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True human power is not physical; its seat is in the mind, in the will, in the conscience. Let our schoolboys be happy and joyous, let them divert themselves, in a free spirit, like gentlemen, but let them not lay the stress of their attention and admiration on rowing or leaping or kicking a ball or hitting it with a bat, nor imagine that great skill of this kind is helpful or desirable. It is generally an accomplishment of those whose spiritual being is callous or superficial. These sports are not the best means even for promoting health and physical culture, which are the result of moderate, not violent exercise, of temperance, cleanliness, sleep, cheerful thoughts and worthy aims followed in a brave and generous spirit. Mere strength of body is not a test either of endurance or of vitality. We die from sensual excess, or from despondency, or from both. Indulgence and disappointment kill more than work, which if it be full of joy and hope, brings length of days. Worry, whatever its source, weakens, takes away courage, and shortens life. Our sons murder uis, said a rich man, speaking of a friend who had just died.
The sweet idleness praised by poets and lovers is not idleness, but leisure to give one's self to high thoughts and loftier moods. The really idle are oppressed by a sense of fatigue, and therefore tiresome to themselves and others. Let those who complain of having to work undertake to do nothing. If this do not convert them, nothing will. Those who live in inaction on the fruits of the labors of others lose the power to enjoy, come to feel existence to be a burden, and fall a prey to life-weariness. He sits uneasy at the feast who thinks of the starving; he is not comfortable at his own fireside who remembers those who have none. To know that life is good one must be conscious that lie is helping to make it good at least for a few.
Work, not play, is the divine opportunity. The outcome of civilization, if we continue to make progress, must be that to each and every one work shall be given to do, which while it provides the necessaries and comforts of life, will cheer, strengthen, console, purify, and enlighten; and when this day comes the Nineteenth century shall appear to have been but little better than the Ninth;
for a society in which millions are condemned to do dehumanizing work or starve is barbarous.
The century which is now drawing to end has been so filled with wonders, with progress in science and wealth, with discoveries and inventions, that it seems to illumine the pages of history with a blaze of glory. But it is not all light. The failure is as serious as the success is great. The individual has not risen as his knowledge has widened and his environment improved. What he is, is still held to be less important than what he possesses and uses. In the mad race for wealth multitudes are sacrificed as pitilessly as in warfare; they are dragged by competition to the verge of starvation; they are driven to work under conditions which dehumanize. Greed has led to a worldwide struggle as cruel as that of nature, in which only the strongest or the most cunning and conscienceless survive. Our society makes criminals, and our penal institutions harden them in wrong-doing. The people are taxed to support vast armies and to supply them with more and more expensive and effective instruments of murder; and wars are waged not to liberate and uplift weaker races, but to rob and oppress them; and these crimes are committed in the name of religion and civilization. The great powers of Europe look on in stolid indifference while helpless populations are massacred; and America, which has always nieant good-will to men and opportunity for all, seems to be drifting away from what Americans have loved and lived for into the evil company of these OldWorld nations, drunken with lust for conquest and lust for gold. While knowledge grows, while man's control over the forces of nature increases, the individual seems to be losing his hold on the principles which underlie right life. The power of sustained thought, of persevering labor for high and unselfish ends, the spirit of sacrifice and devotion, faith and hope, the love of liberty and independence are, it is to be feared, diminishing.
There is still evil enough in the world to save us from self-complacency, from the foolish and vulgar habit of self-laudation, but the triumphs of the Nineteenth century have been sufficiently real and great to inspire confidence and courage in the young who are preparing to take their place in the Twentieth as strong and faithful workers in
every righteous cause. Here in America, above all, the new age approaches offering opportunity. Here only a beginning has been made; we have but felled the forest, and drained the marsh, and bridged the river and built the road; but cleared the wildwood and made wholesome the atmosphere for a more fortunate race, whom occasion shall invite to greater thoughts and more godlike deeds. We stand in the front rank of those who face life, dowered with all the instruments of power which the labors of the strongest and wisest in all time and place have provided.
We might have been born savages or slaves, in a land of cannibals or tyrants; but we enter life welcomed by all that gives worth and joy, courage and security to man. There is inspiration in the air of America. Here all is fresh and young, here progress is less difficult, here there is hope and confidence, here there is eagerness to know and to do. Here they who are intelligent, sober, industrious and self-denying may get what money is needed for leisure and independence, for the founding of a home and the right education of children,—the wealth which strengthens and liberates, not the excess which undermines and destroys. The material is good but in so far as it is a means to spiritual good. The power to think and appreciate the thoughts of others, to love and to be happy in the joy, the courage, the beauty, and the goodness of others, lifts us above our temporal environment, and endows us with riches of which money can never be the equivalent. A great thought or a noble love, like a beautiful object, bears us away from the hard and narrow world of our selfish interests, dips us in the clear waters of pure delight, and makes us glad as children who lie in the shade and catch the snowy blossoms as they fall.
