Man’s evident failure to make the most out of his material life suggests a study of the elements in each citizen that make him of value to his age and community. What are the measurements of mankind, and why is it that daily some add new treasures to the storehouse of civilization, while others take from and waste the store already accumulated?
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Newell Dwight Hillis
Newell Dwight Hillis
Studies in Self Culture and Character
A Man’s Value to Society
THE BIG NEST
LONDON ∙ NEW YORK ∙ TORONTO ∙ SAO PAULO ∙ MOSCOW
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Published by The Big Nest
This Edition first published in 2015
Copyright © 2015 The Big Nest
Cover design and artwork © 2015 Urban-Pic.co.uk
Images and Illustrations © 2015 Stocklibrary.org
All Rights Reserved.
I. THE ELEMENTS OF WORTH
III. ASPIRATIONS AND IDEALS
IV. THE PHYSICAL BASIS OF CHARACTER
V. THE MIND
VI. THE MORAL USES OF MEMORY
VII. THE IMAGINATION
VIII. THE ENTHUSIASM OF FRIENDSHIP
IX. CONSCIENCE AND CHARACTER
X. VISIONS THAT DISTURB CONTENTMENT
XI. THE USES OF BOOKS AND READING
XII. THE SCIENCE OF LIVING WITH MEN
XIII. THE REVELATORS OF CHARACTER
XIV. MAKING THE MOST OF ONE’S SELF
I. THE ELEMENTS OF WORTH
IN THE INDIVIDUAL
Our scientific experts are investigating the wastes of society. Their reports indicate that man is a great spendthrift. He seems not so much a husbandman, making the most of the treasures of his life-garden, as a robber looting a storehouse for booty.
Travelers affirm that one part of the northern pineries has been wasted by man’s careless fires and much of the rest by his reckless axe. Coal experts insist that a large percentage of heat passes out of the chimney. The new chemistry claims that not a little of the precious ore is cast upon the slag heap.
In the fields the farmers overlook some ears of corn and pass by some handfuls of wheat. In the work-room the scissors leave selvage and remnant. In the mill the saw and plane refuse slabs and edges. In the kitchen a part of what the husband carries in, the wife’s wasteful cooking casts out. But the secondary wastes involve still heavier losses. Man’s carelessness in the factory breaks delicate machinery, his ignorance spoils raw materials, his idleness burns out boilers, his recklessness blows up engines; and no skill of manager in juggling figures in January can retrieve the wastes of June.
Passing through the country the traveler finds the plow rusting in the furrow, mowers and reapers exposed to rain and snow; passing through the city he sees the docks lined with boats, the alleys full of broken vehicles, while the streets exhibit some broken-down men. A journey through life is like a journey along the trackway of a retreating army; here a valuable ammunition wagon is abandoned because a careless smith left a flaw in the tire; there a brass cannon is deserted because a tug was improperly stitched; yonder a brave soldier lies dying in the thicket where he fell because excited men forgot the use of an ambulance. What with the wastes of intemperance and ignorance, of idleness and class wars, the losses of society are enormous. But man’s prodigality with his material treasures does but interpret his wastefulness of the greater riches of mind and heart. Life’s chief destructions are in the city of man’s soul. Many persons seem to be trying to solve this problem: “Given a soul stored with great treasure, and three score and ten years for happiness and usefulness, how shall one kill the time and waste the treasure?” Man’s pride over his casket stored with gems must be modified by the reflection that daily his pearls are cast before swine, that should have been woven into coronets.
