most of us could come to with regard to doing right, would come from a study of the people who have tried to make us do it. Most of us, if we were asked to name the people most prominently connected with the virtues that we have studied and wondered about most, would mention, probably, either our parents or our preachers. Many of us feel quite expert about parents. We have studied vividly, and sometimes with almost a breathless interest, all their little ways of getting us to be good, and there is hardly any one who has not come to quite definite conclusions of how he should be preached to. I have thought it would be not unfruitful to consider in this connection either our parents or our preachers. I have decided to consider the preachers who try to make me good, because they are a little less complicated than parents.
Preachers can only be put into classes in a general way. They often overlap, and many of them change over from one class into another every now and then on some special subject, or on some special line of experience which they have had. But for the most part, at least as regards emphasis, preachers may be said to divide off into three classes:
Those who tease us to do right.
Those who make us see that doing right, if any one wants to do it, is really an excellent thing.
Those who make us want to do it.
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I never go to hear a second time, if I can help it, a preacher who has teased me to do right. I used to hope at first that perhaps a clergyman who was teasing people might incidentally slip off the track a minute, and say something or see something interesting and alive. But, apparently, preachers who do not see that people should not be teased to do right, do not see other things, and I have gradually given up having hopeful moments about them. Why, in a world like this, with the right and the wrong in it all lying so eloquent and plain and beautiful in the lives of the people about us, and just waiting to be uncovered a little, waiting to be looked at hard a minute, should audiences be gathered together and teased to do right?
If the right were merely to be had in sermons or on paper, it might be different. My own experience with the right has been, if I may speak for one, that when I get out of the way of the people who are doing it, and let the right they are doing be seen by people, everybody wants it. When people who are doing right are quietly revealed, uncovered a little further by a preacher, everybody envies them, and teasing becomes superfluous. People sit in their seats and think of them, and become covetous to be like them. If, this very day, all the ministers of the world were to agree that, on next Sunday morning at half-past ten o'clock, they all with one accord would preach a sermon teasing people to be rich, it would not be more absurd, or more pathetic, or more away from the point, than it would be to preach a sermon teasing people to be good. They want to be good now; they envy the people that they see going about the world not leaning on others to be good—self-poised, independent, free, rich, spiritually self-supporting persons.
The men and women that we know may be more or less muddled in their minds with philosophy or with theology, or perhaps they are being deceived by expediency or being bullied by their environment, but they are not wicked; they are out of focus, and what they desire when they go to church on Sunday morning is to get a good look at beautiful and refreshing things that they want, and for an hour and a half, if possible, with slow steadied thought see their own lives in perspective. It is a criminal waste of time to get hundreds of people to come into church on a Sunday morning and seat them all together in a great room where they cannot get out, and then tease them and tell them they ought to be good. They knew it before they came. They are already agreed, all of them, that they want to be good. They even want to be good in business—as good as they can afford to. The question is how to manage to do it. The thing that is troubling them is the technique. How can they be good in their business—more good than their employers want them to be, for instance—and keep their positions? Doing as one would wish one had done afterward, or knowing what one is about, or "being good" as it is sometimes called, is a thing that all really clever people have agreed upon. They simply cannot manage some of the details—details like time and place, a detail like being good now, for instance, or like being good here. It is the more practical things like these that trouble people, or they grow mixed in their thoughts about the big goods and the little ones—which shall be first in order of importance or which in the order of time. And when one sees that people are really like this in their hearts, and when one sees them, all these poor, helpless people, sitting cooped up in a church for an hour and a half being teased to be good, it is small wonder that it seems, or is coming to seem, to the clean-cut morally businesslike men and women we have to-day, a pitiful waste of time.
* * * * *
I come to the second class of preachers I had in mind with more diffidence. My feelings about them are not so simple and rudimentary as my feelings about those who have teased me to be good.
Any man who travels about, or who drops into churches wherever he happens to be from Sunday to Sunday, is almost sure to find in every city of considerable size at least one imperious capable baffling clergyman. If one is strictly honest and fair toward him, to say nothing of being a well-meant and hopeful human being who is living in the same world with him and who feels very imperfect too, finding any serious and honest fault with the sermon, or at least laying one's finger upon what the fault is, seems to be almost impossible. One simply comes out of the church in a nice, neat little glow of good-will and admiration, and with a strange, soothing, happy sense of new, fresh, convenient wisdom.
The only fair way to criticise the preacher who belongs in this class seems to be to take ten years for it, go in regularly and get a little practice every Sunday. There are preachers who preach so well that the only way one can ever find what is the matter with their sermons is to sit quietly while they are preaching them, and look around at the people. One thinks as one looks around, "These people are what this man has done."
They are the same people they were ten years ago.
I often hear other sermons that are far easier to criticise. They are one-sided or narrow, but they make new people.
I might not always like to be in a congregation when a man is preaching a sermon that makes new people, because he may be making people or kinds of people that at the time at least I do not need to be. But I naturally prefer, at least part of the time, a preacher who puts in, before he is through, some good work on me. There is a preacher in B—— who always arouses in me, whenever I am in the city, the same old, curious, hopeful feeling about him that this next one more time he is going to get to me, that I am going to be attended to. I cannot say how many times I have dropped in upon him in his big plain church, seen him with his hushed congregation all about him, all listening to him up to the last minute, each of them sitting all alone with his own soul, and with him, and with the ticking of the clock. And the sermon is always about the same. You see him narrowing the truth down wonderfully, ruthlessly, to You. You begin to see everything—to see all the arguments, all the circumstances, all the principles. You see them narrowing you down grimly, closing in upon you, converging you and all your little, mean life, driving you apparently at last into one helpless beautiful corner of doing right. You feel while you listen the old sermon-thrill you have felt before, a kind of intellectual joy in God, in the very brains of God; you think of how He has arranged right and wrong so cunningly, laid them all out so plain and so close beside each other for you to choose to be good. Then the benediction is pronounced over you, the sevenfold amen dies away over you, and you go home and do as you like.
One sees the sermon for days afterward lying out there in calm and orderly memory, all so complete and perfect by itself. There does not really seem to be any need of doing anything more to it. It is what people mean probably by a "finished sermon." It is as if goodness had been put under a glass globe in a parlour. You go home proud to think of it, and proud of course to have such a sermon by you. But you would never think of touching such a complete and perfect thing during the week the way you would a poorer sermon, disturbing it hopefully or mussing it over, trying to work some of it into your own life.
* * * * *
So much for the first two types of preachers: the preachers who stand before us Sunday morning with goodness placed beside them in a dense darkness while they talk, and who tease us to look at it in the darkness and to take some; and those who stand, a cold white light all about them, and use pointers and blackboards and things—maps of goodness, great charts of what people ought to be like—and who make one see each virtue just where it belongs as a kind of dot, like cities in a geography, and who leave us with the pleasant feeling of how sweet and reasonable God is, or rather would be if anybody would pay any attention to Him.
