This is the precise feeling, it seems to me, that the Nobel Prize was intended to champion and to stand by and temporarily defend in a new author—the feeling he gives us of being in the presence of unseen forces, of incalculableness. It was this way Allen Upward has of taking his reader apart or up into a high place (like the Devil), and dizzying him, taking away his breath with Truth, that Nobel had in mind. He wanted to spend eight thousand pounds a year on providing for the world one more book which would give the ordinary man the personal feeling of being with a genius, cold, lonely, cosmic genius, the sense of a chill wind of All Space Outside blowing through—a book which is a sort of God's Wilderness, in which ordinary men with their ordinary plain senses round them move about dazed a little and as trees walking—a great, gaunt, naked book.
Alfred Nobel was the inventor of an explosive, a rearranger of things assumed and things unbedded, and it was this same expansive, half-terrible, half-sublime power in other men and other men's books he wanted to endow—the power to free and mobilize the elements in a world, make it budge over a little toward a new one. He wanted to spend forty thousand dollars a year on the man in literature who had the pent-up power in him to crash the world's mind open once more every year like a Seed, and send groping up out of it once more its hidden thought.
I may not be right in anticipating the eventual opinion of Allen Upward's book; but even if I am wrong, it will have helped perhaps to call attention to the essential failure of the Nobel Prize Trustees to side with the darers and experimenters in literature, to take a serious part in those great creative, centrifugal movements in the souls of men in which new worlds and the sense of new worlds are swept in upon us. For the Sciences, which are more matter of fact and tangible, the Nobel Prize is functioning more or less as Mr. Nobel intended, but certainly in Literature it will have to be classed as one more of our humdrum regular millionaire arrangements for patting successful people expensively on the back. It acts twenty years too late, falls into line with our usual worldly ornamental D.D., LL.D. habit, and has become, so far as Literature is concerned, a mere colossal, kindly, doddering Old Age Pension from a few gentlemen in Stockholm. It adds itself as one more futile effort of men of wealth—or world owners to be creative and lively with money, very much on the premises with money, after they are dead.
PAPER BOOKS, MARBLE PILLARS, AND WOODEN BOYS
I have sometimes wished that Mr. Carnegie would post the following sign up on his Libraries, on the outside where people are passing, and on the inside in the room where people sit and think:
A MILLION DOLLARS REWARD.
WANTED, A GREAT LIVING AMERICAN AUTHOR FOR MY LIBRARIES IN THE UNITED STATES. AT PRESENT OUR GREAT AUTHOR IN AMERICA APPEARS TO HAVE BEEN LOST OR MISLAID; ANY ONE FINDING HIM, OR ANY ONE THAT MIGHT DO FOR HIM TEMPORARILY, PLEASE COMMUNICATE WITH ME.
Mr. Carnegie's Libraries must be a source of constant regret to the author of "Triumphant Democracy." They are generally made up of books written in the Old World. It would be interesting to know what are the real reasons great Libraries are not being written for Mr. Carnegie in America, and what there is that Mr. Carnegie or other people can do about it. They are certainly going to be written in America some time, and certainly, unless the best and greatest part of the Carnegie Library of the future is to be the American part of it, the best our Carnegie Libraries will do for America will be to remind us of what we are not. Unless we can make the American part of Mr. Carnegie's Libraries loom in the world as big as Mr. Carnegie's chimneys, America—which is the last newest experiment station of the world—is a failure.
It has occurred to me to try to express, for what it may be worth, a point of view toward Triumphant Democracy Mr. Carnegie may have inadvertently overlooked.
If Mr. Carnegie would establish in every town where he has put a Library, by endowment or otherwise, a Commission, or what might be called perhaps a Searching Party, in that community, made up of men of inventive and creative temperament, who instinctively know this temperament in others—men in all specialities, in all walks of life, who are doing things better than any one wants to pay them to do them—and if Mr. Carnegie would set these men to work, in one way and another, looking up boys who are like them, boys about the town, who are doing things better than any one wants to pay them to do them—he would soon get a monopoly of the idealism of the world; he would collect in thirty-five years, or in one generation, an array of living great men, of national figures, men who would be monuments to Andrew Carnegie, as compared with which his present libraries, big, thoughtless, innumerable, humdrum, sogging down into the past, would be as nothing. Mr. Carnegie has given forty libraries to New York; and I venture to say that there is at this very moment, running round the streets of the great city, one single boy, who has it in him to conceive, to imagine, and hammer together a new world; and if Mr. Carnegie would invest his fortune, not in buildings or in books, but in buying brains enough to find that boy, and if the whole city of New York were to devote itself for one hour every day for years to searching about and finding that boy, to seeing just which he is, to going over all the other boys five hours a day to pick him out, it would be—well, all I can say is, all those forty libraries of Mr. Carnegie's, those great proud buildings, would do well if they did not do one thing for six years but find that boy!
There is a boy at this very moment with strings and marbles and a nation in his pocket, a system of railroads—a boy with a national cure for tuberculosis, with sun-engines for everybody—there is a boy with cathedrals in him too, no doubt or some boy like young Pinchot, with mountainsful of forests in his heart.
This is what Mr. Carnegie himself would like to do, but with his big, stiff, clumsy libraries trailing their huge, senseless brick-and-mortar bodies, their white pillars and things, about the country, unmanned, inert, eyeless, all those great gates and forts of knowledge, Coliseums of paper, and with the mechanical people behind the counters, the policemen of the books, all standing about protecting them—with all this formidable array, how can such a boy be hunted out or drawn in, or how would he dare go tramping in through the great gates and hunting about for himself? He could only be hunted out by people all wrought through with human experience, men and women who would give the world to find him, who are on the daily lookout for such a boy—by some special kind of eager librarian, or by disguised teachers, anonymous poets, or by diviners, by expert geniuses in boys. If Mr. Carnegie could go about and look up and buy up wherever he went these men who have this boy-genius in them, deliver them from empty, helpless, mere getting-a-living lives; and if he could set these men, and set them about thickly, among the books in his libraries—those huge anatomies and bones of knowledge he has established everywhere, all his great literary steel-works—men would soon begin to be discovered, to be created, to be built in libraries ... but as it is now....
Gentle Reader, have you ever stood in front of one of them, looked up at the windows, thought of all those great tiers, those moulds and blocks of learning on the shelves; and have you never watched the weary people that dribble in from the streets and wander coldly about, or sit down listless in them—in those mighty, silent empires of the past? have you never thought that somewhere all about them, somewhere in this same library, there must be some white, silent, sunny country of the future, full of children and of singing, full of something very different from these iron walls of wisdom? And have you never thought what it would mean if Mr. Carnegie would spend his money on search parties for people among the books, or what it would mean if the entire library, if all the books in it, became, as it were, wired throughout with live, splendid, delighted men and women, to make connections, to establish the current between the people and the books, to discover the people one by one and follow them to their homes, and follow them in their lives, and take out the latent geniuses, and the listless engineers and poets, and the Kossuths, Caesars, the Florence Nightingales...?
It is only by employing forces that can be made extremely small, invisible, personal, penetrating, and spiritual, that this sort of work can be done. It must be delicate and wonderful workmanship, like the magnet, like the mighty thistledown in the wind, like electricity, like love, like hope—sheer, happy, warm human vision going about and casting itself, casting all its still and tiny might, its boundless seed, upon the earth: but it would pay.
The same people too, specialists in detecting and developing inventors, could be supplied also to all other possible callings. They would constitute a universal profession, penetrating all the others. They would go hunting among foremen and in machine shops for the misplaced geniuses, tried by wrong standards, underpaid for having other gifts. They would keep a lookout through all the schools and colleges, looking over the shoulders of scolding teachers and absent professors. They would go about studying the playgrounds and mastering the streets.
