The tragedy she works, according to George Bernard Shaw, is through the fact that very often good men, blinded by the glamour of sex, imagine they love the Disagreeable Girl, when what they love is their own ideal—an image born in their own minds.
Nature is both a trickster and a humorist, and ever sets the will of the species beyond the discernment of the individual. The picador has to blindfold his horse in order to get him into the bull-ring, and likewise, Dan Cupid does the myopic to a purpose.
For aught we know, the lovely Beatrice of Dante was only a Disagreeable Girl, clothed in a poet's fancy, and idealized by a dreamer. Fortunate was Dante that he worshipped her afar, that he never knew her well enough to be undeceived, and so walked through life in love with love, sensitive, saintly, sweetly sad and most divinely happy in his melancholy.
There is known to me a prominent business house that by the very force of its directness and worth has incurred the enmity of many rivals. In fact, there is a very general conspiracy on hand to put the institution down and out. In talking with a young man employed by this house, he yawned and said, "Oh, in this quarrel I am neutral."
"But you get your bread and butter from this firm, and in a matter where the very life of the institution is concerned, I do not see how you can be a neutral."
And he changed the subject.
I think that if I enlisted in the Japanese army I would not be a neutral.
Business is a fight—a continual struggle—just as life is. Man has reached his present degree of development through struggle. Struggle there must be and always will be. The struggle began as purely physical; as man evolved it shifted ground to the mental, psychic, and the spiritual, with a few dashes of cave-man proclivities still left. But depend upon it, the struggle will always be—life is activity. And when it gets to be a struggle in well-doing, it will still be a struggle. When inertia gets the better of you it is time to telephone to the undertaker.
The only real neutral in this game of life is a dead one.
Eternal vigilance is not only the price of liberty, but of every other good thing.
A business that is not safeguarded on every side by active, alert, attentive, vigilant men is gone. As oxygen is the disintegrating principle of life, working night and day to dissolve, separate, pull apart and dissipate, so there is something in business that continually tends to scatter, destroy and shift possession from this man to that. A million mice nibble eternally at every business venture.
The mice are not neutrals, and if enough employes in a business house are neutrals, the whole concern will eventually come tumbling about their ears.
I like that order of Field-Marshal Oyama: "Give every honorable neutral that you find in our lines the honorable jiu-jitsu hikerino."
Reflections on Progress
Renan has said that truth is always rejected when it comes to a man for the first time, its evolution being as follows:
First, we say the thing is rank heresy, and contrary to the Bible.
Second, we say the matter really amounts to nothing, anyway.
Third, we declare that we always believed it.
Two hundred years ago partnerships in business were very rare. A man in business simply made things and sold them—and all the manufacturing was done by himself and his immediate family. Soon we find instances of brothers continuing the work the father had begun, as in the case of the Elzevirs and the Plantins, the great bookmakers of Holland. To meet this competition, four printers, in 1640, formed a partnership and pooled their efforts. A local writer by the name of Van Krugen denounced these four men, and made savage attacks on partnerships in general as wicked and illegal, and opposed to the best interests of the people. This view seems to have been quite general, for there was a law in Amsterdam forbidding all partnerships in business that were not licensed by the state. The legislature of the State of Missouri has recently made war on the department store in the same way, using the ancient Van Krugen argument as a reason, for there is no copyright on stupidity.
In London in the seventeenth century men who were found guilty of pooling their efforts and dividing profits, were convicted by law and punished for "contumacy, contravention and connivance," and were given a taste of the stocks in the public square.
When corporations were formed for the first time, only a few years ago, there was a fine burst of disapproval. The corporation was declared a scheme of oppression, a hungry octopus, a grinder of the individual. And to prove the case various instances of hardship were cited; and no doubt there was much suffering, for many people are never able to adjust themselves to new conditions without experiencing pain and regret.
But we now believe that corporations came because they were required. Certain things the times demanded, and no one man, or two or three men could perform these tasks alone—hence the corporation. The rise of England as a manufacturing nation began with the plan of the stock company.
The aggregation known as the joint-stock company, everybody is willing now to admit, was absolutely necessary in order to secure the machinery, that is to say, the tools, the raw stock, the buildings, and to provide for the permanence of the venture.
The railroad system of America has built up this country—on this thing of joint-stock companies and transportation, our prosperity has hinged. "Commerce, consists in carrying things from where they are plentiful to where they are needed," says Emerson.
There are ten combinations of capital in this country that control over six thousand miles of railroad each. These companies have taken in a large number of small lines; and many connecting lines of tracks have been built. Competition over vast sections of country has been practically obliterated, and this has been done so quietly that few people are aware of the change. Only one general result of this consolidation of management has been felt, and that it is better service at less expense. No captain of any great industrial enterprise dares now to say, "The public be damned," even if he ever said it—which I much doubt. The pathway to success lies in serving the public, not in affronting it. In no other way is success possible, and this truth is so plain and patent that even very simple folk are able to recognize it. You can only help yourself by helping others.
Thirty years ago, when P. T. Barnum said, "The public delights in being humbugged," he knew that it was not true, for he never attempted to put the axiom in practice. He amused the public by telling it a lie, but P. T. Barnum never tried anything so risky as deception. Even when he lied we were not deceived; truth can be stated by indirection. "When my love tells me she is made of truth, I do believe her, though I know she lies." Barnum always gave more than he advertised; and going over and over the same territory he continued to amuse and instruct the public for nearly forty years.
This tendency to cooeperate is seen in such splendid features as the Saint Louis Union Station, for instance, where just twenty great railroad companies lay aside envy, prejudice, rivalry and whim, and use one terminal. If competition were really the life of trade, each railroad that enters Saint Louis would have a station of its own, and the public would be put to the worry, trouble, expense and endless delay of finding where it wanted to go and how to get there. As it is now, the entire aim and end of the scheme is to reduce friction, worry and expense, and give the public the greatest accommodation—the best possible service—to make travel easy and life secure. Servants in uniform meet you as you alight, and answer your every question—speeding you courteously and kindly on your way. There are women to take care of women, and nurses to take care of children, and wheel chairs for such as may be infirm or lame. The intent is to serve—not to pull you this way and that, and sell you a ticket over a certain road. You are free to choose your route and you are free to utilize as your own this great institution that cost a million dollars, and that requires the presence of two hundred people to maintain. All is for you. It is for the public and was only made possible by a oneness of aim and desire—that is to say cooeperation. Before cooeperation comes in any line, there is always competition pushed to a point that threatens destruction and promises chaos; then to divert ruin, men devise a better way, a plan that conserves and economizes, and behold, it is found in cooeperation.