* * * * *
I have already hinted at the qualities of the third class of preachers—those who make me want to be good. They seem to throw goodness as upon a screen, some vast screen of the world, of this real world about me. They turn their souls, like still stereopticons, upon the faces of men—men who are like the men and women I know. I go about afterward all the week seeing their sermons in the street. Everybody I see, everything that comes up Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, the very patterns of the days and nights, of my duties and failures, keep coming up, reminding me to be good. I may start in—I often do—with such a preacher, criticising him, but he soon gets me so occupied criticising myself and so lost in wondering how this something that he has and sees just beyond us, just beyond him, just beyond me, can be had for other people, and how I can have some of it for myself, that I forget to criticise. He searches my soul, makes me a new being in my presence before my eyes—that is, a new being toward some one subject, or some one possibility in the world. He helps me while in his presence to accomplish the supreme thing that one man can ever do for another. He helps me to get my own attention. He makes me see a set of particular things that I immediately, before his next sentence, am trying to find means to do. He does not attract my attention toward what he wants, like a preacher who teases; nor does he attract my attention to what God wants, like the preacher with the charts of goodness. He succeeds in attracting and holding down my attention to what I really want for myself or others, and to what I propose to get.
The imagination of crowds is convinced only by men who have real genius for expression, for making word-pictures of real things, men who have what might be called moving-picture minds, and who are so picturesque and vivid that when they talk to people about goodness they have seen, everybody feels as if they had been there. It has to be admitted that this type of preacher, who has a kind of genius, and has developed an art form for expressing goodness in words, is necessarily an exceptional man. And it is unreasonable and unfair in the public to expect a man to get up in the pulpit and, with no costume and no accessories, merely with a kind of shrewd holiness or divination into human nature, present goodness so that we seem to be there. It is small wonder that a man who finds he is expected to be a kind of combination of biograph, brother, spiritual detective, and angel all in one, in order to do his work successfully has days of feeling that he has joined the ranks of The Impossible Profession.
MAKING GOODNESS HURRY
Perhaps it has leaked out to those who have been following these pages thus far, that I am merely at best, if the truth were known, a kind of reformed preacher.
I admit it. Many other people are. We began, owing to circumstances, with the idea of getting people to take up goodness by talking about it.
But we have grown discouraged in talking to people about goodness. More and more, year by year, we have made up our minds, as I have hinted, to lie low and to keep still and show them some.
And I can only say it again, as I have said it before, if everybody in the world could know my plumber or pay a bill to him, the world would soon begin, slowly but surely, to be a very different place.
The first time I saw B—— I had asked him to come over to arrange with regard to putting in new waterpipes from the street to my house. The old ones had been put in no one could remember how many years before, and the pressure of water in the house, apparently from rust in the pipes, had become very weak. After a minute's conversation I at once engaged B—— to put in the new and larger pipes, and he agreed to dig open the trench (about two hundred feet long, and three feet deep) and put the pipes in the next day for thirty-five dollars. The next morning he appeared as promised, but, instead of going to work, he came into my study, stood there a moment before my eyes, and quietly but firmly threw himself out of his job!
There was no use in spending thirty-five dollars, he said. He had gone to the City Water Works Office and told them to look into the matter and see if the connection they had put in at the junction of my pipe with the main in the street did not need attention. They had found that a new connection was necessary. They would see that a new one was put in at once. They were obliged to do it for nothing, he said; and then, slipping (figuratively speaking) thirty-five dollars into my pocket, he bowed gravely and was gone.
B—— knew absolutely and conclusively (as any one would with a look) that I was not the sort of person who would ever have heard of that blessed little joint out in the street, or who ever would hear of it or who would know what to do with it if he did.
* * * * *
Sometimes I sit and think of B—— in church, or at least I used to, especially when his bill had just come in. It was always a pleasure to think of paying one of B——'s bills—even if it was sometimes a postponed one. You always knew, with B——, that he had made that bill out to you as if he had been making out a bill to himself.
Not such a bad thing to think about during a sermon.
I do not deny that I do lose a sentence now and then in sermons; and while, as every one knows, the sermons I have been provided with in the old stone church have been of a rare and high order, there have, I do acknowledge, been bad moments—little sudden bare spots or streaks of abstraction—and I do not deny that there have been times when I could not help feeling, as I sat listening, like sending around Monday morning to the parsonage—my plumber. One could not help thinking what Dr. —— if he once got started on a plumber like B—— (had had him around working all the week during a sermon) could do with him.
I have a shoemaker, too, who would help most ministers. I imagine he would point up their sermons a good deal—if they had his shoes on.
Perhaps shoes and pipes and things like these will be looked upon soon to-day as constituting the great, slow, modest, implacable spiritual forces of our time.
At all events, this is the most economical, sensible, thorough way (when one thinks of it) that goodness can be advertised.
TOUCHING THE IMAGINATION OF CROWDS
A man's success in business to-day turns upon his power of getting people to believe he has something that they want.
Success in business, in the last analysis, turns upon touching the imagination of crowds. The reason that preachers in this present generation are less successful in getting people to want goodness than business men are in getting them to want motor-cars, hats, and pianolas, is that business men as a class are more close and desperate students of human nature, and have boned down harder to the art of touching the imaginations of crowds.
When one considers what it is that touches a crowd's imagination and how it does it, one is bound is admit that there is not a city anywhere which has not hundreds of men in it who could do more to touch the imagination of crowds with goodness than any clergyman could. A man of very great gifts in the pulpit, a man of genius, even an immortal clergyman, could be outwitted in the art of touching the imagination of crowds with goodness by a comparatively ordinary man in any one of several hundred of our modern business occupations.
There is a certain nation I have in mind as I write, which I do not like to call by name, because it is struggling with its faults as the rest of us are with ours. But I do not think it would be too much to say that this particular nation I have in mind—and I leave the reader to fill in one for himself, has been determined in its national character for hundreds of years, and is being determined to-day—every day, nearly every minute of every day, except when all the people are asleep—by a certain personal habit that the people have. I am persuaded that this habit of itself alone would have been enough to determine the fate of the nation as a third-rate power, that it would have made it always do things with small pullings and haulings, in short breaths, and hand-to-mouth insights—a little jerk of idealism one day, and a little jerk of materialism the next—a kind of national palavering, and see-sawing and gesturing, and talking excitedly and with little flourishes. It is a nation that is always shrugging its shoulders, that almost never seems to be capable of doing a thing with fine directness, with long rhythms of purpose or sustained feeling; and all because every man, woman, and child in the country—scores of generations of them for hundreds of years—has been taught that the great spiritual truth or principle at the bottom of correctly and beautifully buying a turnip is to begin by saying that you do not want a turnip at all, that you never eat turnips, and none of your family, and that they never would. The other man begins by pointing out that he is never going to sell another turnip as long as he lives, if he can help it. Gradually the facts are allowed to edge in until at last, and when each man has taken off God knows how much from the value of his soul, and spent two shillings' worth of time on keeping a halfpenny in his pocket, both parties separate courteously, only to carry out the same spiritual truth on a radish perhaps or a spool of thread, or it may be even a house and lot, or a battleship, or a war, or a rumour of a war, with somebody.