We do not a little for the Submerged Tenth and the sons of the poor, and we have schools or missions for the sons of the rich, but one of the things we need next to-day is that something should be done for the sons of the great neglected respectable classes. Far more important than one more library—say in Denver, for instance would be a Denver Bureau of Investigation, to be appointed, of high-priced, spirited men, of expert humanists, to study difficulties, and devise methods and missions for putting all society in Denver through filters or placers, and finding out the rich human ore, finding out where everybody really belonged, and what all the clever misplaced people were really for. Of course it would take money to do all this, and flocks of free people who are doing the work they love. But it is not book-racks, nor paper, nor ink, nor stone steps, nor white pillars—it is free men and free women America and England are asking of their Andrew Carnegies to-day.
Mr. Carnegie has not touched this human problem in his libraries. If Society were fitted up all through with electric connections, men with a genius for discovering continents in people, Columbuses, boy-geniuses; and if there were established everywhere a current between every boy and the great world, this would be something on which Mr. Carnegie could make a great beginning with the little mite of his fortune. If we were to have even one city fitted up in this way, it would be hard to say how much it would mean—one city with enough people in it who were free to do beautiful things, free to be curious about the others, free to follow clues of greatness, free to go up the streams of Society to the still, faint little springs and beginnings of things. It would soon be a memorable city. A world would watch it, and other cities would grope toward it. Instead of this we have these big, hollow, unmanned libraries of Mr. Carnegie's everywhere, with no people practically to go with them, no great hive of happy living men and women in and out all day cross-fertilizing boys and books.
There seems to be something unfinished and stolid and brutal about a Carnegie Library now. The spirit of the garden and the sea, of the spring and the light, and of the child, is not in it. They have come to seem to some of us mere huge Pittsburgs of brains—all these impervious, unwieldy, rolling-mills of knowledge. I should think it would be a terrible prospect to grow old with, just to sit and see them flocking across the country from your window, all these huge smoke-stacks of books in their weary, sordid cities; and the boys who might be great men, the small Lincolns with nations in their pockets, the little Bells with worlds in their ears, the Pinchots with their forests, the McAdoos and Roosevelts, the young Carnegies and Marconis in the streets!
THE HUMDRUM FACTORY AND THE TUMPTY-TUM THEATRE
Mr. Israel Zangwill in presiding at the meeting of the Sociological Society the other night remarked, in referring to inspired millionaires, that as a rule in the minds of most people nowadays a millionaire seemed to be a kind of broken-off person, or possibly two persons. There always seemed to have to be a violent change in a millionaire somewhere along the middle of his life. The change seemed to be associated in some way, Mr. Zangwill thought with his money. He reminded one of the patent-medicine advertisements, "Before and After Taking."
I have been trying to think why it is that the average millionaire reminds people—as Mr. Zangwill says he does—of a patent-medicine advertisement, "Before and After Taking."
I have thought, since Mr. Zangwill made this remark, of getting together a small collection of pictures of millionaires—two pictures of each, one before and the other after taking—and having them mounted in the most approved patent-medicine style, and taking them down to Far End and asking Mr. Zangwill to look them over with me and see if he thought—he, Israel Zangwill, the novelist, the play-wright, the psychologist—really thought, that millionaires "Before and After" were as different as they looked.
I imagine he would say—and practically without looking at the pictures—that of course to him or to me perhaps, or to any especially interested student of human nature, millionaires are not really different at all "Before and After Taking"; that they merely had a slightly different outer look. They would merely look different, Mr. Zangwill would say, to the common run or majority of people—the people one meets in the streets.
But would they?
One of the most hopeful things that I have been thinking of lately is that the people—the ordinary people one meets in the streets—are beginning quite generally to see through their millionaires, and to see that their money almost never really cures them. Most very rich men, indeed, are having their times now, of even seeing through themselves; and it brings me up abruptly with a shock to think that the ordinary people who pass in the streets would be deceived by these simple little pictures Before and After. They have been deceived until lately, but are they being deceived now? I would like to see the matter tested, and I have thought it would be a good idea to take my small collection of pictures of millionaires—two pictures of each, one Before and the other After Taking—to a millionaire—of course some really reformed or cured one—and ask him to pay the necessary expenses in the columns of the Times, and of the Westminster Gazette, and the Daily Chronicle, and other representative London journals (all on the same morning), of having the pictures published. We could then take what might be called a social, human, economic inventory of London: ask people to send in their honest opinions, on looking at the pictures, as to whether Money, Before and After Taking, does or does not produce these remarkable cures in millionaires. I very much doubt if Mr. Zangwill would be found to be right in his estimate of our common people to-day.
I venture to believe that it is precisely because our common people are seeing that millionaires are not changed Before and After Taking that the majority of time millionaires we have to-day have come to be looked upon as one of the charges—one of the great spiritual charges and burdens modern Society has to carry.
Society has always had to do what it could for the poor, but in our modern civilization, in a new and big sense, we have to see now what there is, if possibly anything, that can be done for the rich.
We have come to have them now almost everywhere about us—these great spiritual orphans, with their pathetic, blind, useless fortunes piled up around them; and Society has to support them, to keep them up morally, keep them doing as little damage as possible, and has to allow day by day besides for the strain and structural weakness they bring upon the girders of the world—the faith of men in men, and the credit of God, which alone can hold a world together.
It is not denied that the average millionaire, when he has made his money, does different-looking things, and gathers different-looking objects about him, and is seen in different-looking places. And it is not denied that he changes in more important particulars than things. He quite often changes people, the people he is seen with but he never or almost never changes himself. He is not one man when he is putting money into his pocket and another when he is taking it out.
We keep hoping at first with each new mere millionaire that when he gets all the money he has wanted it will change him; but we find it almost never does.
Merely reversing the motion with a pocket does not make a man a new and beautiful creature, and one soon sees that the typical millionaire is governed by the same bargain principles, is bullied and domineered over by the same personal limitations, the same old something-for-nothing habits. If he had the habit, while getting money out of people, of getting the better of them, he still insists on getting the better of people when he gives it to them or to their causes. He takes it out of their souls. There never has been a millionaire who runs his business on the old humdrum principle of merely making all the money he can who does not run his very philanthropies afterward on the same general principle of oppressing everybody, of outwitting everybody—and of doing people good in a way that makes them wish they were dead. Philanthropy as a philosophy, and even as an institution, is getting to be nearly futile to-day, for the reason that millionaires—valid, authentic cases of millionaires who are really cured—who are changed either in their motives or their methods with regard to what they do with money, except in rare cases, do not exist.
The New Theatre in New York, which was started as a kind of Polar Expedition to discover and rescue Dramatic Art in America, failed because two hundred and forty millionaires tried to help it. If enough millionaires could have been staved off from that enterprise, or if it could have been taken in hand either by fewer or more select millionaires cooeperating with the public and with artists of all classes, New Theatre of New York would not have been obliged, as it has been since, to start all over again on a new basis. The blunders in creative public work that men who get rich in the wrong way are always sure to make had to be made first. They nearly always have to be made first. There is hardly a single enterprise of higher social value in which the world is interested to-day which is not being gravely threatened in efficient service by letting in too many millionaires, and by paying too much attention to what they think. If our people were generally alive to the terrific sameness and monotony of a millionaire's life "before and after," and if millionaires were looked over discriminatingly before being allowed to take part in great public enterprises like the cinema, for instance, the newspapers, the hospitals, the theatres, there is hardly any limit to the new things that public enterprises would begin to make happen in the world, and the new men that would begin to function in them.
Of course, if what a great vision for the people—i.e., a public enterprise is for, is to make money, it would be different. The mere millionaire might understand, and his understanding might help. But if an institution is founded (like a great theatre) to be a superb and noble masterpiece of understanding and changing human nature; if it is founded to be a creative and dominating influence, to build up the ideals and fire the enthusiasm of a city, to lay the foundations of the daily thoughts and the daily motives of a great people, the mere millionaire finds, if he tries to manage it, that he is getting in beyond his depth. A man who has made his money by exploiting and taking advantage of the public can only be expected, in conducting a Theatre, to be an authority on how to exploit a public and take advantage of it still more, and how to make it go to the play that merely looks like the play that it wants.