Man’s evident failure to make the most out of his material life suggests a study of the elements in each citizen that make him of value to his age and community. What are the measurements of mankind, and why is it that daily some add new treasures to the storehouse of civilization, while others take from and waste the store already accumulated? These are questions of vital import. Many and varied estimates of man’s value have been made. Statisticians reckon the average man’s value at $600 a year. Each worker in wood, iron or brass stands for an engine or industrial plant worth $10,000, producing at 6 per cent. an income of $600. The death of the average workman, therefore, is equivalent to the destruction of a $10,000 mill or engine. The economic loss through the non-productivity of 20,000 drunkards is equal to one Chicago fire involving two hundred millions. Of course, some men produce less and others more than $600 a year; and some there are who have no industrial value—non-producers, according to Adam Smith; paupers, according to John Stuart Mill; thieves, according to Paul, who says, “Let him that stole steal no more, but rather work.” In this group let us include the tramps, who hold that the world owes them a living; these are they who fail to realize that society has given them support through infancy and childhood; has given them language, literature, liberty. Wise men know that the noblest and strongest have received from society a thousandfold more than they can ever repay, though they vex all the days and nights with ceaseless toil. In this number of non-sufficing persons are to be included the paupers—paupers plebeian, supported in the poorhouse by many citizens; paupers patrician, supported in palace by one citizen, generally father or ancestor; the two classes differing in that one is the foam at the top of the glass and the other the dregs at the bottom. To these two groups let us add the social parasites, represented by thieves, drunkards, and persons of the baser sort whose business it is to trade in human passion. We revolt from the red aphides upon the plant, the caterpillar upon the tree, the vermin upon bird or beast. How much more do we revolt from those human vermin whose business it is to propagate parasites upon the body politic! The condemnation of life is that a man consumes more than he produces, taking out of society’s granary that which other hands have put in. The praise of life is that one is self-sufficing, taking less out than he put into the storehouse of civilization.
A man’s original capital comes through his ancestry. Nature invests the grandsire’s ability, and compounds it for the grandson. Plato says: “The child is a charioteer driving two steeds up the long life-hill; one steed is white, representing our best impulses; one steed is dark, standing for our worst passions.” Who gave these steeds their color? Our fathers, Plato replies, and the child may not change one hair, white or black. Oliver Wendell Holmes would have us think that a man’s value is determined a hundred years before his birth. The ancestral ground slopes upward toward the mountain-minded man. The great never appear suddenly. Seven generations of clergymen make ready for Emerson, each a signboard pointing to the coming philosopher. The Mississippi has power to bear up fleets for war or peace because the storms of a thousand summers and the snows of a thousand winters have lent depth and power. The measure of greatness in a man is determined by the intellectual streams and moral tides flowing down from the ancestral hills and emptying into the human soul. The Bach family included one hundred and twenty musicians. Paganini was born with muscles in his wrists like whipcords. What was unique in Socrates was first unique in Sophroniscus. John ran before Jesus, but Zacharias foretold John. No electricity along rope wires, and no vital living truths along rope nerves to spongy brain. There are millions in our world who have been rendered physical and moral paupers by the sins of their ancestors. Their forefathers doomed them to be hewers of wood and drawers of water. A century must pass before one of their children can crowd his way up and show strength enough to shape a tool, outline a code, create an industry, reform a wrong. Despotic governments have stunted men—made them thin-blooded and low-browed, all backhead and no forehead. Each child has been likened to a cask whose staves represent trees growing on hills distant and widely separated; some staves are sound and solid, standing for right-living ancestors; some are worm eaten, standing for ancestors whose integrity was consumed by vices. At birth all the staves are brought together in the infant cask—empty, but to be filled by parents and teachers and friends. As the waste-barrel in the alley is filled with refuse and filth, so the orphan waifs in our streets are made receptacles of all vicious thoughts and deeds. These children are not so much born as damned into life. But how different is the childhood of some others. On the Easter day, in foreign cathedrals, a beauteous vase is placed beside the altar, and as the multitudes crowd forward and the solemn procession moves up the aisles, men and women cast into the vase their gifts of gold and silver and pearls and lace and rich textures. The well-born child seems to be such a vase, unspeakably beautiful, filled with knowledges and integrities more precious than gold and pearls. “Let him who would be great select the right parents,” was the keen dictum of President Dwight.