The United States, speaking broadly, is not like this. But it might have been.
In the United States some forty years ago, being a new country, and being a country where everything a man did was in the nature of things, felt to be a first experiment, everybody felt democratic and independent, and as if he were making the laws of the universe just for himself as he went along.
There was a period of ten years or so in which every spool of thread and bit of dress goods—everything that people wore on their bodies or put in their months, and everything that they read, came up and had to be considered as an original first proposition, as if there never had been a spool of thread before, as if each bit of dress goods was, or was capable of being, a new fresh experiment, with an adventurous price on it; and before we knew it a moral nagging and edging and hitching had set in, and was fast becoming in America an American trait, and fixing itself by daily repetition upon the imagination of the people.
The shopping of a country is, on the whole, from a psychologist's point of view, the most spiritual energy, the most irrevocable, most implacable meter there can ever be of the religion a country really has.
There was no clergyman in America who could have made the slightest impression on this great national list or trend of always getting things for less than they were worth—this rut of never doing as one would be done by. What was there that could be done with an obstinate, pervasive, unceasing habit of the people like this?
What was there that could be done to touch the imagination of the crowd?
Six thousand women a day were going in and out of A.T. Stewart's great store on Broadway at that time. A.T. Stewart announced to New York suddenly in huge letters one day, that from that day forward there should be one price for everything sold in his store, and that that price would be paid for it by everybody.
A.T. Stewart's store was the largest, most successful, original, and most closely watched store in America.
The six thousand women became one thousand.
Then two thousand. Some of them had found that they finished their shopping sooner; the better class of women, those whose time was worth the most, and whose custom was the largest, gradually found they did not want to shop anywhere else. The two thousand became three thousand, four thousand, six thousand, ten thousand, twelve thousand.
Other department stores wanted the twelve thousand to come to them. They announced the one price.
Hardware stores did it. Groceries announced one price. Then everybody.
Not all the clergymen in America, preaching every Sunday for months, could have done very much in the way of seriously touching the imagination of the crowd on the moral unworthiness, the intellectual degradation, the national danger of picking out the one thing that nearly all the people all do, and had to do, all day, every day, and making that thing mean, incompetent, and small. No one had thought out what it would lead to, and how monstrous and absurd it was and would always be to have a nation have all its people taking every little thing all day, every day, that they were buying, or that they were selling—taking a spool of thread, for instance—and packing it, or packing their action with it, as full of adulterated motives and of fresh and original ways of not doing as they would be done by as they could think up—a little innocent spool of thread—wreaking all their sins and kinds of sins on it, breaking every one of the ten commandments on it as an offering....
It was A.T. Stewart, a very ordinary-looking, practical man in a plain, everyday business, who arrested the attention of a nation and changed the habit of thought and trend of mind of a great people, and made them a candid, direct people, a people that went with great sunny prairies and high mountains, a yea and nay people, straightforward, and free from palavering forever. A.T. Stewart was accustomed, in his own personal dealings from day to day, to cut people short when they tried to heckle with him. He liked to take things for granted, drive through to the point, and go on to the next one. This might have ended, of course, in a kind of cul de sac of being a merely personal trait in a clean-cut, manful, straightforward American gentleman; and if Stewart had been a snob or a Puritan, or had felt superior, or if he had thought other people—the great crowds of them who flocked through his store—could never expect to be as good as he was, nothing would ever have come of it.
It is not likely that he was conscious of the long train of spiritual results he had set in motion; of the way he had taken the habit of mind, the daily, hourly psychology of a great people, and had wrought it through with his own spirit; or of the way he had saved up, and set where it could be used, everyday religion in America, and had freed the business genius of a nation for its most characteristic and most effective self-expression.
He merely was conscious that he could not endure palavering in doing business himself, and that he would not submit to being obliged to endure it, and he believed millions of people in America were as clean-cut and straightforward as he was.
And the millions of people stood by him.
Perhaps A.T. Stewart touched the imagination of the crowd because he had let the crowd touch his and had seen what crowds, in spite of appearances, were really like.
The enterprise of touching the imagination of the crowd with goodness, which is being conducted every day on an enormous scale around us, has to be carried on, like all huge enterprises, by men who are in a large degree unconscious of it. There are few department stores in England or America that would expect to be called pious, but if one is deeply and obstinately interested in the Golden Rule, and in getting crowds of people to believe in it at a time, it is impossible not to think what sweeps of opportunity department stores would have with it—with the Golden Rule. With thousands of people flowing in and out all the week, and with hundreds of clerks to attend to it, eight hours a day, there would hardly seem to be any limit to what such a store could do in making the Golden Rule a direct, a pointed and personal thing, a thing that could not be evaded and could not be forgotten by thousands of people. The same people all going in and out of department stores, vast congregations of them, eight hours a day, which ministers can only get at in small lots, three hundred or so, twenty minutes a week, and can only get at with words even then—all of them being convinced in terms they understand, and in terms they keenly feel, convinced in hats that they will see over and over again, convinced in velvets that they are going to put on and off for years, in laces, in waistcoats, shoes, in dining-room chairs, convinced in the very underclothes next to their skins, the clothes they sleep in all night, in the very plates on which they eat, while all the time they keep remembering, or being reminded, just how the things were bought, and just what was claimed for them and what was not claimed for them, and thinking how the claims came true or how they did not.
* * * * *
I just saw lying on the table as I came through the hall a moment ago a hat which (out of all the long rows of hats I can see faintly reaching across the years) will always be to me a memorable hat. I am free to say that, after all the ladies it has been taken off to, my great memory of that hat is now and always will be, as long as I live, the department store at which I bought it, and the things the department store, before I got through with it, managed to make the hat say.
I had been in the store the day before and selected, in broad daylight, with a big mirror staring me out of countenance, a hat which was a quarter of a size too large. To clinch the matter, I had ordered four ventilating holes to be punched in it, and had it sent to my rooms to be my hat—implacably my hat as I supposed, for better for worse, for richer for poorer—always. The next morning, after standing before a mirror and trying hopefully for a few minutes to see if I could not look more intelligent in the hat, I returned to the store firmly. I had made up my mind that I would keep from looking the way that that hat made me look, at any cost. The store was not responsible according to the letter either for the hat or for the way I looked in it. I had deliberately chosen it, looked at myself in cold blood in it, had those dreadful, irremovable, eternal air-holes dug into it. I would buy a new one. I jumped into a cab, and a moment after I arrived I found myself before the clerk from whom I had bought it, with a new one on my head, and was just reaching into my pocket for my purse when, to my astonishment, I heard, or seemed to hear, the great Department Store Itself, in the gentle accents of a young man with a yellow moustache, saying: "I'm sorry"—all seven storys of it gathering itself up softly, apparently, and saying "I'm sorry!" The young man explained that he was afraid the hat was wrong the day before, and thought he ought to have told me so, that the store would not want me to pay for the mistake.