Millionaires as a class, unless they are men who have made their money in the artist's or the inventor's spirit, really ought to be expected by this time, except in the size of their cheques, to be modest and thoughtful, to stand back a little and watch other people. The millionaires themselves, if they thought about it, would be the first to advise us not to pay too much attention to them. They are used to large things, and they know that the only way to do, in conducting great enterprises, is to select and use men (whether millionaires or not) for the particular efficiencies they have developed. If we are conducting what is called a charity, we will not expect that a millionaire can do good things unless he is a good man. He spoils them by picking out the wrong people. And we will not expect him to do artistic things unless he has lived his life and done his business in the spirit and the temperament of the artist. He will not know which the artists are or what the artists are like inside; and he will not like them and they will not like him, nor will they be interested in him or interested in working with him. Everything that artists or men of creative temperament try to do with the common run of millionaires—all these huge, blind, imponderable megatheriums, stamping along through life, ordering people about—ends in the same way—in irksomeness, bewildered vision, fear, compromise, and failure, as seen from the inside. Seen on the outside or before the public, of course, the Institution will have the same old, bland, familiar air of looking successful and of looking intelligent, and yet of being uninteresting, and of not changing the world by a hair's breadth.
The only millionaires who should be allowed to have a controlling interest in public enterprises are millionaires who do not need to be different before and after making their money. Everybody is coming to see this, sooner or later. It is already getting very hard to raise money for any public enterprise in which mere millionaires or bewildered, unhappy rich men are known to have a controlling interest. The most efficient and far-sighted men do not expect anything very decided or of marked character from such enterprises, and will no longer lend to them either their brains or their money. Mere millionaires will soon have to conduct their public enterprises quite by themselves, and they will then soon fall of their own weight. The moment men are put in control of public enterprises by the size of their brains instead of the size of their cheques, the whole complexion of what are known as our public enterprises will change, and churches, theatres, hospitals, settlements, art galleries, and all other great public causes, instead of boring everybody and teasing everybody, will be attracting everybody and attracting everybody's money. They will be full of character, courage, and vision. Our present great, vague, helpless, plaintive public enterprises—one third art, one third millionaire, one third deficit—drag along financially because they are listless compromises, because they have no souls or vision, and are not interesting—not even interesting to themselves.
Men with creative or imaginative quality, and courage, and insight into ordinary human nature, and far-sightedness of what can be expected of people, do not get on with the ordinary millionaire. It cannot be denied that millionaires and artists get together in time; but the particular point that seems to be interesting to consider is how the millionaires and artists can be got together before the artists are dead, and before the millionaires stop growing and stop being creative and understanding creative men.
It might be well to consider the present situation in the concrete—the theatre, for instance—and see how the situation lies, and where one would have to begin, and how one would have to go to work to change it.
The present failure of the theatre to encourage what is best in modern art is due to the fact that the public is unimaginative and inartistic.
If a public is unimaginative and inartistic, the only way the best things that are offered can succeed with them is by having these best things held before them long and steadily enough for them slowly to compare them with other things, and see that they are better than the other things, and that they are what they want.
Unimaginative and inartistic people do not know what they want. If things are tried long enough with them they do. When they have been tried long enough with them they support them themselves.
The only way fine things can be tried long enough is with sufficient capital.
The only way sufficient capital for fine things can be obtained is by having millionaires who appreciate fine things, and believe in them, and believe the public in time will believe in them.
The only way in which a millionaire can recognize and believe in the fine things and in the best artists is by being, in spirit and temperament at least, an artist himself.
The only way in which a millionaire can be an artist is to work every day in the spirit in which the artist works.
This means the artist in business.
(1) The artist in business is the man who makes things people already want enough to make money, and who makes things he is going to make people want enough to make new values and to be of some use.
(2) The artist in business is the employer who makes new things and men together. He lets the men who make new things with him become new men; and when the things are made, they go forth in their turn and make new men and make new publics. New publics have had to be made for everything: for the first umbrellas, for the first telephones, the first typewriters. New publics have had to be made for Wagner, for Sunlight Soap, for Bernard Shaw; and it is the men who make new publics—be it for big or little things—who are artists. They are in spirit, prophets, kings, and world-builders.
(3) Incidentally, the artist in business—the employer who creates new values and is creative himself—will like creative men in his factory, and will treat them so that they will put their creativeness into his business; he not only will be an artist himself, but he will have, comparatively speaking, a factory full of artists working with him. And when the factories pour out the men at night, and the smoke and the murmur cease, and the windows are dark, they will go to creative and live men's plays.
So it has come to pass that the modern business man of the artist sort holds the arts of modern times in the hollow of his hand. He is a past-master of creating new publics.
(4) The artist in business is the man who educates and draws out, at every point where his business touches them, every day, all day, the men with whom he works. He educates and develops the men who make the things. He educates and develops the men who buy them. Even the people who wish they had bought them, are educated or secreted, by the artist in business. He is a maker of new publics, a world-builder, whichever way he turns. A business man who merely makes for people what they want, and who does not get the prestige with men of making for them things that they did not know they wanted, is a failure and falls behind in his business. All the big men in business work in future tenses. They are prophets, historians, and they are Now-men, men who work by seeing the truth all round the present moment, the present persons, and the present market, and before it and behind it. Millionaires who are making their money in this spirit will understand and believe in plays that are written in this spirit, and the people who work for such employers will like to go to such plays, and the theatre managers, instead of being the bullies and tyrants of the world of art, will be held in the power of the men who see things and who make things—men who in vast sweeps called audiences, night after night, make new men upon the earth.
STEEPLES AND CHIMNEYS
I went to the Durbar the other night in cinema colour and saw the King and Queen through India. I had found my way, with hundreds of others, into the gallery of the Scala Theatre, and out of that big, still rim of watchful darkness where I sat I saw—there must have been thousands of them—crowds of camels running.
And crowds of elephants went swinging past.
I watched them like a boy, like a boy standing on the edge of a thousand years and looking off at a world.
It was stately and strange, and like far music to sit quite still and watch civilizations swinging past.
Then suddenly it became near and human—the spirit of playgrounds and of shouting and boyish laughter ran through it. And we watched the elephants, naked and untrimmed, lolling down to the lake and lying down to be scrubbed in it with comfortable low snorting and slow rolling in the water, and the men standing by all the while like little play-nurses and tending them, their big bungling babies, at the bath. A few minutes later we watched the same elephants, hundreds of them, their mighty toilets made, pacing slowly past, swinging their gorgeous trappings in our eyes, rolling their huge hoodahs at us, and all the time still those little funny dots of men beside them, moving them silently, moving them invisibly as by a spirit, as by a kind of awful wireless—those great engines of the flesh! I shall never forget it or live without it, that slow pantomime of those mighty, silent Eastern nations, their religions, their philosophies, their wills, their souls, moving their elephants past—the long panorama of it, of their little awful human wills, all those little black, helpless-looking slits of Human Will astride those mighty necks!
I have the same feeling when I see Count Zeppelin with his airship, or Grahame-White at Hendon, riding his vast cosmic pigeon up the sky; and it is the same feeling I have with the locomotives—those unconscious, forbidding, coldly obedient terrible fellows! Have I not lain awake and listened to them storming through the night, heard them out there ahead working our wills on the blackness, on the thick night, on the stars, on Space, and on Time while we slept?
My main feeling at the Durbar while I watched those splendid beasts—the crowds of camels, the crowds of elephants—all being driven along by the little, faint, dreamy, sleepy-looking people was, "Why don't their elephants turn around on them and chase them?"
I kept thinking at first that they would, almost any minute.