By the influence of the racial element, the laborer in northern Europe, viewed as a producing machine, doubles the industrial output of his southern brother. The child of the tropics is out of the race. For centuries he has dozed under the banana tree, awakening only to shake the tree and bring down ripe fruit for his hunger, eating to sleep again. His muscles are flabby, his blood is thin, his brain unequal to the strain of two ideas in one day. When Sir John Lubbock had fed the chief in the South Sea Islands he began to ask him questions, but within ten minutes the savage was sound asleep. When awakened the old chief said: “Ideas make me so sleepy.” Similarly, the warm Venetian blood has given few great men to civilization; but the hills of Scotland and New England produce scholars, statesmen, poets, financiers, with the alacrity with which Texas produces cotton or Missouri corn. History traces certain influential nations back to a single progenitor of unique strength of body and character. Thus Abraham, Theseus, and Cadmus seem like springs feeding great and increasing rivers. One wise and original thinker founds a tribe, shapes the destiny of a nation, and multiplies himself in the lives of future millions. In accordance with this law, tenacity reappears in every Scotchman; wit sparkles in every Irishman; vivacity is in every Frenchman’s blood; the Saxon is a colonizer and originates institutions. During the construction of the Suez Canal it was discovered that workmen with veins filled with Teutonic blood had a commercial value two and a half times greater than the Egyptians. Similarly, during the Indian war, the Highland troops endured double the strain of the native forces. Napoleon shortened the stature of the French people two inches by choosing all the taller of his 30,000,000 subjects and killing them in war. Waxing indignant, Horace Mann thinks “the forehead of the Irish peasantry was lowered an inch when the government made it an offense punishable with fine, imprisonment, and a traitor’s death to be the teacher of children.” A wicked government can make agony, epidemic, brutalize a race, and reaching forward, fetter generations yet unborn. “Blood tells,” says science. But blood is the radical element put out at compound interest and handed forward to generations yet unborn.
The second measure of a man’s value to society is found in his original endowment of physical strength. The child’s birth-stock of vital force is his capital to be traded upon. Other things being equal his productive value is to be estimated mathematically upon the basis of physique. Born weak and nerveless, he must go to society’s ambulance wagon, and so impede the onward march. Born vigorous and rugged, he can help to clear the forest roadway or lead the advancing columns. Fundamentally man is a muscular machine for producing the ideas that shape conduct and character. All fine thinking stands with one foot on fine brain fiber. Given large physical organs, lungs with capacity sufficient to oxygenate the life-currents as they pass upward; large arteries through which the blood may have full course, run, and be glorified; a brain healthy and balanced with a compact nervous system, and you have the basis for computing what will be a man’s value to society. Men differ, of course, in ways many—they differ in the number and range of their affections, in the scope of conscience, in taste and imagination, and in moral energy. But the original point of variance is physical. Some have a small body and a powerful mind, like a Corliss engine in a tiny boat, whose frail structure will soon be racked to pieces. Others are born with large bodies and very little mind, as if a toy engine were set to run a mudscow. This means that the poor engineer must pole up stream all his life. Others, by ignorance of parent, or accident through nurse, or through their own blunder or sin, destroy their bodily capital. Soon they are like boats cast high and dry upon the beach, doomed to sun-cracking and decay. Then, in addition to these absolute weaknesses, come the disproportions of the body, the distemperature of various organs. It is not necessary for spoiling a timepiece to break its every bearing; one loose screw stops all the wheels. Thus a very slight error as to the management of the bodily mechanism is sufficient to prevent fine creative work as author, speaker, or inventor. Few men, perhaps, ever learn how to so manage their brain and stomach as to be capable of high-pressure brain action for days at a time—until the cumulative mental forces break through all obstacles and conquer success. A great leader represents a kind of essence of common sense, but rugged common sense is sanity of nerve and brain. He who rules and leads must have mind and will, but he must have chest and stomach also. Beecher says the gun carriage must be in proportion to the gun it carries. When health goes the gun is spiked. Ideas are arrows, and the body is the bow that sends them home. The mind aims; the body fires.
Good health may be better than genius or wealth or honor. It was when the gymnasium had made each Athenian youth an Apollo in health and strength that the feet of the Greek race ran most nimbly along the paths of art and literature and philosophy.