Civilization is an evolution.
Civilization is not a thing separate and apart, any more than art is.
Art is the beautiful way of doing things. Civilization is the expeditious way of doing things. And as haste is often waste—the more hurry the less speed—civilization is the best way of doing things.
As mankind multiplies in number, the problem of supplying people what they need is the important question of Earth. And mankind has ever held out offers of reward in fame and money—both being forms of power—to those who would supply it better things.
Teachers are those who educate the people to appreciate the things they need.
The man who studies mankind, and finds out what men really want, and then supplies them this, whether it be an Idea or a Thing, is the man who is crowned with the laurel wreath of honor and clothed with riches.
What people need and what they want may be very different.
To undertake to supply people a thing you think they need but which they do not want, is to have your head elevated on a pike, and your bones buried in Potter's Field.
But wait, and the world will yet want the thing that it needs, and your bones will then become sacred relics.
This change in desire on the part of mankind is the result of the growth of intellect.
It is Progress, and Progress is Evolution, and Evolution is Progress.
There are men who are continually trying to push Progress along: we call these individuals "Reformers."
Then there are others who always oppose the Reformer—the mildest name we have for them is "Conservative."
The Reformer is either a Savior or a Rebel, all depending on whether he succeeds or fails, and your point of view. He is what he is, regardless of what other men think of him. The man who is indicted and executed as a rebel, often afterward has the word "Savior" carved on his tomb; and sometimes men who are hailed as saviors in their day are afterward found to be sham saviors—to wit, charlatans. Conservation is a plan of Nature. To keep the good is to conserve. A Conservative is a man who puts on the brakes when he thinks Progress is going to land Civilization in the ditch and wreck the whole concern.
Brakemen are necessary, but in the language of Koheleth, there is a time to apply the brake and there is a time to abstain from applying the brake. To clog the wheels continually is to stand still, and to stand still is to retreat. Progress has need of the brakeman, but the brakeman should not occupy all of his time putting on the brakes.
The Conservative is just as necessary as the Radical. The Conservative keeps the Reformer from going too fast, and plucking the fruit before it is ripe. Governments are only good where there is strong Opposition, just as the planets are held in place by the opposition of forces. And so civilization goes forward by stops and starts—pushed by the Reformers and held back by the Conservatives. One is necessary to the other, and they often shift places. But forward and forward Civilization forever goes—ascertaining the best way of doing things.
In commerce we have had the Individual Worker, the Partnership, the Corporation, and now we have the Trust.
The Trust is simply Corporations forming a partnership. The thing is all an Evolution—a moving forward. It is all for man and it is all done by man. It is all done with the consent, aye, and approval of man.
The Trusts were made by the People, and the People can and will unmake them, should they ever prove an engine of oppression. They exist only during good behavior, and like men, they are living under a sentence of death, with an indefinite reprieve.
The Trusts are good things because they are economizers of energy. They cut off waste, increase the production, and make a panic practically impossible.
The Trusts are here in spite of the men who think they originated them, and in spite of the Reformers who turned Conservatives and opposed them.
The next move of Evolution will be the age of Socialism. Socialism means the operation of all industries by the people, and for the people. Socialism is cooeperation instead of competition. Competition has been so general that economists mistook it for a law of nature, when it was only an incident.
Competition is no more a law of nature than is hate. Hate was once so thoroughly believed in that we gave it personality and called it the Devil.
We have banished the Devil by educating people to know that he who works has no time to hate and no need to fear, and by this same means, education, will the people be prepared for the age of Socialism.
The Trusts are now getting things ready for Socialism.
Socialism is a Trust of Trusts.
Humanity is growing in intellect, in patience, in kindness—in love. And when the time is ripe, the people will step in and take peaceful possession of their own, and the Cooeperative Commonwealth will give to each one his due.
Sympathy, Knowledge and Poise
Sympathy, Knowledge and Poise seem to be the three ingredients that are most needed in forming the Gentle Man. I place these elements according to their value. No man is great who does not have Sympathy plus, and the greatness of men can be safely gauged by their sympathies. Sympathy and imagination are twin sisters. Your heart must go out to all men, the high, the low, the rich, the poor, the learned, the unlearned, the good, the bad, the wise and the foolish—it is necessary to be one with them all, else you can never comprehend them. Sympathy!—it is the touchstone to every secret, the key to all knowledge, the open sesame of all hearts. Put yourself in the other man's place and then you will know why he thinks certain things and does certain deeds. Put yourself in his place and your blame will dissolve itself into pity, and your tears will wipe out the record of his misdeeds. The saviors of the world have simply been men with wondrous sympathy.
But Knowledge must go with Sympathy, else the emotions will become maudlin and pity may be wasted on a poodle instead of a child; on a field-mouse instead of a human soul. Knowledge in use is wisdom, and wisdom implies a sense of values—you know a big thing from a little one, a valuable fact from a trivial one. Tragedy and comedy are simply questions of value: a little misfit in life makes us laugh, a great one is tragedy and cause for expression of grief.
Poise is the strength of body and strength of mind to control your Sympathy and your Knowledge. Unless you control your emotions they run over and you stand in the mire. Sympathy must not run riot, or it is valueless and tokens weakness instead of strength. In every hospital for nervous disorders are to be found many instances of this loss of control. The individual has Sympathy but not Poise, and therefore his life is worthless to himself and to the world.
He symbols inefficiency and not helpfulness. Poise reveals itself more in voice than it does in words; more in thought than in action; more in atmosphere than in conscious life. It is a spiritual quality, and is felt more than it is seen. It is not a matter of bodily size, nor of bodily attitude, nor attire, nor of personal comeliness: it is a state of inward being, and of knowing your cause is just. And so you see it is a great and profound subject after all, great in its ramifications, limitless in extent, implying the entire science of right living. I once met a man who was deformed in body and little more than a dwarf, but who had such Spiritual Gravity—such Poise—that to enter a room where he was, was to feel his presence and acknowledge his superiority. To allow Sympathy to waste itself on unworthy objects is to deplete one's life forces. To conserve is the part of wisdom, and reserve is a necessary element in all good literature, as well as in everything else.