Our elephants chase us—most of us. Who has not seen locomotives coming quietly out of their roundhouses in New York and begin chasing people, chasing whole towns, tearing along with them, making everybody hurry whether or no, speeding up and ordering around by the clock great cities, everybody alike, the rich and the poor, the just and the unjust, for hundreds of miles around? In the same way I have seen, hundreds of times, motor cars turning around on their owners and chasing them—chasing them fairly out of their lives. And hundreds of thousands of little wood-and-rubber Things with nickel bells whirring, may be seen ordering around people—who pay them for it—in any city of our modern world.
Now and then one comes on a man who keeps a telephone, who is a gentleman with it, and who keeps it in its place, but not often.
There are certain questions to be asked and to be settled in any civilization that would be called great.
First: Do the elephants chase the men in it? Second: And if—as in our Western civilization—the men have made their own elephants, why should they be chased by them?
There are some of us who have wondered a little at the comparative inferiority of organ music. We have come to the conclusion that perhaps organ music is inferior because it has been largely composed by organists, by men who sit at organ machines many hours a day, and who have let their organ machines with all their stops and pedals, and with all their stop-and-pedal-mindedness, select out of their minds the tones that organs can do best—the music that machines like.
Wagner has come to be recognized as a great and original composer for a machine age because he would not let his imagination be cowed by the mere technical limitations, the narrow-mindedness of brass horns, wooden flutes, and catgut; he made up his mind that he would not sing violins. He made violins sing him.
Perhaps this is the whole secret of art in a machine civilization.
Perhaps a machine civilization is capable of a greater art than has ever been dreamed in the world before, the moment it stops being chased by its elephants. The question of letting the crowd be beautiful in our world of machines and crowds to-day turns on our producing Machine-Trainers.
Men possessed by watches in their vest pockets cannot be inspired, men possessed by churches or religion-machines cannot be prophets, men possessed by school-machines cannot be educators.
The reason that we find the poet, or at least the minor poet, discouraged in a machine age probably is, that there is nothing a minor poet can do in it. Why should nightingales, poppies, and dells expect, in a main trial of strength, to compete with machines? And why should human beings running for their souls in a race with locomotives expect to keep very long from losing their souls?
The reason that most people are discouraged about machinery to-day is that this is what they think a machine civilization is. They whine at the machines. They blame the locomotive.
A better way for a man to do would be to stop blaming the locomotive, and stop running along out of breath beside it, and climb up into the cab.
This is the whole issue of art in our modern civilization—climbing up into the cab.
First come the Machine-Trainers, or poets who can tame engines. Then the other poets.
In the meantime, the less we hear about nightingales and poppies and dells and love and above, the better.
Poetry must make a few iron-handed, gentle-hearted, mighty men next. It is because we demand and expect the beautiful that we say that poetry must make men next.
The elephants have been running around in the garden long enough.
BELLS AND WHEELS
We are living in a day of the great rebellion of the machines. Out of a thousand thousand roundhouses and factories, vast cities and nations of machines on the land and on the sea have risen before the soul of man and said, "We have served you; now, you serve us."
A million million vulgar, swaggering Goliaths, one sees them everywhere; they wave their arms at us around the world, they puff their white breath at us, they spit smoke in our eyes, line up in a row before the great cities, before the mighty-hearted nations, and say it again and again, all in chorus, "We have served you, now, you serve us!"
It has come to sound to some of us as a kind of chant around our lives.
But why should we serve them?
I have seen crowds of minor poets running, their little boxes of perfume and poetry, their cologne water, their smelling-salts, in their hands.
And, of course, if the world were all minor poets the situation would be serious.
And I have seen flocks of faint-hearted temples, of big, sulky, beautiful, absent-minded colleges, looking afraid. Every now and then perhaps one sees a professor run out, throw a book at the machines, and run back again. Oxford still looks at science, at matter itself, tremulously, with that same old, still, dreamy air of dignity, of gentlemanly disappointment.
And if the world were all Oxford the situation would be serious.
When Oxford with its hundred spires, its little beautiful boy choirs of professors, draws me one side from the Great Western Railway Station, and intones in those still, solemn, lonely spaces the great truth in my ears, that machines and ideals cannot go together, that the only way to deal with ideals is to keep them away from machines, my only reply is that ideals that are so tired that they are merely devoted to defending themselves, ideals that will not and cannot go forth and be the breath of the machines, ideals that cannot and will not master the machines, that will not ride the machines as the wind, overrun matter, and conquer the earth, are not ideals for gentlemen.
At least they are not ideals that can keep up the standard of the Oxford gentleman.
A gentleman is a man who is engaged in expressing his best and noblest self in every fibre of his mind and every fibre of his body. He makes the very force of gravity pulling on his clothes express him, and the movements of his feet and his hands. He gathers up his rooms into his will and all the appointments of his life and crowds into them the full meaning of his soul. He makes all these things say him.
The main attribute of a man who is not a gentleman is that he does not do these things, that he cannot inform his body with his spirit.
I go back to the Great Western Railway, ugly as it still is. I go alone, and sadly if I must, and for a little time—without the deep bells and without the stained-glass windows, without all that dear, familiar beauty I have loved in the old and quiet quadrangles—I take my stand beside the Great Western Railway! I claim the Great Western Railway for the spirit of man and for the will of God!
With its vast shuttle of steam and shining engines, its little, whispering telegraph office, the Great Western Railway is a part of my body. I lay my will on the heart of London with it, or I sleep in the old house in Lynmouth with it. I am the Great Western Railway, and the Great Western Railway is ME. And from the heart of the roar of London to the slow, sleepy surge of the sea in my window at Lynmouth it is mine! Though it be iron and wood, switches, whistles, and white steam, it is my body, and I inform it with my spirit, or I die. With the will of God I endow it, with the glory of the world, with the desires of my heart, and with the prayers of the hurrying men and women.
I declare that that same glory I have known before, and that I will always know, and will never give up, in the old quiet quadrangles of Oxford and in the deep bells and in the still waters, as in some strange, new, and mighty Child, is in the Great Western Railway too.
When I am in the train it sings. Strangely and hoarsely It sings! I lie down to rest. It whistles on ahead my ideals down the slope of the world. It roars softly, while I sleep, my religion in my ears.
DEW AND ENGINES
When I was small, and wanted suddenly to play tag or duck-on-the-rock I had a little square half-mile of boys near by to play with.
My daughter plays tag or plays dolls, any minute she likes, with a whole city. She is not surprised at the telephone; she takes it for granted like sunshine and milk. It is a part of the gray matter in her brain—a whole city, six or seven square miles of it. A little mouthpiece on a desk, a number, and two hundred little girls are hers in a minute, to play dolls with. She thinks in miles when she plays, where I thought in door-yards. The whole city is a part of the daily, hourly furniture of her mind. The little gray molecules in the structure of her brain are different from those in mine.
I have seen that Man moves over with each new generation into a bigger body, more awful, more reverent and free than he has had before.
A few minutes ago, here where I am writing, an engine all in bright, soft, lit-up green with little lines of yellow on it and flashing silver feet, like a vision, swept past—through my still glass window, through the quiet green fields—like a great, swift, gleaming whisper of London. And now, all in six seconds, this great quiet air about me is waked to vast vibrations of the mighty city. Out over the red pines, the lonely gorse fields, I have seen passing the spirit of the Strand. I have seen the great flocking bridges and the roar about St. Paul's in communion with the treetops and with the hedgerows and with the little brooks, all in six seconds, when an engine, with its vision like a cloud of glory swept past.
And yet there are people in Oxford who tell me that an engine when it is in the very act of expressing such stupendous and boundless thoughts, of making such mighty and beautiful things happen, is not beautiful, that it has nothing to do with art. They can but watch the machines, the earth black with them, going about everywhere mowing down great nations and rolling under the souls of men.