No true man ever believes that it is not possible to do great things without great riches. When, therefore, we say with Emerson, that America is but a name for opportunity, we do not emphasize its material resources or the facility with which they may be made available. He who knows that the good of life lies within and that it is infinite, capable of being cherished and possessed more and more by whoever seeks it with all his heart, understands that a little of what is external is sufficient and is not hard to acquire. He, therefore, neither gives himself to the pur
suit of wealth or fame or pleasure or position, nor thinks those fortunate who are rich in these things. He feels that the worst misfortune is not the loss of money or friends or reputation, but the loss of inner strength and wholeness, of faith in God and man, of self-respect, of the desire for knowledge and virtue. The darkened mind, the callous heart, the paralytic will—these are the root evils. Is man a real being, with an element of freedom, responsibility and permanence in his constitution, or is he but a phantom, a bubble that rises and floats for a moment, and then bursts in the boundless inane, where all things disappear and are no more? This is the radical question, for if the individual wholly ceases to be at death, the race itself is but a parasite of a planet which is slowly perishing; and life's formula is—from nothing to nothing. But nothingness is inconceivable, for to think is to be conscious of being: something exists; therefore something has always existed. Being is a mental conception; and when we affirm that it is eternal we affirm the eternity of mind, that mind is involved in the nature of things. It is the consciousness of this that makes it impossible for the soul to accept a mechanical theory of the universe or to rest content with what is material. It is akin to the infinite Spirit, and for man opportunity is opportunity to develop his true self, to grow in wisdom and love. What he yearns for in his deepest heart is not to eat and drink, but to live in ever-increasing conscious communion with the vital truth which is the soul's nourishment, the element in which faith and hope and freedom thrive.
The modern mind, having gained a finer insight into the play of the forces of nature, which are ceaselessly being transformed into new modes of existence, seems threatened with loss of the power of perceiving the Eternal. But this enfeeblement and perturbation are temporary, and on our wider knowledge we shall build a nobler and more glorious temple wherein to believe and serve, to love and pray. That man, who lives but a day and is but an atom, should imagine that he partakes of the attributes of the eternal and absolute Being, would seem to be absurd. None the less all that is most real and highest in him impels to this belief. To lose it is to lose faith in the
meaning and worth of life; is to abandon the principle that issues in the heroic struggles and sufferings, by which freedom, civilization, art, science, and religion have been won and secured as the chief blessings of the race. It is not possible to find true joy except in striving for the infinite, for something we have not yet, which we can never have, here at least. Hence, whatever purpose a man cherish, whatever task he set himself, he finds his work stretching forth endlessly. The more he attains the more clearly he perceives the boundless unattained. His success is ever becoming failure, his riches poverty, his knowledge ignorance, his virtue vice.
norance, his virtue vice. The higher he rises in power of thought and love, the more what he thinks and loves seems to melt away and disappear in the abysmal depths of the All-perfect Being, who is forever and forever, of whom he is born, and whom to seek through endless time were a blessed lot. It is the hope of finding Him that lures the soul to unseen worlds, lifts it out of the present, driving it to the past and the future, that it may live with vanished saints and heroes, or with the diviner men who yet shall be.
The best moments are those in which we stay within ourselves, alone with God and all His world of truth and beauty. This is the sage's delight; this the student's. This is the ever-welling source of joy for all who cherish the soul and bear it company. This is the solitude which for open minds and pure hearts is peopled with high thoughts and blissful yearnings. In the crowd, in the society even of one or two these heavenly visitations never or seldom come. By the harvest we reap from the inner eye's contemplations we are nourished and strengthened to bear and do our share in the sufferings and achievements of the wise and good Lovers themselves feel most the blessedness of love when they are parted, left to visions and dreams of the ideals by which they are haunted.
“Where a man can live, he can also live well; but he may have to live in a palace,” says Marcus Aurelius, implying that right life is most difficult in high places. Why, then, should we wish to dwell in a great city or to have great wealth or notoriety? These things are distractions and hindrances. They draw us from out the depths of the soul and thrust us into the midst of noise and confusion, of