Poise being the control of our Sympathy and Knowledge, it implies a possession of these attributes, for without having Sympathy and Knowledge you have nothing to control but your physical body. To practise Poise as a mere gymnastic exercise, or study in etiquette, is to be self-conscious, stiff, preposterous and ridiculous. Those who cut such fantastic tricks before high heaven as make angels weep, are men void of Sympathy and Knowledge trying to cultivate Poise. Their science is a mere matter of what to do with arms and legs. Poise is a question of spirit controlling flesh, heart controlling attitude.
Get Knowledge by coming close to Nature. That man is the greatest who best serves his kind. Sympathy and Knowledge are for use—you acquire that you may give out; you accumulate that you may bestow. And as God has given unto you the sublime blessings of Sympathy and Knowledge, there will come to you the wish to reveal your gratitude by giving them out again; for the wise man is aware that we retain spiritual qualities only as we give them away. Let your light shine. To him that hath shall be given. The exercise of wisdom brings wisdom; and at the last the infinitesimal quantity of man's knowledge, compared with the Infinite, and the smallness of man's Sympathy when compared with the source from which ours is absorbed, will evolve an abnegation and a humility that will lend a perfect Poise. The Gentleman is a man with perfect Sympathy, Knowledge, and Poise.
Love and Faith
No woman is worthy to be a wife who on the day of her marriage is not lost absolutely and entirely in an atmosphere of love and perfect trust; the supreme sacredness of the relation is the only thing which, at the time, should possess her soul. Is she a bawd that she should bargain?
Women should not "obey" men anymore than men should obey women. There are six requisites in every happy marriage; the first is Faith, and the remaining five are Confidence. Nothing so compliments a man as for a woman to believe in him—nothing so pleases a woman as for a man to place confidence in her.
Obey? God help me! Yes, if I loved a woman, my whole heart's desire would be to obey her slightest wish. And how could I love her unless I had perfect confidence that she would only aspire to what was beautiful, true and right? And to enable her to realize this ideal, her wish would be to me a sacred command; and her attitude of mind toward me I know would be the same. And the only rivalry between us would be as to who could love the most; and the desire to obey would be the one controlling impulse of our lives.
We gain freedom by giving it, and he who bestows faith gets it back with interest. To bargain and stipulate in love is to lose.
The woman who stops the marriage ceremony and requests the minister to omit the word "obey," is sowing the first seed of doubt and distrust that later may come to fruition in the divorce court.
The haggling and bickerings of settlements and dowries that usually precede the marriage of "blood" and "dollars" are the unheeded warnings that misery, heartache, suffering, and disgrace await the principals.
Perfect faith implies perfect love; and perfect love casteth out fear. It is always the fear of imposition, and a lurking intent to rule, that causes the woman to haggle over a word—it is absence of love, a limitation, an incapacity. The price of a perfect love is an absolute and complete surrender.
Keep back part of the price and yours will be the fate of Ananias and Sapphira. Your doom is swift and sure. To win all we must give all.
Giving Something for Nothing
To give a man something for nothing tends to make the individual dissatisfied with himself.
Your enemies are the ones you have helped.
And when an individual is dissatisfied with himself he is dissatisfied with the whole world—and with you.
A man's quarrel with the world is only a quarrel with himself. But so strong is this inclination to lay blame elsewhere and take credit to ourselves, that when we are unhappy we say it is the fault of this woman or that man. Especially do women attribute their misery to That Man.
And often the trouble is he has given her too much for nothing.
This truth is a reversible, back-action one, well lubricated by use, working both ways—as the case may be.
Nobody but a beggar has really definite ideas concerning his rights. People who give much—who love much—do not haggle.
That form of affection which drives sharp bargains and makes demands, gets a check on the bank in which there is no balance.
There is nothing so costly as something you get for nothing.
My friend Tom Lowry, Magnate in Ordinary, of Minneapolis and the east side of Wall Street, has recently had a little experience that proves my point.
A sturdy beggar-man, a specimen of decayed gentility, once called on Tammas with a hard-luck story and a Family Bible, and asked for a small loan on the Good Book.
To be compelled to soak the Family Bible would surely melt the heart of gneiss!
Tom was melted.
Tom made the loan but refused the collateral, stating he had no use for it.
Which was God's truth for once.
In a few weeks the man came back, and tried to tell Tom his hard-luck story concerning the Cold Ingratitude of a Cruel World.
Tom said, "Spare me the slow music and the recital—I have troubles of my own. I need mirth and good cheer—take this dollar, and peace be with you."
"Peace be multiplied unto thee," said the beggar, and departed. The next month the man returned, and began to tell Tom a tale of Cruelty, Injustice and Ingratitude.
Tom was riled—he had his magnate business to attend to, and he made a remark in italics. The beggar said, "Mr. Lowry, if you had your business a little better systematized, I would not have to trouble you personally—why don't you just speak to your cashier?" And the great man, who once took a party of friends out for a tally-ho ride, and through mental habit collected five cents from each guest, was so pleased at the thought of relief that he pressed the buzzer. The cashier came, and Tom said, "Put this man Grabheimer on your pay-roll, give him two dollars now and the same the first of every month."
Then turning to the beggar-man, Tom said, "Now get out of here—hurry, vamose, hike—and be damned to you!"
"The same to you and many of them," said His Effluvia politely, and withdrew.
All this happened two years ago. The beggar got his money regularly for a year, and then in auditing accounts Tom found the name on the pay-roll, and as Tom could not remember how the name got there, he at first thought the pay-roll was being stuffed. Anyway he ordered the beggar's name stricken off the roster, and the elevator man was instructed to enforce the edict against beggars.
Not being allowed to see his man, the beggar wrote him letters—denunciatory, scandalous, abusive, threatening. Finally the beggar laid the matter before an obese limb o' the Law, Jaggers, of the firm of Jaggers & Jaggers, who took the case on a contingent fee.
The case came to trial, and Jaggers proved his case se offendendo—argal: it was shown by the defendant's books that His Bacteria had been on the pay-roll and his name had been stricken off without suggestion, request, cause, reason or fault of his own.