I cannot see it so. I see a thousand thousand engines carrying dew and green fields to the stones of London. I see the desires of the earth hastening. The ships and the wireless telegraph beckon the wills of cities on the seas and on the sky. With the machines I have taken a whole planet to me for my feet and for my hands. I gesture with the earth. I hand up oceans to my God.
DEAD AS A DOOR NAIL!
There are people who say that machines cannot be beautiful, and cannot make for beauty, because machines are dead.
I would agree with them if I thought that machines were dead.
I have watched in spirit, hundreds of years, the machines grow out of Man like nails, like vast antennae—a kind of enormous, more unconscious sub-body. They are apparently of less lively and less sensitive tissue than tongues or eyes or flesh; and like all bones they do not renew, of course, as often or as rapidly as flesh. But the difference between live and dead machines is quite as grave and quite as important as the difference between live and dead men. The generally accepted idea a live thing is, that it is a thing that keeps dying and being born again every minute; it is seen to be alive by its responsiveness to the spirit, to the intelligence that created it and that keeps re-creating it. I have known thousands of factories; and every factory I have known that is really strong or efficient has scales like a snake, and casts off its old self. All the people in it, and all the iron and wood in it, month by month are being renewed and shedding themselves. Any live factory can always be seen moulting year after year. A live spirit goes all through the machinery, a kind of nervous tissue of invention, of thought.
We already speak of live and dead iron, of live and dead engines or half-dead and half-sick engines, and we have learned that there is such a thing as tired steel. What people do to steel makes a difference to it. Steel is sensitive to people. My human spirit grows my arm and moves it and guides it and expresses itself in it, keeps re-creating it and destroying it; and daily my soul keeps rubbing out and writing in new lines upon my face; and in the same way my typewriter, in a slow, more stolid fashion, responds to my spirit too. Two men changing typewriters or motor-cars are, though more subtly, like two men changing boots. Sewing machines, pianos, and fiddles grow intimate with the people who use them, and they come to express those particular people and the ways in which they are different from others. A Titian-haired typewriter girl makes her machine move differently every day from a blue-eyed one. Typewriters never like to have their people take the liberty of lending them. Steel bars and wooden levers all have little mannerisms, little expressions, small souls of their own, habits of people that they have lived with, which have grasped the little wood and iron levers of their wills and made them what they are.
It is somewhere in the region of this fact that we are going to discover the great determining secret of modern life, of the mastery of man over his machines. Man, at the present moment, with all his new machines about him, is engaged in becoming as self-controlled, as self-expressive, with his new machines, with his wireless telegraph arms and his railway legs, as he is with his flesh and blood ones. The force in man that is doing this is the spiritual genius in him that created the machine, the genius of imperious and implacable self-expression, of glorious self-assertion in matter, the genius for being human, for being spiritual, and for overflowing everything we touch and everything we use with our own wills and with the ideals and desires of our souls. The Dutchman has expressed himself in Dutch architecture and in Dutch art; the American has expressed himself in the motor-car; the Englishman has expressed himself, has carved his will and his poetry upon the hills, and made his landscape a masterpiece by a great nation. He has made his walls and winding roads, his rivers, his very treetops express his deep, silent joy in the earth. So the great, fresh young nations to-day, with a kind of new, stern gladness, implacableness, and hope, have appointed to their souls expression through machinery. Our Engines and our radium shall cry to God! Our wheels sing in the sun!
Machinery is our new art-form. A man expresses himself first in his hands and feet, then in his clothes, and then in his rooms or in his house, and then on the ground about him; the very hills grow like him, and the ground in the fields becomes his countenance; and now, last and furthest of all, requiring the liveliest and noblest grasp of his soul, the finest circulation of will of all, he begins expressing himself in his vast machines, in his three-thousand-mile railways, in his vast, cold-looking looms and dull steel hammers. With telescopes for Mars-eyes for his spirit, he walks up the skies; he expresses his soul in deep and dark mines, and in mighty foundries melting and re-moulding the world. He is making these things intimate, sensitive, and colossal expressions of his soul. They have become the subconscious body, the abysmal, semi-infinite body of the man, sacred as the body of the man is sacred, and as full of light or of darkness.
So I have seen the machines go swinging through the world. Like archangels, like demons, they mount up our desires on the mountains. We do as we will with them. We build Winchester Cathedral all over again, on water. We dive down with our steel wheels and nose for knowledge—like a great Fish—along the bottom of the sea. We beat up our wills through the air. We fling up, with our religion, with our faith, our bodies on the clouds. We fly reverently and strangely, our hearts all still and happy, in the face of God!
AN OXFORD MAN AND AN INCH OF IRON
The whole process of machine-invention is itself the most colossal, spiritual achievement of history. The bare idea we have had of unravelling all creation, and of doing it up again to express our own souls—the idea of subduing matter, of making our ideals get their way with matter, with radium, ether, antiseptics, is itself a religion, a poetry, a ritual, a cry to heaven. The supreme, spiritual adventure of the world has become this task that man has set himself, of breaking down and casting away forever the idea that there is such a thing as matter belonging to matter—matter that keeps on in a dead, stupid way, just being matter. The idea that matter is not all alive with our souls, with our desires and prayers, with hope, terror, worship, with the little terrible wills of men and the spirit of God, is already irreligious to us. Is not every cubic inch of iron (the coldest-blooded scientist admits it) like a kind of little temple, its million million little atoms in it going round and round and round dancing before the Lord?
And why should an Oxford man be afraid of a cubic inch of iron, or afraid of becoming like it?
I daily thank God that I have been allowed to belong to this generation. I have looked at last a little cubic inch of iron out of countenance. I can sit and watch it, the little cubic inch of iron, in its still coldness, in all its little funny play-deadness, and laugh! I know that to a telescope or a god, or to me, to us, the little cubic inch of iron is all alive inside, that it is whirling with will, that it is sensitive in a rather dead-looking but lively cosmic way, sensitive like another kind of more slowly quivering flesh, sensitive to moons and to stars and to heat and cold, to time and space and to human souls. It is singing every minute low and strange, night and day, in its little grim blackness, of the glory of Things. I am filled with the same feeling, the same sense of kindred, of triumphant companionship, when I go out among them and watch the majestic family of the machines, of the engines, those mighty Innocents, those new awful sons of God, going abroad through all the world, looking back at us when we have made them, unblinking and without sin!
Like rain and sunshine, like chemicals, and like all the other innocent, godlike things, and like waves of water and waves of air, rainbows, starlight, they say what we make them say. They are alive with the life that is in us.
The first element of power in a man, in getting control of his life in our modern era, is to have spirit enough to know what matter is like.
The Machine-Trainer is the man who sees what the machines are like. He is the man who conceives of iron-and-wood machines, in his daily habit of thought, as alive. He has discovered ways in which he can produce an impression upon iron and wood with his desires, and with his will. He goes about making iron-and-wood machines do live things.
It is never the machines that are dead.
It is only mechanical-minded men that are dead.
THE MACHINES' MACHINES
The fate of civilization is not going to be determined by people who are morbidly like machines on the one hand, or by people who are morbidly unmechanical, on the other.
People in a machine civilization who try to live without being automatic and mechanical-minded part of the time and in some things, people who try to make everything they do artistic and self-expressive and hand-made, who attend to all their own thoughts and finish off all their actions by hand themselves, soon wish they were dead.
People who do everything they do mechanically, or by machinery, are dead already.
It is bad enough for those of us who are trying to live our lives ourselves—real, true, hand-made individual lives—to have to fight all these machines about us trying daily to roar and roll us down into humdrum and nothingness, without having to fight besides all these dear people we have about us too, who have turned machines, even one's own flesh and blood. Does not one see them—see them everywhere—one's own flesh and blood, going about like stone-crushers, road-rollers, lifts, lawn-mowers?
Between the morbidly mechanical people and the morbidly unmechanical people, modern civilization hangs in the balance.
There must be some way of being just mechanical enough, and at the right time and right place, and of being just unmechanical enough at the right time and right place. And there must be some way in which men can be mechanical and unmechanical at will.