I came home a changed man. I had been hit by the Golden Rule before in department stores, but always rather subtly—never with such a broad, beautiful flourish! I made some faint acknowledgment, I have forgotten what, and rushed out of the store.
But I have never gone past the store since, on a 'bus, or in a taxi, or sliding through the walkers on the street, but I have looked up to it—to its big, quiet windows, its broad, honest pillars fronting a world.
I take off my hat to it.
But it gave me more than a hat.
I think what a thousand department stores, stationed in a thousand places on this old planet, could do in touching the imagination of the world—every day, day by day, cityfuls at a time.
I had found a department store that had absolutely identified itself with my interests, that could act about a hat the way a wife would—a department store that looked forward to a permanent relation with me—a great live machine that could be glad and sorry—that really took me in, knew how I felt about things, cared how I looked as I walked down the street. Sometimes I think of the poor, wounded, useless thing I took back to them, those pitiless holes punched in it—just where no one else would ever have had them. I am human. I always feel about the store, that great marble and glass Face, when I go by it now as if, in spite of all the difficulties, it wanted me—to be beautiful! I at least feel and know that the people who were the brain, the daily moving consciousness behind the face—wanted me to be a becoming customer to them. They did not want to see me coming in, if it could possibly be helped, in that hat any more!
* * * * *
I have told this little history of a gray hat, not because it is in any way extraordinary, but because it is not. The same thing, or something quite like it, expressing the same spirit, might have happened in any one of the best hundred department stores in the world.
Most people can remember a time, only a very little while ago, when clerks in our huge department stores or selling machines were not expected to be people who would think of things like this to do, or who would know how, or who would think to consider them good business if they did.
The department store that based its success on selecting clerks of a high order of human insight, that paid higher wages to its clerks for their power of being believed in, for their personal qualities and their shrewdness in helping people and a gift for discovering mutual interests with everybody and for founding permanent human relations with the public, had not been thought of a little while ago.
All that had been thought of was the appearance of these things. It was an employer's business, speaking generally, to get all he could out of his clerks and have them get as little as possible out of him. It was their business in their turn to get as much money out of the public as they could get, and to give the public as little in return as they dared.
The type of employer who liked to do business in this way, and who believed in it, crowed over the world nearly everywhere as the Practical Man. And for the time being certainly it has to be admitted that he seemed the most successful. Naturally there came to be a general impression among the people that only certain lower orders of life and character could be employed, or could stand being employed, in the great department stores.
I used often to go into ——'s. Everybody remembers it. I went in, as a rule, in a helpless, waiting, married way, and as a mere attache of the truly wise and good. All I ever did or was expected to do was to stand by and look wise and discriminating a minute about dress goods, when spoken to. I used to put in my time looking behind the counters—all those busy, pale, yellow-lighted people in little holes or stalls trying to be human and natural in that long, low, indoor street of theirs, crowds of women staring by them and picking at things. Always that moving sidewalk of questions—that dull, eager stream of consciousness sweeping by. No sunlight—just the crowds of covetousness and shrewdness. I used to wonder about the clerks, many of them, and what they would be like at home or under an apple tree or each with a bit of blue sky to go with them. They used to seem in those days, as I looked, mostly poor, underground creatures living in a sort of Subway of Things in a hateful, hard, little world of clothes, each with his little study or trick or knack of appearances, standing there and selling people their good looks day after day at so much a yard.
To-day, in a hundred cities one can go into department shops where one would get, standing and looking on idly, totally different impressions. There are hundreds of thousands of young men and women who have made being a clerk a new thing in the world. The public has already had its imagination touched by them, and is beginning to deal with clerks, as a class, on a different level.
This has been brought to pass because the employer has been thought of, or has thought of himself, who engages and pays for in clerks the highest qualities in human nature that he can get. He picks out and puts in power, and persuades to be clerks, people who would have felt superior to it in days gone by—men and women who habitually depend for their efficiency in showing and selling goods upon their more generous emotions and insights, their imaginations about other people. They gather in their new customers, and keep up their long lists of old and regular customers, through shrewd visions of service to people, and through a technical gift for making the Golden Rule work.
When one looks at it practically, and from the point of view of all the consequences, a bargain is the most spiritual, conclusive, most self-revealing experience that people can have together. Every bargain is a cross-section in three tenses of a man. A bargain tells everything about people—who they are, and what they are like. It also tells what they are going to be like unless they take pains; and it tells what they are not going to be like too sometimes, and why.
The man who comes nearest in modern life to being a Pope, is the man who determines in what spirit and by what method the people under him shall conduct his bargains and deal with his customers. ——, at the head of his department store, has a parish behind his counters of twenty-five hundred men and women. He is in the business of determining their religion, the way they make their religion work, eight hours a day, six days a week. He seems to me to be engaged in the most ceaseless, most penetrating, most powerful, and most spiritual activity of the world. He is really getting at the imaginations of people with his idea of goodness. If he does not work his way through to a man's imagination one minute or one day, he does the next. If he cannot open up a man's imagination with one line of goods, he does it with another. If he cannot make him see things, and do as he would be done by, with one kind of customer, another is moved in front of him presently, and another, and another—the man's inner substance is being attacked and changed nearly every minute every day. There is nothing he can do, or keep from doing, in which his employer's idea of goodness does not surround, besiege, or pursue him. Every officer of the staff, every customer who slips softly up to the counter in front of him makes him think of the Golden Rule in a new way or in some shading of a new way—confronts him with the will, with the expectation, with the religion of his employer.
In ——'s store (where I looked in a moment yesterday) one thousand of the two thousand five hundred clerks are men. If I were a minister wondering nearly every day how to work in for my religion a fair chance at men, I should often look wistfully from over the edge of my pulpit, I imagine, to the head of ——'s department store, sitting at that quiet, calm, empty looking desk of his in his little office at the top of his big building in —— Street, with nothing but those little six or seven buttons he softly puts his thumbs on connecting him with a thousand men.
And he does not even need the buttons. Every man knows and feels, personally and intimately, what the man at the desk is asking him to do with a particular customer who stands before him at the moment. As soon as the customer is there, the man at the desk practically is there too. His religion works by wireless, and goes automatically, and as from a huge stored-up reservoir, to all that happens in the place. He makes regularly with his idea of goodness anywhere from twenty to sixty pastoral calls (with every sale they make) on a thousand men a day. He is not dependent, as the ordinary minister often is, on their dying, or on their babies, or on their wives, for a chance to get at men with his religion.