His Crabship proved the contract, and Tom got it in the mazzard. Judgment for plaintiff, with costs. The beggar got the money and Minneapolis Tom got the experience. Tom said the man would lose the money, but he himself has gotten the part that will be his for ninety-nine years. Surely the spirit of justice does not sleep and there is a beneficent and wise Providence that watches over magnates.
Work and Waste
These truths I hold to be self-evident: That man was made to be happy; that happiness is only attainable through useful effort; that the very best way to help ourselves is to help others, and often the best way to help others is to mind our own business; that useful effort means the proper exercise of all our faculties; that we grow only through exercise; that education should continue through life, and the joys of mental endeavor should be, especially, the solace of the old; that where men alternate work, play and study in right proportion, the organs of the mind are the last to fail, and death for such has no terrors.
That the possession of wealth can never make a man exempt from useful manual labor; that if all would work a little, no one would then be overworked; that if no one wasted, all would have enough; that if none were overfed, none would be underfed; that the rich and "educated" need education quite as much as the poor and illiterate; that the presence of a serving class is an indictment and a disgrace to our civilization; that the disadvantage of having a serving class falls most upon those who are served, and not upon those who serve—just as the real curse of slavery fell upon the slave-owners.
That people who are waited on by a serving class cannot have a right consideration for the rights of others, and they waste both time and substance, both of which are lost forever, and can only seemingly be made good by additional human effort.
That the person who lives on the labor of others, not giving himself in return to the best of his ability, is really a consumer of human life and therefore must be considered no better than a cannibal.
That each one living naturally will do the thing he can do best, but that in useful service there is no high nor low.
That to set apart one day in seven as "holy" is really absurd and serves only to loosen our grasp on the tangible present.
That all duties, offices and things which are useful and necessary to humanity are sacred, and that nothing else is or can be sacred.
The Law of Obedience
The very first item in the creed of common sense is Obedience.
Perform your work with a whole heart.
Revolt may be sometimes necessary, but the man who tries to mix revolt and obedience is doomed to disappoint himself and everybody with whom he has dealings. To flavor work with protest is to fail absolutely.
When you revolt, why revolt—climb, hike, get out, defy—tell everybody and everything to go to hades! That disposes of the case. You thus separate yourself entirely from those you have served—no one misunderstands you—you have declared yourself.
The man who quits in disgust when ordered to perform a task which he considers menial or unjust may be a pretty good fellow, but in the wrong environment, but the malcontent who takes your order with a smile and then secretly disobeys, is a dangerous proposition. To pretend to obey, and yet carry in your heart the spirit of revolt is to do half-hearted, slipshod work. If revolt and obedience are equal in power, your engine will then stop on the center and you benefit no one, not even yourself.
The spirit of obedience is the controlling impulse that dominates the receptive mind and the hospitable heart. There are boats that mind the helm and there are boats that do not. Those that do not, get holes knocked in them sooner or later.
To keep off the rocks, obey the rudder.
Obedience is not to slavishly obey this man or that, but it is that cheerful mental state which responds to the necessity of the case, and does the thing without any back talk—unuttered or expressed.
Obedience to the institution—loyalty! The man who has not learned to obey has trouble ahead of him every step of the way. The world has it in for him continually, because he has it in for the world.
The man who does not know how to receive orders is not fit to issue them to others. But the individual who knows how to execute the orders given him is preparing the way to issue orders, and better still—to have them obeyed.
All adown the ages society has made the mistake of nailing its Saviors to the cross between thieves.
That is to say, society has recognized in the Savior a very dangerous quality—something about him akin to a thief, and his career has been suddenly cut short.
We have telephones and trolly cars, yet we have not traveled far into the realm of spirit, and our X-ray has given us no insight into the heart of things.
Society is so dull and dense, so lacking in spiritual vision, so dumb and so beast-like that it does not know the difference between a thief and the only Begotten Son. In a frantic effort to forget its hollowness it takes to ping-pong, parchesi and progressive euchre, and seeks to lose itself and find solace and consolation in tiddle-dy-winks.
We are told in glaring head-lines and accurate photographic reproductions of a conference held by leaders in society to settle a matter of grave import. Was it to build technical schools and provide a means for practical and useful education? Was it a plan of building modern tenement houses along scientific and sanitary lines? Was it called to provide funds for scientific research of various kinds that would add to human knowledge and prove a benefit to mankind? No, it was none of these. This body met to determine whether the crook in a certain bulldog's tail was natural or had been produced artificially.
Should the Savior come to-day and preach the same gospel that He taught before, society would see that His experience was repeated. Now and then it blinks stupidly and cries, "Away with Him!" or it stops its game long enough to pass gall and vinegar on a spear to One it has thrust beyond the pale.
For the woman who has loved much society has but one verdict: crucify her! The best and the worst are hanged on one tree.
In the abandon of a great love there exists a godlike quality which places a woman very close to the holy of holies, yet such a one, not having complied with the edicts of society, is thrust unceremoniously forth, and society, Pilate-like, washes its hands in innocency.
Preparing for Old Age
Socrates was once asked by a pupil, this question: "What kind of people shall we be when we reach Elysium?"
And the answer was this: "We shall be the same kind of people that we were here."
If there is a life after this, we are preparing for it now, just as I am to-day preparing for my life to-morrow.
What kind of a man shall I be to-morrow? Oh, about the same kind of a man that I am now. The kind of a man that I shall be next month depends upon the kind of a man that I have been this month.
If I am miserable to-day, it is not within the round of probabilities that I shall be supremely happy to-morrow. Heaven is a habit. And if we are going to Heaven we would better be getting used to it.
Life is a preparation for the future; and the best preparation for the future is to live as if there were none.
We are preparing all the time for old age. The two things that make old age beautiful are resignation and a just consideration for the rights of others.
In the play of Ivan the Terrible, the interest centers around one man, the Czar Ivan. If anybody but Richard Mansfield played the part, there would be nothing in it. We simply get a glimpse into the life of a tyrant who has run the full gamut of goosedom, grumpiness, selfishness and grouch. Incidentally this man had the power to put other men to death, and this he does and has done as his whim and temper might dictate. He has been vindictive, cruel, quarrelsome, tyrannical and terrible. Now that he feels the approach of death, he would make his peace with God. But he has delayed that matter too long. He didn't realize in youth and middle life that he was then preparing for old age.