The fate of civilization turns on men who recognize the nature of machinery, who make machines serve them, who add the machines to their souls, like telephones and wireless telegraph, or to their bodies, like radium and railroads, and who know when and when not and how and how not to use them who are so used to using machines quietly and powerfully, that they do not let the machines outwit them and unman them.
Who are these men?
How do they do it?
They are the Machine-Trainers. The men who understand people-machines, who understand iron machines, and who understand how to make people-machines and iron machines run softly together.
THE MEN'S MACHINES
There was a time once in the old simple individual days when drygoods stores could be human. They expressed, in a quiet, easy way, the souls of the people who owned them.
When machinery was invented and when organization was invented—machines of people—drygoods stores became vast selling machines.
We then faced the problem of making a drygoods store with twenty-five hundred clerks in it as human as a drygoods store with fifteen.
This problem has been essentially and in principle solved. At least we know it is about to be solved. We are ready to admit—most of us—that it is practicable for a department store to be human. Everything the man at the top does expresses his human nature and his personality to his clerks. His clerks become twenty-five hundred more of him in miniature. What is more, the very stuff in which the clerks in department stores work—the thing that passes through their hands, is human, and everything about it is human, or can be made human; and all the while vast currents of human beings, huge Mississippis of human feeling, flow past the clerks—thousands and thousands of souls a day, and pour over their souls, making them and keeping them human. The stream clears itself.
But what can we say about human beings in a mine, about the practicability of keeping human twenty-five hundred men in a hole in the ground? And how can a mine-owner reach down to the men in the hole, make himself felt as a human being on the bottom floor of the hole in the ground?
In a department store the employer expresses himself to his clerks through every one of the other twenty-five hundred; they mingle and stir their souls and hopes and fears together, and he expresses himself to all of them through them all.
But in a mine, two men work all alone down in the dark hole in the ground. Thousands of other men, all in dark holes, are near by, with nothing but the dull sound of picks to come between. In thousands of other holes men work, each with his helper, all alone. The utmost the helper can do is to grow like the man he works with, or like his own pick, or like the coal he chips out, or like the black hole. The utmost the man who mines coal can do, in the way of being human, is with his helper.
In a factory, for the most part, the only way, during working hours, an employer can express himself and his humanness to his workman is through the steel machine he works with—through its being a new, good, fair machine or a poor one. He can only smile and frown at him with steel, be good to him in wheels and levers, or now and then perhaps through a foreman pacing down the aisles.
The question the modern business man in a factory has to face is very largely this: "I have acres of machines all roaring my will at my men. I have leather belts, printed rules, white steam, pistons, roar, air, water and fire and silence to express myself to my workmen in. I have long monotonous swings and sweeps of cold steel, buckets of melted iron, strips of wood, bells, whistles, clocks—to express myself, to express my human spirit to my men. Is there, or is there not, any possible way in which my factory with its machines can be made as human and as expressive of the human as a department store?"
This is the question that our machine civilization has set itself to answer.
All the men with good honest working imaginations, the geniuses and the freemen of the world, are setting themselves the task of answering it.
Some say, "Machines are on the necks of the men. We will take the machines away."
Others say, "We will make our men as good as our machines. We will make our inventions in men catch up with our inventions in machines."
We naturally turn to the employer first as having the first chance. What is there an employer can do to draw out the latent force in the men, evoke the divine, incalculable passion sleeping beneath in the machine-walled minds, the padlocked wills, the dull unmined desires of men? How can he touch and wake the solar plexus of labour?
If any employer desires to get into the inner substance of the most common type of workman, be an artist with him, express himself with him and change the nature of that substance, give it a different colour or light or movement so that he will work three times as fast, ten times as cheerfully and healthfully, and with his whole body and soul, spirit, and how is he going to do it?
Most employers wish they could do this. If they could persuade their men to believe in them, to begin to be willing to work with them instead of against them, they would do it.
What form of language is there, whether of words or of actions, that an employer can use to make the men who work nine hours a day for him and to whom he has to express himself across acres of machines, believe in him and understand him?
The modern employer finds himself set sternly face to face, every day of his life, with this question. All civilization seems crowding up day by day, seems standing outside his office door as he goes in and as he goes out, and asking him—now with despair, now with a kind of grim, implacable hope, "Do you believe, or do you not believe, a factory can be made as human as a department store?"
This question is going to be answered first by men who know what iron machines really are, and what they are really for, and how they work—who know what people-machines really are, and what they are really for, and how they work. They will base all that they do upon certain resemblances and certain differences between people and machines.
They will work the machines of iron according to the laws of iron.
They will work the machines of men according to the laws of human nature.
There are certain facts in human nature, feelings, enthusiasms and general principles concerning the natural working relation between men and machines, that it may be well to consider in the next chapter as a basis for a possible solution.
What are our machines after all? How are the machines like us? And on what theory of their relation to us can machines and men expect in a world like this to run softly together? These are the questions men are going to answer next. In the meantime, I venture to believe that no man who is morose to-day about the machines, or who is afraid of machines in our civilization—because they are machines—is likely to be able to do much to save the men in it.
THE BASEMENT OF THE WORLD
Every man has, according to the scientists, a place in the small of his back which might be called roughly, perhaps, the soul of his body. All the little streets of the senses or avenues of knowledge, the spiritual conduits through which he lives in this world, meet in this little mighty brain in the small of a man's back.
About nine hundred millions of his grandfathers apparently make their headquarters in this little place in the small of his back.
It is in this one little modest unnoticed place that he is supposed to keep his race-consciousness, his subconscious memory of a whole human race, and it is here that the desires and the delights and labours of thousands of years of other people are turned off and turned on in him. It is the brain that has been given to every man for the heavy everyday hard work of living. The other brain, the one with which he does his thinking and which is kept in an honoured place up in the cupola of his being, is a comparatively light-working organ, merely his own private personal brain—a conscious, small, and supposably controllable affair. He holds on to his own particular identity with it. The great lower brain in the small of his back is merely lent to him, as it were, out of eternity—while he goes by.
It is like a great engine which he has been allowed the use of as long as he can keep it connected up properly with his cerebral arrangements.
This appears to be mainly what the cerebral brain is for, this keeping the man connected up. It acts as a kind of stopcock for one's infinity, for screwing on or screwing off one's vast race-consciousness, one's all-humanityness, all those unsounded deeps or reservoirs of human energy, of hope and memory, of love, of passionate thought, of earthly and heavenly desire that are lent to each of us as we slip softly by for seventy years, by a whole human race.
A human being is a kind of factory. The engine and the works and all the various machines are kept in the basement, and he sends down orders to them from time to time, and they do the work which has been conceived up in the headquarters. He expects the works down below to keep on doing these things without his taking any particular notice of them, while he occupies his mind, as the competent head of a factory should, with the things that are new and different and special and that his mind alone can do—the things which, at least in their present initial formative or creative stage, no machines as yet have been developed to do, and that can only be worked out by the man up in the headquarters himself personally, by the handiwork of his own thought.
The more a human being develops, the more delicate, sensitive, strong, and efficient, the more spirit-informed once for all the machines in the basement are. As he grows, the various subconscious arrangements for discriminating, assimilating and classifying material, for pumping up power, light, and heat to headquarters, all of which can be turned on at will, grow more masterful every year. They are found all slaving away for him dimly down in the dark while he sleeps. They hand him up in his very dreams new and strange powers to live and know with.
The men who have been the most developed of all, in this regard, civilization has always selected and set apart from the others. It calls these men, in their generation, men of genius.
Ordinary men do not try to compete with men of genius.