If I wanted to take a spiritual census of modern civilization and get at the actual scientific facts, what we would have to call, probably the foot-tons of religion in the world to-day, I would not look for them in the year-books of the churches, I would get them by going about in the great department stores, by moving among the men and women in them day after day, and standing by and looking on invisibly. Like a shadow or a light I would watch them registering their goodness daily, hourly, on their counters, over their counters, measuring out their souls before God in dress goods, shoes, boas, hats, silk, and bread and butter!
This may not be true of the Orient, but it is true, and getting to be more true every day, of Europe and America.
It is especially true of America. In the things which we borrow in America, we are far behind the rest of the world. It is to the things that we create, that we must look alone, for our larger destiny, and our world-service.
Naturally, in so far as civilization is a race of borrowing, nations like England and France and Germany a few hundred miles apart from one another, set the pace for a nation that is three thousand miles away from where it can borrow, like the United States. It is a far cry from the land of the Greeks with their still sunny temples and dreams, and from England with its quiet-singing churches, to New York with its practical sky-scraping hewing prayer!
New York—scooping its will out of the very heavens!
New York—the World's last, most stern, perhaps most manful prayer of all—half-asking and half-grasping out of the hand of God!
Here is America's religion! Half afraid at first, half glad, slowly, solemnly triumphant, as on the edge of an abyss, I have seen America's religion! I have seen my brother Americans hewing it out—day by day, night by night, have I seen them—in these huge steel sub-cellars of the sky!
I have accepted the challenge.
If it is not a religion, then it shall be to us a religion to make it a religion.
The Metropolitan Tower with its big clock dial, with its three stories of telling what time it is, and its great bell singing hymns above the dizzy flocks of the skyscrapers, is the soul of New York, to me.
If one could see a soul—if one could see the soul of New York, it would look more like the Metropolitan Tower than anything else.
It seems to be trying to speak away up there in the whiteness and the light, the very soul of the young resistless iron-hearted city.
I write as an American. To me there is something about it as I come up the harbour that fills my heart with a big ringing, as if all the world were ringing, ringing once more—ringing all over again—up in this white tower of ours in its new bit of blue sky! I glory in England with it, in Greece, in Bethlehem. It is as an outpost on Space and Time, for all of us gathering up all history in it softly—once more and pointing it to God!
It is the last, the youngest-minded, the most buoyant tower—the mighty Child among the steeples of the world. The lonely towers of Cologne stretching with that grave and empty nave against the sky, out of that old and faded region of religion, far away, tremulously send greetings to it—to this white tower in the west—to where it goes up with its crowds of people in it, with business and with daily living and hoping and dying in it, and strikes heaven!
It may be perhaps only the American blood in me. Perhaps it is raw and new to be so happy. I do not know. I only know that to me the Metropolitan Tower is saying something that has been never quite said before—something that has been given in some special sense to us as a trust from the world. It is to me the steeple of democracy—of our democracy, England's democracy—the world's democracy. The hollow domes of Sts. Peter and Paul, and all the rest with their vague, airy other-worldliness, all soaring and tugging like so many balloons of religion and goodness, trying to get away from this world—are not to me so splendid, so magnificently wilful as the Metropolitan Tower—as the souls of these modern, heaven-striking men, taking the world itself, at last, its streets of stone, of steel, its very tunnels and lifting them up as blind offerings, as unbounded instincts, as prayers, as songs to heaven!
I worship my country, my people, my city when I hear the big bell in it and when I look up to where the tower is in that still place like a sea—look up to where that little white country belfry sits in the light, in the dark above the vast and roaring city!
To me, the Metropolitan Tower, sweeping up its prayer out of the streets the way it does, and doing it, too, right beside that little safe, tucked-in, trim, Sunday religion of the Madison Square Presbyterian Church, lifts itself up as one of the mighty signs and portents of our time. Have I not heard the bell tolling to the people in the midst of business and singing great hymns? A great city lifts itself and prays in it—prays while it sings and clangs so absent-looking below.
I like to go out before going to sleep and take a look at it—one more look before I sleep, upon the tower, strong, unyielding, alive, sinewy, imperturbable, lifting up within itself the steel and soul of the world. I am content to go to sleep.
It is a kind of steeple of the business of this world. I would rather have said that business needed a steeple before until I saw the Metropolitan Tower and heard it singing above the streets. But I had always wanted (without knowing it), in a modern office building, a great solemn bell to remind us what the common day was. I like to hear it striking a common hour and what can be done in it. I stop in the street to listen—to listen while that great hive of people tolls—tolls not the reveries of monks above the roofs of the skyscrapers, but the religion of business—of the real and daily things, the seriousness of the mighty street and the faces of the men and the women.
THE STUPENDOUS, THE UNUSUAL, THE MONOTONOUS, AND THE SUCCESSFUL
The imagination of crowds may be said to be touched most successfully when it is appealed to in one of four ways:
THE STUPENDOUS. THE UNUSUAL. THE MONOTONOUS. THE SUCCESSFUL.
Of these four ways, the stupendous, or the unusual, or the successful are the most in evidence, and have something showy about them, so that we can look at them afterward, and point out at a glance what they have done. But probably the underhold on the crowd, the real grip on its imagination, the one which does the plain, hard, everyday work on a crowd's ideals, which determines what crowds expect and what crowds are like inside—is the Monotonous.
The man who tells the most people what they shall be like in this world is not the great man or the unusual man. He is the monotonous man.
He is the man, to each of us, who determines the unconscious beat and rhythm with which we live our daily lives.
If we wanted to touch the imaginations of crowds, or of any particular crowd, with goodness, the best way to do it would probably be, not to go to the crowd itself, but to the man who is so placed that he determines the crowd's monotony, the daily rhythm with which it lives—the man, if we can find him, who arranges the crowd's heart-beat.
It need not take one very long to decide who the man is who determines the crowd's heart-beat. The man who has the most dominion over the imaginations of most of us, who stands up high before us out in front of our lives, the man who, as with a great baton, day after day, night after night, conducts, as some great symphony, the fate of the world above our heads, who determines the deep, unconscious thoughts and motives, the inner music or sing-song, in which we live our lives, is the man to whom we look for our daily bread.
It is the men with whom we earn our money who are telling us all relentlessly, silently, what we will have to be like. The men with whom we spend it, who sell things to us, like the department stores, those huge machines of attention, may succeed in getting great sweeps of attention out of crowds at special times, by appealing to men through the unusual and through the stupendous or the successful. But what really counts, and what finally decides what men and what women shall be, what really gets their attention unfathomably, unconsciously, is the way they earn their money. The feeling men come to have about a fact, of its being what it is, helplessly or whether or no—the feeling that they come to have about something, of its being immemorially and innumerably the same everywhere and forever, comes from what they are thinking and the way they think while they are earning their money. It is out of the subconscious and the monotonous that all our little heavens and hells are made. It is our daily work that becomes to us the real floor and roof of living, hugs up under us like the ground, fits itself down over us, and is our earth and sky. The man with whom we earn our money, the man who employs us, his thinking or not thinking, his "I will" and "I won't," are the iron boundaries of the world to us. He is the skylight and the manhole of life.