Man is the result of cause and effect, and the causes are to a degree in our hands. Life is a fluid, and well has it been called the stream of life—we are going, flowing somewhere. Strip Ivan of his robes and crown, and he might be an old farmer and live in Ebenezer. Every town and village has its Ivan. To be an Ivan, just turn your temper loose and practise cruelty on any person or thing within your reach, and the result will be a sure preparation for a querulous, quarrelsome, pickety, snipity, fussy and foolish old age, accented with many outbursts of wrath that are terrible in their futility and ineffectiveness.
Babyhood has no monopoly on the tantrum. The characters of King Lear and Ivan the Terrible have much in common. One might almost believe that the writer of Ivan had felt the incompleteness of Lear, and had seen the absurdity of making a melodramatic bid for sympathy in behalf of this old man thrust out by his daughters.
Lear, the troublesome, Lear to whose limber tongue there was constantly leaping words unprintable and names of tar, deserves no soft pity at our hands. All his life he had been training his three daughters for exactly the treatment he was to receive. All his life Lear had been lubricating the chute that was to give him a quick ride out into that black midnight storm.
"Oh, how sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child," he cries.
There is something quite as bad as a thankless child, and that is a thankless parent—an irate, irascible parent who possesses an underground vocabulary and a disposition to use it.
The false note in Lear lies in giving to him a daughter like Cordelia. Tolstoy and Mansfield ring true, and Ivan the Terrible is what he is without apology, excuse or explanation. Take it or leave it—if you do not like plays of this kind, go to see Vaudeville.
Mansfield's Ivan is terrible. The Czar is not old in years—not over seventy—but you can see that Death is sniffing close upon his track. Ivan has lost the power of repose. He cannot listen, weigh and decide—he has no thought or consideration for any man or thing—this is his habit of life. His bony hands are never still—the fingers open and shut, and pick at things eternally. He fumbles the cross on his breast, adjusts his jewels, scratches his cosmos, plays the devil's tattoo, gets up nervously and looks behind the throne, holds his breath to listen. When people address him, he damns them savagely if they kneel, and if they stand upright he accuses them of lack of respect. He asks that he be relieved from the cares of state, and then trembles for fear his people will take him at his word. When asked to remain ruler of Russia he proceeds to curse his councilors and accuses them of loading him with burdens that they themselves would not endeavor to bear.
He is a victim of amor senilis, and right here if Mansfield took one step more his realism would be appalling, but he stops in time and suggests what he dares not express. This tottering, doddering, slobbering, sniffling old man is in love—he is about to wed a young, beautiful girl. He selects jewels for her—he makes remarks about what would become her beauty, jeers and laughs in cracked falsetto. In the animality of youth there is something pleasing—it is natural—but the vices of an old man, when they have become only mental, are most revolting.
The people about Ivan are in mortal terror of him, for he is still the absolute monarch—he has the power to promote or disgrace, to take their lives or let them go free. They laugh when he laughs, cry when he does, and watch his fleeting moods with thumping hearts.
He is intensely religious and affects the robe and cowl of a priest. Around his neck hangs the crucifix. His fear is that he will die with no opportunity of confession and absolution. He prays to High Heaven every moment, kisses the cross, and his toothless old mouth interjects prayers to God and curses on man in the same breath.
If any one is talking to him he looks the other way, slips down until his shoulders occupy the throne, scratches his leg, and keeps up a running comment of insult—"Aye," "Oh," "Of course," "Certainly," "Ugh," "Listen to him now!" There is a comedy side to all this which relieves the tragedy and keeps the play from becoming disgusting.
Glimpses of Ivan's past are given in his jerky confessions—he is the most miserable and unhappy of men, and you behold that he is reaping as he has sown.
All his life he has been preparing for this. Each day has been a preparation for the next. Ivan dies in a fit of wrath, hurling curses on his family and court—dies in a fit of wrath into which he has been purposely taunted by a man who knows that the outburst is certain to kill the weakened monarch.
Where does Ivan the Terrible go when Death closes his eyes?
I know not. But this I believe: No confessional can absolve him—no priest benefit him—no God forgive him. He has damned himself, and he began the work in youth. He was getting ready all his life for this old age, and this old age was getting ready for the fifth act.
The playwright does not say so, Mansfield does not say so, but this is the lesson: Hate is a poison—wrath is a toxin—sensuality leads to death—clutching selfishness is a lighting of the fires of hell. It is all a preparation—cause and effect.
If you are ever absolved, you must absolve yourself, for no one else can. And the sooner you begin, the better.
We often hear of the beauties of old age, but the only old age that is beautiful is the one the man has long been preparing for by living a beautiful life. Every one of us are right now preparing for old age.
There may be a substitute somewhere in the world for Good Nature, but I do not know where it can be found.
The secret of salvation is this: Keep Sweet.
An Alliance with Nature
My father is a doctor who has practised medicine for sixty-five years, and is still practising.
I am a doctor myself.
I am fifty years old; my father is eighty-five. We live in the same house, and daily we ride horseback together or tramp thru the fields and woods. To-day we did our little jaunt of five miles and back 'cross country.
I have never been ill a day—never consulted a physician in a professional way, and in fact, never missed a meal through inability to eat. As for the author of the author of A Message to Garcia, he holds, esoterically, to the idea that the hot pedaluvia and small doses of hop tea will cure most ailments that are curable, and so far all of his own ails have been curable—a point he can prove.
The value of the pedaluvia lies in the fact that it tends to equalize circulation, not to mention the little matter of sanitation; and the efficacy of the hops lies largely in the fact that they are bitter and disagreeable to take.
Both of these prescriptions give the patient the soothing thought that something is being done for him, and at the very worst can never do him serious harm.
My father and I are not fully agreed on all of life's themes, so existence for us never resolves itself into a dull, neutral gray. He is a Baptist and I am a Vegetarian. Occasionally he refers to me as "callow," and we have daily resorts to logic to prove prejudices, and history is searched to bolster the preconceived, but on the following important points we stand together, solid as one man:
First. Ninety-nine people out of a hundred who go to a physician have no organic disease, but are merely suffering from some symptom of their own indiscretion.
Second. Individuals who have diseases, nine times out of ten, are suffering only from the accumulated evil effects of medication.
Third. Hence we get the proposition: Most diseases are the result of medication which has been prescribed to relieve and take away a beneficent and warning symptom on the part of wise Nature.