The reason that people set the genius apart and do not try to compete with him is that he has more and better machinery than they have. It is always the first thing one notices about a man of genius—the incredible number of things that he manages to get done for him, apparently the things that he never takes any time off, like the rest of us, to do himself. The subconscious, automatic, mechanical equipment of his senses, the extraordinary intelligence and refinement of his body, the way his senses keep his spirit informed automatically and convey outer knowledge to him, the power he has in return of informing this outer knowledge with his spirit, with his will, with his choices, once for all, so that he is always able afterward to rely on his senses to work out things beautifully for him quite by themselves, and to hand up to him, when he wants them, rare, deep, unconscious knowledge—all the things he wants to use for what his soul is doing at the moment—it is these that make the man of genius what he is. He has a larger and better factory than others, and has developed a huge subconscious service in mind and body. Having all these things done for him, he is naturally more free than others and has more vision and more originality, his spirit is swung free to build new worlds—to take walks with God, until at last we come to look upon him, upon the man of genius, a little superstitiously. We look up every little while from doing the things ourselves that he gets done for him by his subconscious machinery, and we wonder at him, we wonder at the strange, the mighty feats he does, at his thousand-leagued boots, at his apparent everywhereness. His songs and joys, sometimes, to us, his very sorrows, look miraculous.
And yet it is all merely because he has a factory, a great automatic equipment, a thousand employee-sense perceptions, down in the basement of his being, doing things for him that the rest of us do, or think we are obliged to do ourselves, and give up all of our time to. He is not held back as we are, and moves freely. So he dives under the sea familiarly, or takes peeps at the farther side of the stars, or he flies in the air, or he builds unspeakable railroads or thinks out ships or sea-cities, or he builds books, or he builds little new still-undreamed-of worlds out of chemistry, or he unravels history out of rocks, or plants new cities and mighty states without seeming to try, or perhaps he proceeds quietly to be interested in men, in all these funny little dots of men about him; and out of the earth and sky, out of the same old earth and sky everybody else had had, he makes new kinds and new sizes of men with a thought like some mighty, serene child playing with dolls!
It is generally supposed that the man of genius rules history and dictates the ideals, the activities of the next generation, writes out the specifications for the joys and sorrows of a world, and lays the ground-plans of nations because he has an inspired mind. It is really because he has an inspired body, a body that has received its orders once for all, from his spirit. We would never wonder that everything a genius does has that vivid and strange reality it has, if we realized what his body is doing for him, how he has a body which is at work automatically drinking up the earth into everything he thinks, drinking up practicability, art and technique for him into everything he sees and everything he hopes and desires. And every year he keeps on adding a new body, keeps on handing down to his basement new sets, every day, of finer and yet finer things to do automatically. The great spiritual genius becomes great by economizing his consciousness in one direction and letting it fare forth in another. He converts his old inspirations into his new machines. He converts heat into power, and power into light, and comes to live at last as almost any man of genius can really be seen living—in a kind of transfigured or lighted-up body. The poet transmutes his subconscious or machine body into words; and the artist, into colour or sound or into carved stone. The engineer transmutes his subconscious body into long buildings, into aisles of windows, into stories of thoughtful machines. Every great spiritual and imaginative genius is seen, sooner or later, to be the transmuted genius of some man's body. The things in Leonardo da Vinci that his unconscious, high-spirited, automatic senses gathered together for him, piled up in his mind for him, and handed over to him for the use of his soul, would have made a genius out of anybody. It is not as if he had had to work out every day all the old details of being a genius, himself.
The miracles he seems to work are all made possible to him because of his thousand man-power, deep subconscious body, his tremendous factory of sensuous machinery. It is as if he had practically a thousand men all working for him, for dear life, down in his basement, and the things that he can get these men to attend to for him give him a start with which none of the rest of us could ever hope to compete. We call him inspired because he is more mechanical than we are, and because his real spiritual life begins where our lives leave off.
So the poets who have filled the world with glory and beauty have been free to do it because they have had more perfect, more healthful and improved subconscious senses handing up wonder to them than the rest of us have.
And so the engineers, living, as they always live, with that fierce, silent, implacable curiosity of theirs, woven through their bodies and through their senses and through their souls, have tagged the Creator's footsteps under the earth, and along the sky, every now and then throwing up new little worlds to Him like His worlds, saying, "Look, O God, look at THIS!"—the engineers whose poetry is too deep to look poetic have all done what they have done because the unconscious and automatic gifts of their senses, of the powers of their observation, have swung their souls free, given them long still reaches of thought and vast new orbits of desire, like gods.
All the great men of the world have always had machinery.
Now, everybody is having it. The power to get little things, innumerable, omnipresent, for-ever-and-ever things, tiny just-so things, done for us automatically so that we can go on to our inspirations is no longer to-day the special prerogative of men of genius. It is for all of us. Machinery is the stored-up spirit, the old saved-up inspiration of the world turned on for every man. And as the greatness of a man turns on his command over machinery, on his power to free his soul by making his body work for him, the greatness of a civilization turns upon its getting machines to do its work. The more of our living we can learn to do to-day, automatically, the more inspired and creative and godlike and unmechanical our civilization becomes.
Machinery is the subconscious mind of the world.
THE GROUND FLOOR FOLKS
I would not have, if I could afford it, a thing in my house that is not hand-made. I have come to believe that machinery is going to make it possible for everybody to have hand-made things in their homes, things that have been made by people who love to make them, and by people who, thinks to the machines, are soon bound to have time to make them. Some will have gifts for hand-made furniture, others for hand-made ideas. Perhaps people will even have time for sitting down to enjoy hand-made ideas, to enjoy hand-made books—and enjoy reading books by hand. We may have time for following an author in a book in the slow, old, deep, loving, happy, hand-made fashion we used to know—when we have enough machines.
It looks as if it might be something like this.
Every man is going to spend his mornings in the basement of society, taking orders and being a servant and executing automatically, like a machine if need be, the will of the world, making what the world wants in the way it wants it, expressing society and subordinating himself. In the afternoon he shall come up out of the basement, and take his stand on the ground floor of the world, stop being a part of the machinery, and be a man, express himself and give orders to himself and do some work he loves to do in the way he loves to do it, express his soul in his labour, and be an artist. He will not select his work in the morning, or select his employer, or say how the work shall be done. He will himself be selected, like a young tree or like an iron nail, because he is the best made and best fitted thing at hand to be used in a certain place and in a certain way.
When the man has been selected for his latent capacities, his employer sets to work on him scientifically and according to the laws of physics, hygiene, conservation of energy, the laws of philosophy, human nature, heredity, psychology, and even metaphysics, teaches the man how to hold his hands, how to lift, how to sit down, how to rest, and how to breathe, so that three times as much work can be got out of him as he could get out of himself. A mind of the highest rank and, if necessary, thirty minds of the highest rank, shall be at his disposal, shall be lent him to show him how his work can be done. The accumulated science and genius, the imagination and experience, of hundreds of years, of all climates, of all countries, of all temperaments shall be heaped up by his employers, gathered about the man's mind, wrought through his limbs, and help him to do his work.
All labour down in the basement of society shall be skilled labour. The brains of men of genius and of experts shall be pumped into labour from above until every man in the basement shall earn as much money in three hours a day as he formerly had earned in nine.
Between the time a man saves by having machinery and the time he saves by having the brains of great men and geniuses to work with, it will be possible for men to do enough work for other people down in the basement of the world in a few hours to shut the whole basement up, if we want to, by three o'clock. Every man who is fit for it shall spend the rest of his time in planning his work himself and in expressing himself, and in creating hand-made and beautiful, inspired and wilful things like an artist, or like a slowed-down genius, or at least like a man or like a human being.
Every man owes it to society to spend part of his time in expressing his own soul. The world needs him. Society cannot afford to let him merely give to it his feet and his hands. It wants the joy in him, the creative desire in him, the slow, stupid, hopeful initiative, in him to help run the world. Society wants to use the man's soul too—the man's will. It is going to demand the soul in a man, the essence or good-will in him, if only to protect itself, and to keep the man from being dangerous. Men who have lost or suppressed their souls, and who go about cursing at the world every day they live in it, are not a safe, social investment.