The monotonous, the innumerable and over and over again, one's desk, one's typewriter, one's machine, one's own particular factory window, the tall chimney, the little forever motion with one's hand—it is these, godlike, inscrutable, speechless, out of the depths of our unconsciousness and down through our dreams, that become the very breath and rumble of living to us, domineer over our imaginations and rule our lives. It is decreed that what our Employers think and let us know enough to think shall be a part of the inner substance of our being. It shall be a part of growing of the grass to us, and shall be as water and food and sleep. It shall be to us as the shouts of boys at play in the field and as the crying of our children in the night. To most men Employers are the great doors that creak at the end of the world.
It is not the houses that people live in, or the theatres that they go to, or the churches to which they belong, or the street and number—the East End look or the West End look the great city carves on the faces of these men I see in the street—that determines what the men are like.
Their daily work lies deeper in them than their faces. One finds one's self as one flashes by being told things in their walk, in the way they hold their hands and swing their feet.
And what is it their hands and feet, umbrellas, bundles, and the wrinkles in their clothes tell us about them?
They tell us how they earn their money. Their hopes, their sorrow, their fears and curses, their convictions, their very religions are the silent, irrevocable, heavenly minded, diabolical by-products of what their Employers think they can afford to let them know enough to think.
"Fight for yourselves. Your masters hate you. They would shoot you down like rabbits, but they need your labour for their huge profits. Don't go in till you get your minimum. No Royal Commission, no promise in the future. Leaders only want your votes; they will sell you. They lie. Parliament lies, and will not help you, but is trying to sell you. Don't touch a tool till you get your minimum. Win, win, win! It is up to all workers to support the miners."
If a man happens to be an employer, and happens to know that he is not this sort of man, and finds that he cannot successfully carry on his business unless he can make five hundred men in his factory believe it, what can he do? How can he touch their imaginations? What language is there, either of words or of action, that will lead them to see that he is a really a fair-minded, competent employer, a representative of the interests of all, a fellow-citizen, a Crowdman, and that his men can afford to believe in him and cooeperate with them?
If they think he would shoot them down like rabbits, it is because they have not the remotest idea what he is really like. They have not noticed him. They have no imagination about him, have not put themselves in his place. How can he get their attention?
A little while ago I saw in Paris an American woman, the President of a Woman's Club (I imagined), who was doing as she should, and was going about in a cab appreciating Paris, drive up to the Louvre. Leaving her cab, though I wondered a little why she did, at the door, she hurried up the steps and swept into the gallery, taking her eleven-year-old boy with her. I came upon her several times. The Louvre did not interest the boy, and he seemed to be bothering and troubling his mother, and of course he kept trying very hard, as any really nice boy would, to get out; but she would not let him, and he wandered about dolefully, looking at his feet and at the floor, or at the guards, and doing the best he could. Finally she came over to him; there was a Murillo he must see—it was the opportunity of his life; she brought him over to it, and stood him up in front of it, and he would not look; she took his small brown head in her hands and steered it to the great masterpiece and held it there—on that poor, silent, helpless Murillo—until....
I observed that she could steer his head; but I could not help thinking how much more she would have done if she had known how to steer it inside.
The invention of the Megaphone, of the Cinema, and the London Times, and of the Bible, are all a part of the great, happy, hopeful effort of one part of this world to get the attention of the other part of it, and steer heads inside.
This art of steering heads inside, which has come to be the secret art of all the other arts, the secret religion of all the religions, is also the secret of building and maintaining a civilization and a successful and permanent business. It is hard to believe how largely, for the last twenty years, it has been overlooked by employers as the real key of the labour problem—this art of steering people's heads inside.
We have seen part of the truth. We have put in a good deal of time in finding fault with labouring men for thinking too much about themselves and about their class, and for emphasizing their wages more than their work, and for not having more noble and disinterested characters. Parliaments, clergymen, and employers have all been troubled for years about Labour, and they have been trying very hard on Sundays and through reports of speeches by members of Parliament in the daily press, and through laws, and through employers' associations, and through factory rules and fines, to get the attention of labouring men and lift their thoughts to higher things.
A great many wise things have been said to Labour—masterpieces, miles of them as it were, whole Louvres of words have been hung upon their walls.
But in vain!
And all because we have merely taken the outside of the boy's head in our hands. We have not thought what was really going on in it. We have not tried to steer it inside. We have been superficial.
It is superficial for a comfortable man with a bun in his pocket to talk to a starving man about having some higher motive than getting something to eat. Everybody sees that this is superficial, if we mean by it that his body is starving. But if we mean something more real and more terrible than that—that he is starving inside, that his soul is starving, that he has nothing to live for, no real object in getting something to eat—if we mean by it, in other words, that the man's imagination is not touched even by his own life, people take it very lightly.
And it is the most important thing in the world. The one thing now necessary to society, to industry, is to get hold of the men who are in it, one by one, and touch their imaginations about themselves. We have millions of men working without their thoughts and expectations being ventilated or passed along, year after year.
One sees these men everywhere one goes, in thousands of factories, doing their work without any draught. We already have tall chimneys for our coal furnaces; we have next to see the value of tall chimneys, great flues to the sky, on the lives and thought and the inner energies of men. The most obvious way to get a draught on a man, to get him to glow up and work is to cut through an opening in the top of his life.
Just where to cut this opening, and just how to cut it in each man's life—each man considered as a problem by himself—is the Labour problem.
There are certain general principles that might be put down in passing. To begin with, we must not feel ashamed to begin implacably with the actual man just as he is, and with the wants and the motives that he actually has. We should feel ashamed rather to begin in any other way. It would not be bright or thoughtful to begin on him with motives he is going to have; and it certainly would not be religious or worthy of us to try to make him begin with ours. Perhaps ours are better—for us. Perhaps, too, ours will be better for him when he is like us (if we can give him any reason to want to be). In the meantime, what is there that can honestly be called base in taking human nature as it is and in allowing a sliding scale of motives in people? Starving people and slaves, or people who are ugly and hateful, i.e., not really quite bright toward others, who impute mean, inaccurate motives to them, can only be patiently expected to have a very small area or even mote of unselfishness at first. A cross-section of our society to-day represents the entire geological formation of human nature for 40,000 years. We need but look on the faces of the men about us as we go down the street. All history is here this minute.
We wish that Labour had better motives. We wish to get our workmen to understand us better and believe in us more and work for us harder.
We agree that we must begin with them, if we propose to do this, where they are.
Where are they?
There are certain general observations that might seem to the point.