Most of the work of doctors in the past has been to prescribe for symptoms; the difference between actual disease and a symptom being something that the average man does not even yet know.
And the curious part is that on these points all physicians, among themselves, are fully agreed. What I say here being merely truism, triteness and commonplace.
Last week, in talking with an eminent surgeon in Buffalo, he said, "I have performed over a thousand operations of laparotomy, and my records show that in every instance, excepting in cases of accident, the individual was given to what you call the 'Beecham Habit.'"
The people you see waiting in the lobbies of doctors' offices are, in a vast majority of cases, suffering thru poisoning caused by an excess of food. Coupled with this goes the bad results of imperfect breathing, irregular sleep, lack of exercise, and improper use of stimulants, or holding the thought of fear, jealousy and hate. All of these things, or any one of them, will, in very many persons, cause fever, chills, cold feet, congestion and faulty elimination.
To administer drugs to a man suffering from malnutrition caused by a desire to "get even," and a lack of fresh air, is simply to compound his troubles, shuffle his maladies, and get him ripe for the ether-cone and scalpel.
Nature is forever trying to keep people well, and most so-called "disease," which word means merely lack of ease, is self-limiting, and tends to cure itself. If you have appetite, do not eat too much. If you have no appetite, do not eat at all. Be moderate in the use of all things, save fresh air and sunshine.
The one theme of Ecclesiastes is moderation. Buddha wrote it down that the greatest word in any language is Equanimity. William Morris said that the finest blessing of life was systematic, useful work. Saint Paul declared that the greatest thing in the world was love. Moderation, Equanimity, Work and Love—you need no other physician.
In so stating I lay down a proposition agreed to by all physicians; which was expressed by Hippocrates, the father of medicine, and then repeated in better phrase by Epictetus, the slave, to his pupil, the great Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, and which has been known to every thinking man and woman since: Moderation, Equanimity, Work and Love!
The Ex. Question
Words sometimes become tainted and fall into bad repute, and are discarded. Until the day of Elizabeth Fry, on the official records in England appeared the word "mad-house." Then it was wiped out and the word "asylum" substituted. Within twenty years' time in several states in America we have discarded the word "asylum" and have substituted the word "hospital."
In Jeffersonville, Indiana, there is located a "Reformatory" which some years ago was known as a penitentiary. The word "prison" had a depressing effect, and "penitentiary" throws a theological shadow, and so the words will have to go. As our ideas of the criminal change, we change our vocabulary.
A few years ago we talked about asylums for the deaf and dumb—the word "dumb" has now been stricken from every official document in every state in the Union, because we have discovered, with the assistance of Gardner G. Hubbard, that deaf people are not dumb, and not being defectives, they certainly do not need an asylum. They need schools, however, and so everywhere we have established schools for the deaf.
Deaf people are just as capable, are just as competent, just as well able to earn an honest living as is the average man who can hear.
The "indeterminate sentence" is one of the wisest expedients ever brought to bear in penology. And it is to this generation alone that the honor of first using it must be given. The offender is sentenced for, say from one to eight years. This means that if the prisoner behaves himself, obeying the rules, showing a desire to be useful, he will be paroled and given his freedom at the end of one year.
If he misbehaves and does not prove his fitness for freedom he will be kept two or three years, and he may possibly have to serve the whole eight years. "How long are you in for?" I asked a convict at Jeffersonville, who was caring for the flowers in front of the walls. "Me? Oh, I'm in for two years, with the privilege of fourteen," was the man's answer, given with a grin.
The old plan of "short time," allowing two or three months off from every year for good behavior was a move in the right direction, but the indeterminate sentence will soon be the rule everywhere for first offenders.
The indeterminate sentence throws upon the man himself the responsibility for the length of his confinement and tends to relieve prison life of its horror, by holding out hope. The man has the short time constantly in mind, and usually is very careful not to do anything to imperil it. Insurrection and an attempt to escape may mean that every day of the whole long sentence will have to be served.
So even the dullest of minds and the most calloused realize that it pays to do what is right—the lesson being pressed home upon them in a way it has never been before.
The old-time prejudice of business men against the man who had "done time" was chiefly on account of his incompetence, and not his record. The prison methods that turned out a hateful, depressed and frightened man who had been suppressed by the silent system and deformed by the lock-step, calloused by brutal treatment and the constant thought held over him that he was a criminal, was a bad thing for the prisoner, for the keeper and for society. Even an upright man would be undone by such treatment, and in a year be transformed into a sly, secretive and morally sick man. The men just out of prison were unable to do anything—they needed constant supervision and attention, and so of course we did not care to hire them.
The Ex. now is a totally different man from the Ex. just out of his striped suit in the seventies, thanks to that much defamed man, Brockway, and a few others.
We may have to restrain men for the good of themselves and the good of society, but we do not punish. The restraint is punishment enough; we believe men are punished by their sins, not for them.
When men are sent to reform schools now, the endeavor and the hope is to give back to society a better man than we took.
Judge Lindsey sends boys to the reform school without officer or guard. The boys go of their own accord, carrying their own commitment papers. They pound on the gate demanding admittance in the name of the law. The boy believes that Judge Lindsey is his friend, and that the reason he is sent to the reform school is that he may reap a betterment which his full freedom cannot possibly offer. When he takes his commitment papers he is no longer at war with society and the keepers of the law. He believes that what is being done for him is done for the best, and so he goes to prison, which is really not a prison at the last, for it is a school where the lad is taught to economize both time and money and to make himself useful.
Other people work for us, and we must work for them. This is the supreme lesson that the boy learns. You can only help yourself by helping others.
Now here is a proposition: If a boy or a man takes his commitment papers, goes to prison alone and unattended, is it necessary that he should be there locked up, enclosed in a corral and be looked after by guards armed with death-dealing implements?
Superintendent Whittaker, of the institution at Jeffersonville, Indiana, says, "No." He believes that within ten years' time we will do away with the high wall, and will keep our loaded guns out of sight; to a great degree also we will take the bars from the windows of the prisons, just as we have taken them away from the windows of the hospitals for the insane.
At the reform school it may be necessary to have a guard-house for some years to come, but the high wall must go, just as we have sent the lock-step and the silent system and the striped suit of disgrace into the ragbag of time—lost in the memory of things that were.