But while every man is going to see that he owes it to society to use a part of his time in it in expressing himself, his own desires, in his own way, he is going to see also that he owes it to society to spend part of his time in expressing others and in expressing the desires and the needs of others. The two processes could be best effected at first probably by alternating, by keeping the man in equilibrium, balancing the mechanical and the spiritual in his life. Eventually and ideally, he will manage to have time in a higher state of society to put them together, to express in the same act at the same time, and not alternating or reciprocally, himself and others. And he will succeed in doing what the great and free artist does already. He will make his individual self-expression so great and so generous that it is also the expression of the universal self. Every man will be treated according to his own nature. Doubtless some men have not brains enough in a week to supply them for one hour a day of self-directed work. It would take them five hours a day to think how to do one hour's worth of work. Men who prefer, as many will, not to think, and who like the basement better, can substitute in the basement for their sons, and buy if they like, the freedom of sons who prefer thinking, who would like to work harder than their fathers would care to work, up on the ground floor of the world. But as time goes on, it is to be hoped that every man will climb up slowly, and will belong less and less of his time to the staff that borrows brains, and more and more of his time to the staff that hands brains down, and that directs the machinery of the world. The time of alternation in dealing with different callings will probably be adjusted differently, and might be made weeks instead of days, but the principle would be the same. The forces that are going to help, apparently, in this evolution will be the labour exchange—the centre for the mobilization of labour, the produce exchange, the inventor's spirit in the labour unions and employers' associations, and the gradual organization by inventors of the common vision of all men, and setting it at work on the supreme task of modern life—the task of drawing out, evoking each particular man in the world, and in behalf of all, freeing him for his own particular place.
The fundamental failure of humanity so far is in self-assertion.
The essential distinctive trait of modern civilization is machinery.
Machinery logically and irrevocably involves the cooeperative action of individuals.
If we make levers and iron wheels work by putting them together according to their nature, we can only make vast masses of men work by putting them together according to their nature.
So far we have been trying to make vast masses of men work together in precisely the same way we make levers and iron wheels work together. We have thought we could make diabolically, foolishly, insanely inflexible men-machines which violate at every point the natural qualities and instincts of the materials of which they are made.
We have failed to assert ourselves against our iron machines. We have let our iron machines assert themselves against us. We have let our iron machines be models for us. We have overlooked the difference in the nature of the materials in machines of iron and machines of men.
A man is a self-reproducing machine, and an iron machine is one that has to be reproduced by somebody else.
In a man-machine arrangements must be made so that each man can be allowed to be the father of his own children and the author of his own acts.
In society or the man-machine, if it is to work, men are individuals. Society is organically, irrevocably dependent upon each man, and upon what each man chooses according to his own nature to do himself.
The result is, the first principle of success in constructing and running a social machine is to ask and to get an answer out of each man who is, as we look him over and take him up, and propose to put him into it, "What are you like?" "What are you especially for?" "What do you want?" "How can you get it?"
Our success in getting him properly into our machine turns upon a loyal, patient, imperious attention on our part to what there is inside him, inside the particular individual man, and how we can get him to let us know what is inside, get him to decide voluntarily to let us have it, and let us work it into the common end.
In this amazing, impromptu, new, and hurried machine civilization which we have been piling up around us for a hundred years we have made machines out of everything, and our one consummate and glaring failure in the machines we have made is the machine we have made out of ourselves.
Mineral machines are made by putting comparatively dead, or at least dead-looking, matter together; vegetable machines or gardens, are made by studying little unconscious seeds that we can persuade to come up and to reproduce themselves. Man-machines are produced by putting up possible lives before particular individual men, and letting them find out (and finding out for ourselves, too), day by day, into which life they will grow up.
Everything in a social machine, if it is a machine that really works, is based on the profound and special study of individuals: upon drawing out the aptitudes and motives, choices and genius in each man; the passion, if he has any; the creative desire, the self-expressing, self-reproducing, inner manhood; the happy strength there is in him.
Trades unions overlook this, and treat all men alike and all employers alike. Employers have very largely overlooked it.
It is the industrial, social, and religious secret of our modern machine civilization. We need not be discouraged about machines, because the secret of the machine civilization has as yet barely been noticed.
The elephants are running around in the garden. But they have merely taken us by surprise. It is their first and their last chance. The men about us are seeing what to do. We are to get control of the elephants, first, by getting control of ourselves. We are beginning to organize our people-machines as if they were made of people; so that the people in them can keep on being people, and being better ones. And as our people-machines begin to become machines that really work, our iron machines will no longer be feared. They will reach over and help. As we look about us we shall see our iron machines at last, about all the world, all joining in, all hard at work for us, a million, million machines a day making the crowd beautiful.
MACHINES, CROWDS, AND ARTISTS
A crowd civilization produces, as a matter of course, crowd art and art for crowded conditions. This fact is at once the glory and the weakness of the kind of art a democracy is bound to have.
The most natural evidence to turn to first, of the crowd in a crowd age, is such as can be found in its literature, especially in its masterpieces.
The significance of shaking hands with a Senator of the United States is that it is a convenient and labour-saving way of shaking hands with two or three million people. The impressiveness of the Senator's Washington voice, the voice on the floor of the Senate, consists in the mystical undertone—the chorus in it—multitudes in smoking cities, men and women, rich and poor, who are speaking when this man speaks, and who are silent when he is silent, in the government of the United States.
The typical fact that the Senator stands for in modern life has a corresponding typical fact in modern literature. The typical fact in modern literature is the epigram, the senatorial sentence, the sentence that immeasurably represents what it does not say. The difference between democracy in Washington and democracy in Athens may be said to be that in Washington we have an epigram government, a government in which ninety million people are crowded into two rooms to consider what to do, and in which ninety million people are made to sit in one chair to see that it is done. In Athens every man represented himself.
It may be said to be a good working distinction between modern and classic art that in modern art words and colours and sounds stand for things, and in classic art they said them. In the art of the Greek, things were what they seemed, and they were all there. Hence simplicity. It is a quality of the art of to-day that things are not what they seem in it. If they were, we should not call it art at all. Everything stands not only for itself and for what it says, but for an immeasurable something that cannot be said. Every sound in music is the senator of a thousand sounds, thoughts, and associations, and in literature every word that is allowed to appear is the representative in three syllables of three pages of a dictionary. The whistle of the locomotive, and the ring of the telephone, and the still, swift rush of the elevator are making themselves felt in the ideal world. They are proclaiming to the ideal world that the real world is outstripping it. The twelve thousand horsepower steamer does not find itself accurately expressed in iambics on the leisurely fleet of Ulysses. It is seeking new expression. The command has gone forth over all the beauty and over all the art of the present world, crowded for time and crowded for space. "Telegraph!" To the nine Muses the order flies. One can hear it on every side. "Telegraph!" The result is symbolism, the Morse alphabet of art and "types," the epigrams of human nature, crowding us all into ten or twelve people. The epic is telescoped into the sonnet, and the sonnet is compressed into quatrains or Tabbs of poetry, and couplets are signed as masterpieces. The novel has come into being—several hundred pages of crowded people in crowded sentences, jostling each other to oblivion; and now the novel, jostled into oblivion by the next novel, is becoming the short story. Kipling's short stories sum the situation up. So far as skeleton or plot is concerned, they are built up out of a bit of nothing put with an infinity of Kipling; so far as meat is concerned, they are the Liebig Beef Extract of fiction. A single jar of Kipling contains a whole herd of old-time novels lowing on a hundred hills.
The classic of any given world is a work of art that has passed through the same process in being a work of art that that world has passed through in being a world. Mr. Kipling represents a crowd age, because he is crowded with it; because, above all others, he is the man who produces art in the way the age he lives in is producing everything else.
This is no mere circumstance of democracy. It is its manifest destiny that it shall produce art for crowded conditions, that it shall have crowd art.