1. If a man is a sane and sound man and works hard, he must feel that everything he does, every minute, is definitely connected with the main through-train purpose in his life.
2. If the main purpose in his life is domestic and consists in having his family live well and giving his children a chance, he must feel and be absolutely sure when he is working better or working worse for his employer that he is working better or worse for himself and for those for whom he lives.
3. In the ordinary labourer this domestic unselfishness or house patriotism is a kind of miniature public spirit. It is the elementary form of his national or human enthusiasm. It is the form of disinterestedness that has to be attended to in men first; and the way for society to get the labouring man to be public-spirited, to have the habit of considering the rights of others, is for society to have the habit of considering his rights in his daily work. An intelligent, live man must be allowed a little margin to practise being unselfish on, if only in the privacy of his own family. Unselfishness begins in small circles. The starving man must be allowed a smaller range of unselfishness than the man who has enough. It is not uncomplimentary or unworthy in human nature to admit that this is so—to demand that the human being who is starving must be allowed to be selfish. If he is not bright enough to be selfish when he is hungry he is dangerous to society. We ought to insist upon his being selfish, and help him in it. Virtue is a surplus.
4. This is the first humble, stuttering speech the competent modern employer who proposes to express himself to his men, and get them to understand him and work with him, is going to make. He is going to pick out one by one every man in his works who has a decent, modest, manly desire to be selfish, and help him in it. He is going to do something or say something that will make the man see, that will make him believe for life, that the most powerful, the most trustworthy, the most far-sighted man he can find in the world to be his partner in being decently, soundly, and respectfully selfish—is his employer.
No employer can expect to get the best work out of a man except by working down through to the inner organic desire in the man as a man, except by waking his selfishness up and by making it a larger, fuller, nobler, weightier selfishness, and turning the full weight of it every minute, every hour, on his daily work.
The best language an employer can find to express this desire at first to his workmen, is some form of faithful, honest copartnership.
5. The ordinary wage labourer has little imagination about other people because he is not allowed any about himself. The moment he is, and the moment his employer arranges his work so that he sees every minute all day that the work which he does for the firm 30 per cent. better counts. 30 per cent. more on his own main purpose in life, his imagination is touched about himself and he begins to work like a human being. When a man has been allowed to work awhile as a human being he will begin to be human with a wider range. Being a partner touches the imagination and wakes the man's humanness up. He not only works better, but he loves his family better when he sees he can do something for them. He serves his town better and his lodge better when he sees he can do something for them.
6. Being a partner wakes the man's imagination toward those who work with him, and toward the public and the markets and the goods and the cities where the goods go. He reads newspapers with a new eye. He becomes interested in people who buy the goods, and in people who do not. Why do they not? He gropes toward a general interest in human nature, and begins to live.
7. A man who is being paid wages one night in a week, has his imagination touched about his work one night in the week. He is merely being a wage-earner. In being a partner he is being paid, and feels his pay coming in, every thirty seconds, in the better way he moves his hands or does not move his hands. This makes him a man.
8. And, finally, as he knows he is being paid, and that he always will be paid, what he earns, he stops thinking of the sick, tired side of his work—the pay he gets out of it, and begins to love the work itself, and begins to be perfect in it for its own sake. This makes him a gentleman.
9. Being a partner makes a man actively and keenly reasonable and practical, not only about his own labour, but about the superior value of other people with whom he works. He wants the best people in the best places. He begins to have a practical partner's imagination about the men who are over him, and about their knowing more than he does. If he is merely paid wages, he is superstitious, and jealous toward those who know more than he does. If he is paid profits, he is glad that they do, and strikes in and helps.
10. Another complete range of motives is soon offered to the employee who is a partner. He feels the joy of being a part of a big, splendid whole, a disinterested delight and pride in others. He grows young with it, like a boy in school.
Here is the factory over him, around him—his own vast hockey team—and over that is the nation, and over that is the world!
An employer can touch the imagination of most men, of the rank and file of the people, ninety-nine times where other people can touch it once. And every time he touches it, he touches it to the point.
If men in general do not believe to-day in religion and do not want it, it is because they have employers who have not seen any place in their business where they could get their religion in, and have kept the people (in the one place where they could really learn what religion is) from learning anything about it. The moment the more common employers see what the great ones see now, that business is the one particular place in this world where religion really works, works the hardest, the longest, and the best, works as it had never been dreamed a religion could be made to work before—the day school teachers of the world, put the Golden Rule in the Course everybody will know it.
It only takes a moment's thought to see what the employers of the world could do with the Golden Rule the moment they take hold of it.
One has but to consider what they have done with it already.
One has but to consider the astounding way in the last fifteen years they have made everybody not believe in it.
The employers of the world have been saying ten hours a day to everybody that the Golden Rule is a foolish, pleasant, inefficient, worsted motto on a parlour wall.
Everybody has believed it.
And now that the big employers are setting the pace and are saying exactly the opposite thing about the Golden Rule, now that all the employers are trying to get their employees to be efficient (to do by their employers as they would be done by), and now that they are trying to be efficient themselves (are trying to do to their employees as they would have their employees do to them), the Golden Rule is touching the imagination of crowds, and the crowd is seeing that the Golden Rule works. They watch it working every day in the things they know about. Then they believe in it for other things.
THE NECKS OF THE WICKED
A letter lies before me, one out of many others asking me how the author of "The Shadow Christ," which is a study of the religious values in suffering and self-sacrifice in this world, takes the low ground that honesty is the best policy.
I know two kinds of men who believe that honesty is the best policy.
These two men use exactly the same words "Honesty is the best policy."
One man says it.
The other man sings it.
One man is honest because it pays.
The other man is honest because he likes it.
"Honesty is the best policy" as a motive cannot be called religious, but "Honesty is the best policy" as a Te Deum, as something a man sings in his heart every day about God, something he sings about human nature is religious, and believing it the way some men believe it, is an act of worship.
It is like a great gentle mass.
It is like taking softly up one's own planet and offering it to God.
Here it is—the planet. Honesty is organized in the rocks on it and in the oak trees on it and in the people. The rivers flow to the sea and the heart of Man flows to God. On this one planet, at least, God is a success.
Possibly it is because many other people beside myself have been slow in clearly making this distinction between "Honesty is the best policy" as a motive or a Te Deum, that I have come upon so many religious men and women in the last two or three years, who, in the finest spirit, have seemed to me to be doing all that they could to discourage everybody especially to discourage me, about the Golden Rule.
The first objection which they put forward to the Golden Rule is that it is a failure.
When I try to deal with this or try to tell them about Non-Gregarious, the second objection that they put forward is, that it is a success.
If they cannot discourage me with one of these objections they try to discourage me with the other.
They point to the Cross.
Some days I cannot help wondering what Christ would think if He were to come back and find people, all these good Christian people everywhere using the Cross—the Cross of all things in the world as an objection to the Golden Rule and to its working properly, or as a general argument against expecting anything of anybody.