Four men out of five in the reformatory at Jeffersonville need no coercion, they would not run away if the walls were razed and the doors left unlocked. One young man I saw there refused the offered parole—he wanted to stay until he learned his trade. He was not the only one with a like mental attitude.
The quality of men in the average prison is about the same as that of the men who are in the United States Army. The man who enlists is a prisoner; for him to run away is a very serious offense, and yet he is not locked up at night, nor is he surrounded by a high wall.
The George Junior Republic is simply a farm, unfenced and unpatroled, excepting by the boys who are in the Republic, and yet it is a penal institution. The prison of the future will not be unlike a young ladies' boarding school, where even yet the practice prevails of taking the inmates out all together, with a guard, and allowing no one to leave without a written permit.
As society changes, so changes the so-called criminal. In any event, I know this—that Max Nordau did not make out his case.
There is no criminal class.
Or for that matter we are all criminals. "I have in me the capacity for every crime," said Emerson.
The man or woman who goes wrong is a victim of unkind environment. Booker Washington says that when the negro has something that we want, or can perform a task that we want done, we waive the color line, and the race problem then ceases to be a problem. So it is with the Ex. Question. When the ex-convict is able to show that he is useful to the world, the world will cease to shun him. When Superintendent Whittaker graduates a man it is pretty good evidence that the man is able and willing to render a service to society.
The only places where the ex-convicts get the icy mitt are pink teas and prayer meetings. An ex-convict should work all day and then spend his evenings at the library, feeding his mind—then he is safe.
If I were an ex-convict I would fight shy of all "Refuges," "Sheltering Arms," "Saint Andrew's Societies" and the philanthropic "College Settlements." I would never go to those good professional people, or professional good people, who patronize the poor and spit upon the alleged wrongdoer, and who draw sharp lines of demarcation in distinguishing between the "good" and the "bad." If you can work and are willing to work, business men will not draw the line on you. Get a job, and then hold it down hard by making yourself necessary. Employers of labor and the ex-convicts themselves are fast settling this Ex. Question, with the help of the advanced type of the Reform School where the inmates are being taught to be useful and are not punished nor patronized, but are simply given a chance. My heart goes out in sympathy to the man who gives a poor devil a chance. I myself am a poor devil!
A colonel in the United States Army told me the other day something like this: The most valuable officer, the one who has the greatest responsibility, is the sergeant. The true sergeant is born, not made—he is the priceless gift of the gods. He is so highly prized that when found he is never promoted, nor is he allowed to resign. If he is dissatisfied with his pay, Captain, Lieutenant and Colonel chip in—they cannot afford to lose him. He is a rara avis—the apple of their eye.
His first requirement is that he must be able to lick any man in the company. A drunken private may damn a captain upside down and wrong-side out, and the captain is not allowed to reply. He can neither strike with his fist, nor engage in a cussing match, but your able sergeant is an adept in both of these polite accomplishments. Even if a private strike an officer, the officer is not allowed to strike back. Perhaps the man who abuses him could easily beat him in a rough-and-tumble fight, and then it is quite a sufficient reason to keep one's clothes clean. We say the revolver equalizes all men, but it doesn't. It is disagreeable to shoot a man. It scatters brains and blood all over the sidewalk, attracts a crowd, requires a deal of explanation afterward, and may cost an officer his stripes. No good officer ever hears anything said about him by a private.
The sergeant hears everything, and his reply to backslack is a straight-arm jab in the jaw. The sergeant is responsible only to his captain, and no good captain will ever know anything about what a sergeant does, and he will not believe it when told. If a fight occurs between two privates, the sergeant jumps in, bumps their heads together and licks them both. If a man feigns sick, or is drunk, the sergeant chucks him under the pump. The regulations do not call for any such treatment, but the sergeant does not know anything about the regulations—he gets the thing done. The sergeant may be twenty years old or sixty—age does not count. The sergeant is a father to his men—he regards them all as children—bad boys—and his business is to make them brave, honorable and dutiful soldiers.
The sergeant is always the first man up in the morning, the last man to go to bed at night. He knows where his men are every minute of the day or night. If they are actually sick, he is both nurse and physician, and dictates gently to the surgeon what should be done. He is also the undertaker, and the digging of ditches and laying out of latrines all fall to his lot. Unlike the higher officers, he does not have to dress "smart," and he is very apt to discard his uniform and go clothed like a civilian teamster, excepting on special occasions when necessity demands braid and buttons.
He knows everything, and nothing. No wild escapade of a higher officer passes by him, yet he never tells.
Now one might suppose that he is an absolute tyrant, but a good sergeant is a beneficent tyrant at the right time. To break the spirit of his men will not do—it would unfit them for service—so what he seeks to do is merely to bend their minds so as to match his own. Gradually they grow to both love and fear him. In time of actual fight he transforms cowards into heroes. He holds his men up to the scratch. In battle there are often certain officers marked for death—they are to be shot by their own men. It is a time of getting even—and in the hurly-burly and excitement there are no witnesses. The sergeant is ever on the lookout for such mutinies, and his revolver often sends to the dust the head revolutionary before the dastardly plot can be carried out. In war-time all executions are not judicial.
In actual truth, the sergeant is the only real, sure-enough fighting man in the army. He is as rare as birds' teeth, and every officer anxiously scans his recruits in search of good sergeant timber.
In business life, the man with the sergeant instincts is even more valuable than in the army. The business sergeant is the man not in evidence—who asks for no compliments or bouquets—who knows where things are—who has no outside ambitions, and no desire save to do his work. If he is too smart he will lay plots and plans for his own promotion, and thereby he is pretty sure to defeat himself.
As an individual the average soldier is a sneak, a shirk, a failure, a coward. He is only valuable as he is licked into shape. It is pretty much the same in business. It seems hard to say it, but the average employe in factory, shop or store, puts the face of the clock to shame looking at it; he is thinking of his pay envelope and his intent is to keep the boss located and to do as little work as possible. In many cases the tyranny of the employer is to blame for the condition, but more often it is the native outcrop of suspicion that prompts the seller to give no more than he can help.
And here the sergeant comes in, and with watchful eye and tireless nerves, holds the recreants to their tasks. If he is too severe, he will fix in the shirks more firmly the shirk microbe; but if he is of better fibre, he may supply a little more will to those who lack it, and gradually create an atmosphere of right intent, so that the only disgrace will consist in their wearing the face off the regulator and keeping one ear cocked to catch the coming footsteps of the boss.
There is not the slightest danger that there will ever be an overplus of sergeants. Let the sergeant keep out of strikes, plots, feuds, hold his temper and show what's what, and he can name his own salary and keep his place for ninety-nine years without having a contract.
The Spirit of the Age
Four hundred and twenty-five years before the birth of the Nazarene, Socrates said, "The gods are on high Olympus, but you and I are here." And for this—and a few other similar observations—be was compelled to drink a substitute for coffee—he was an infidel! Within the last thirty years the churches of Christendom have, in the main, adopted the Socratic proposition that you and I are here. That is, we have made progress by getting away from narrow theology and recognizing humanity. We do not know anything about either Olympus or Elysium, but we do know something about Athens.
Athens is here.
Athens needs us—the Greeks are at the door. Let the gods run Elysium, and we'll devote ourselves to Athens.
This is the prevailing spirit in the churches of America to-day. Our religion is humanitarian, not theological.
A like evolution has come about in medicine. The materia medica of twenty-five years ago is now obsolete. No good doctor now treats symptoms—he neither gives you something to relieve your headache nor to settle your stomach. These are but timely ting-a-lings—Nature's warnings—look out! And the doctor tells you so, and charges you a fee sufficient to impress you with the fact that he is no fool, but that you are.
The lawyer who now gets the largest fees is never seen in a court-room. Litigation is now largely given over to damage suits—carried on by clients who want something for nothing, and little lawyers, shark-like and hungry, who work on contingent fees. Three-fourths of the time of all superior and supreme courts is taken up by His Effluvia, who brings suit thru His Bacteria, with His Crabship as chief witness, for damages not due, either in justice or fact.
How to get rid of this burden, brought upon us by men who have nothing to lose, is a question too big for the average legislator. It can only be solved by heroic measures, carried out by lawyers who are out of politics and have a complete indifference for cheap popularity. Here is opportunity for men of courage and ability. But the point is this, wise business men keep out of court. They arbitrate their differences —compromise—they cannot afford to quit their work for the sake of getting even. As for making money, they know a better way.
In theology we are waiving distinctions and devoting ourselves to the divine spirit only as it manifests itself in humanity—we are talking less and less about another world and taking more notice of the one we inhabit. Of course we occasionally have heresy trials, and pictures of the offender and the Fat Bishop adorn the first page, but heresy trials not accompanied by the scaffold or the faggots are innocuous and exceedingly tame.
In medicine we have more faith in ourselves and less in prescriptions.
In pedagogy we are teaching more and more by the natural method—learning by doing—and less and less by means of injunction and precept.
In penology we seek to educate and reform, not to suppress, repress and punish.
That is to say, the gods are on high Olympus—let them stay there. Athens is here.
The best way to learn to write is to write.
Herbert Spencer never studied grammar until he had learned to write. He took his grammar at sixty, which is a good age for one to begin this most interesting study, as by the time you have reached that age you have largely lost your capacity to sin.
Men who can swim exceedingly well are not those who have taken courses in the theory of swimming at natatoriums, from professors of the amphibian art—they were just boys who jumped into the ol' swimmin' hole, and came home with shirts on wrong-side out and a tell-tale dampness in their hair.
Correspondence schools for the taming of bronchos are as naught; and treatises on the gentle art of wooing are of no avail—follow nature's lead.
Grammar is the appendenda vermiformis of the science of pedagogics: it is as useless as the letter q in the alphabet, or the proverbial two tails to a cat, which no cat ever had, and the finest cat in the world, the Manx cat, has no tail at all.
"The literary style of most university men is commonplace, when not positively bad," wrote Herbert Spencer in his old age.
"Educated Englishmen all write alike," said Taine. That is to say, educated men who have been drilled to write by certain fixed and unchangeable rules of rhetoric and grammar will produce similar compositions. They have no literary style, for style is individuality and character—the style is the man, and grammar tends to obliterate individuality. No study is so irksome to everybody, except the sciolists who teach it, as grammar. It remains forever a bad taste in the mouth of the man of ideas, and has weaned bright minds innumerable from a desire to express themselves through the written word.
Grammar is the etiquette of words, and the man who does not know how to properly salute his grandmother on the street until he has consulted a book, is always so troubled about the tenses that his fancies break thru language and escape.
The grammarian is one whose whole thought is to string words according to a set formula. The substance itself that he wishes to convey is of secondary importance. Orators who keep their thoughts upon the proper way to gesticulate in curves, impress nobody.
If it were a sin against decency, or an attempt to poison the minds of the people, for a person to be ungrammatical, it might be wise enough to hire men to protect the well of English from defilement. But a stationary language is a dead one—moving water only is pure—and the well that is not fed by springs is sure to be a breeding-place for disease.
Let men express themselves in their own way, and if they express themselves poorly, look you, their punishment will be that no one will read their literary effusions. Oblivion with her smother-blanket lies in wait for the writer who has nothing to say and says it faultlessly.
In the making of hare soup, I am informed by most excellent culinary authority, the first requisite is to catch your hare. The literary scullion who has anything to offer a hungry world, will doubtless find a way to fricassee it.
The Best Religion
A religion of just being kind would be a pretty good religion, don't you think so?
But a religion of kindness and useful effort is nearly a perfect religion.
We used to think it was a man's belief concerning a dogma that would fix his place in eternity. This was because we believed that God was a grumpy, grouchy old gentleman, stupid, touchy and dictatorial. A really good man would not damn you even if you didn't like him, but a bad man would.
As our ideas of God changed, we ourselves changed for the better. Or, as we thought better of ourselves we thought better of God. It will be character that locates our place in another world, if there is one, just as it is our character that fixes our place here.
We are weaving character every day, and the way to weave the best character is to be kind and to be useful.
THINK RIGHT, ACT RIGHT; IT IS WHAT WE THINK AND DO THAT MAKE US WHAT WE ARE.
So here ends LOVE, LIFE AND WORK, being a book of Essays selected from the writings of ELBERT HUBBARD, and done into print by The Roycrofters at their Shop at East Aurora, which is in Erie County, New York, U.S.A. Completed in the month of July, MCMVI