I do not know that I have any philosophy about it that would be of any value to others.
I only know that I am angry all through when I hear a certain sort of man saying, and apparently proving, that the Golden Rule does not work.
And I am angry at other people who are listening with me because they are not angry too.
Why are people so complacent about crosses? And why are they willing to keep on having and expecting to have in this world all the good people on crosses? Why do they keep on treating these crosses year after year, century after century, in a dull tired way as if they had become a kind of conventionality of God's, a kind of good old church custom, something that He and the Church by this time, after two thousand years, could not really expect to try to get over or improve upon?
I do not know that I ought to feel as I do.
I only know that the moment I see evil triumphing in this world, there is one thing that that evil comes up against.
It comes up against my will.
My will, so far as it goes, is a spiritual fact.
I do not argue about it, nor do I know that I wish to justify it. I merely accept my will as it is, as one spiritual fact.
I propose to know what to do with it next.
The first thing that I have done, of course, has been to find out that there are millions of other so-called Christian people who have encountered this same fact that I have encountered.
There are at least some of us who stand together. Our wills are set against having any more people die on crosses in this world than can be helped. If there is any kind of skill, craftmanship, technique, psychology, knowledge of human nature which can be brought to bear, which will keep the best people in this world not only from being, but from belonging on crosses in it, we propose to bring these things to bear. We are not willing to believe that crowds are not inclined to Goodness. We are not willing to slump down on any general slovenly assumption about the world that goodness cannot be made to work in it.
If goodness is not efficient in this world we will make it efficient.
Our reason for saying this is that we honestly glory in this world. We believe that at this moment while we are still on it, it is in the act of being a great world, that it is God's world, and in God's Name we will defend its reputation.
We do not deny that it may be better spiritual etiquette, more heroic looking and may have a certain moral grace, so far as a man himself is concerned, if the world makes him suffer for being honest. But after all he is only one man, and whether he dislikes his suffering or likes it and feels fine and spiritual over it, it is only one man's suffering.
But why is it that when the world makes a man suffer, everybody should seem always to be thinking of the man? Why does not anybody think of the world?
Is not the fact that a whole world, eternal and innumerable, is supposed to be such a mean, dishonest sort of a world that it will make a man suffer for being good a more important fact than the man's suffering is? It seems to me to be taking not lower but higher ground when one insists on believing in the race one belongs to and in believing that it is a human race that can be believed in. After two thousand years of Christ, it is a lazy, tired, anaemic slander on the world to believe that it does not pay to be good in it. The man who believes it, and acts as if he believed it, is to-day and has been from the beginning of time the supreme enemy of us all. He is guilty before heaven and before us all and in all nations of high treason to the human race. One of the next most important things to do in modern religion is going to be to get all these morally dressed-up, noble-looking people who enjoy feeling how good they are because they have failed, to examine their hearts, stop enjoying themselves and think.
For hundreds of years we have religiously run after martyrs and we have learned in a way, most of us, to have a kind of cooped-up patriotism for our own nation, but why are there not more people who are patriotic toward the whole human race? One has been used to seeing it now for centuries, good people all over the world hanging their harps on willow trees, or snuggling down together by the cold sluggish stream of their lives, and gossiping about how the world has abused them, when they would be far better occupied, nine out of ten of them—in doing something that would make it stop. There was a poet and soldier some thousands of years ago who put more real religion (and put it too, into his imprecatory psalms), than has been put, I believe, into all the sweet whinings and the spiritual droopings of the world in three thousand years. I do not deny that I would quarrel, as a matter of form, with the lack of urbanity, with a certain ill-nature in the imprecatory Psalms; but with the spirit in them, with the motive and mighty desire, with the necessity in the man's heart that was poured into them, I have the profoundest sympathy.
David had a manly, downright belief. His belief was that if sin is allowed to get to the top in this world of ours, it is our fault. David felt that it was partly his—and being a king—very much his, and as he was trying to do something about it, he naturally wanted the world to help.
What he really meant—what lay in the background of his petition—the real spirit that made him speak out in that naive bold way before the Lord, and before everybody—that made him ask the great God in heaven all looking so white and so indifferent, to come right down please and jump on the necks of the wicked, was a vivid, live vision of his own for his own use that he was going to make the world more decent. He was spirited about it. If God did not, He would, and naturally when he came to expressing how he felt in prayer, he wanted God to stand by him. To put it in good plain soldier-like Hebrew, He wanted God to jump on the necks of his enemies.
Speaking strictly for ourselves, in our more modern spirit of course, we would want to modulate this, we admit that we would not ask God to do a little thing like jumping on the necks of the wicked—just for us—nor would we care to break away from the other things we are doing and attend to it ourselves, nor would we even favour their necks being jumped on by others, but while we do not agree with David's particular request, we do profoundly agree with the way he felt when he made it. We would not make our flank movement on the wicked in quite the same way and according to our more modern and more scientific manner of thought, we would want to do something more practical with the wicked, but we would want to do something with them and we would want to do it now.
As we look at it, it ought not to be necessary to jump on the necks of the wicked to make them good, that is, to make them understand what they would wish they had done in twenty years. We live in a more reasoning and precise age and what more particularly concerns us in the wicked is not their necks, but their heads and their hearts. It seems to us that they are not using them very much and that the moment they do and we can get them to, they will be good. Possibly it was a mere matter of language, a concession to the then state of the language—David's wanting their necks to be jumped on so that he could get their attention at first and make them stop and think and understand. More subtle ways of expressing things to the wicked have been thought of to-day than of jumping on their necks, but the principle David had in mind has not changed, the principle of being loyal to the human race, the principle of standing up for people and insisting that they were really meant to be better than they were or than they thought they could be—a kind of holy patriotism David had for this world. The main fact about David seems to be that he believed he belonged to a great human race. Incidentally he believed he belonged to a human race that was really quite bright, bright enough at least to make people sorry for doing wrong in it—a human race that was getting so shrewd and so just and so honest that it took stupider and stupider people every year to be wicked, and when he found, judging from recent events in Judea, that this for the time being was not so, he had a hateful feeling about it, which it seems to some of us, vastly improved him and would improve many of us. We do not claim that the imprecatory Psalms were David's best, but they must have helped him immensely in writing the other ones.
* * * * *
We may be wrong. But it has come to be an important religious duty to some of us, or rather religious joy, to hate the prosperity of the wicked. We hate the prosperity of the wicked, not because it is their prosperity and not ours, but because their prosperity constitutes a sneer or slander on the world. We have no idea of wanting to go about faithfully jumping upon the necks of the wicked. What we want is to feel that we are in a world where the good people are happy and are making goodness reasonable, successful, profitable and practical in it. We want an earth with crowds on it who see things as they are, and who guess so well on what they want (i.e., who are good) that other people who do not know what they want and are not good, will be lonesome.