Another test of a man’s value is an intellectual one. The largest wastes of any nation are through ignorance. Failure is want of knowledge; success is knowing how. Wealth is not in things of iron, wood and stone. Wealth is in the brain that organizes the metal. Pig iron is worth $20 a ton; made into horse shoes, $90; into knife blades, $200; into watch springs, $1,000. That is, raw iron $20, brain power, $980. Millet bought a yard of canvas for 1 franc, paid 2 more francs for a hair brush and some colors; upon this canvas he spread his genius, giving us “The Angelus.” The original investment in raw material was 60 cents; his intelligence gave that raw material a value of $105,000. One of the pictures at the World’s Fair represented a savage standing on the bank of a stream, anxious but ignorant as to how he could cross the flood. Knowledge toward the metal at his feet gave the savage an axe; knowledge toward the tree gave him a canoe; knowledge toward the union of canoes gave him a boat; knowledge toward the wind added sails; knowledge toward fire and water gave him the ocean steamer. Now, if from the captain standing on the prow of that floating palace, the City of New York, we could take away man’s knowledge as we remove peel after peel from an onion, we would have from the iron steamer, first, a sailboat, then a canoe, then axe and tree, and at last a savage, naked and helpless to cross a little stream. In the final analysis it is ignorance that wastes; it is knowledge that saves; it is wisdom that gives precedence. If sleep is the brother of death, ignorance is full brother to both sleep and death. An untaught faculty is at once quiescent and dead. An ignorant man has been defined as one “whom God has packed up and men have not unfolded. The best forces in such a one are perpetually paralyzed. Eyes he has, but he cannot see the length of his hand; ears he has, and all the finest sounds in creation escape him; a tongue he has, and it is forever blundering.” A mechanic who has a chest of forty tools and can use only the hammer, saw, and gimlet, has little chance with his fellows and soon falls far behind. An educated mind is one fully awakened to all the sights and scenes and forces in the world through which he moves. This does not mean that a $2,000 man can be made out of a two-cent boy by sending him to college. Education is mind-husbandry; it changes the size but not the sort. But if no amount of drill will make a Shetland pony show a two-minute gait, neither will the thoroughbred show this speed save through long and assiduous and patient education. The primary fountains of our Nation’s wealth are not in fields and forests and mines, but in the free schools, churches, and printing presses. Ignorance breeds misery, vice, and crime. Mephistopheles was a cultured devil, but he is the exception. History knows no illiterate seer or sage or saint. No Dante or Shakespeare ever had to make “his X mark.”
When John Cabot Lodge made his study of the distribution of ability in the United States, he found that in ninety years five of the great Western States had produced but twenty-seven men who were mentioned in the American and English encyclopedias, while little Massachusetts had 2,686 authors, orators, philosophers, and builders of States. But analysis shows that the variance is one of education and ideas. Boston differs from Quebec as differ their methods of instruction. The New England settlers were Oxford and Cambridge men that represented the best blood, brain, and accumulated culture of old England. Landing in the forest they clustered their cabins around the building that was at once church, school, library, and town hall. Rising early and sitting up late they plied their youth with ideas of liberty and intelligence. They came together on Sunday morning at nine o’clock to listen to a prayer one hour long, a sermon of three hours, and after a cold lunch heard a second brief sermon of two hours and a half—those who did not die became great. What Sunday began the week continued. We may smile at their methods but we must admire the men they produced. Mark the intellectual history of Northampton. During its history this town has sent out 114 lawyers, 112 ministers, 95 physicians, 100 educators, 7 college presidents, 30 professors, 24 editors, 6 historians, 14 authors, among whom are George Bancroft, John Lothrop Motley, Professor Whitney, the late J.G. Holland; 38 officers of State, 28 officers of the United States, including members of the Senate, and one President. How comes it that this little colony has raised up this great company of authors, statesmen, reformers? No mere chance is working here. The relation between sunshine and harvest is not more essential than the relation between these folk and their renowned descendants. Fruit after his kind is the divine explanation of Northampton’s influence upon the nation. “Education makes men great” is the divine dictum. George William Curtis has said: “The Revolutionary leaders were all trained men, as the world’s leaders always have been from the day when Themistocles led the educated Athenians at Salamis, to that when Von Moltke marshaled the educated Germans against France. The sure foundations of states are laid in knowledge, not in ignorance; and every sneer at education, at book learning, which is the recorded wisdom of the experience of mankind, is the demagogue’s sneer at intelligent liberty, inviting national degeneration and ruin.”
Consider, also, how the misfits of life affect man’s value. The successful man grasps the handle of his being. He moves in the line of least resistance. That one accomplishes most whose heart sings while his hand works. Like animals men have varied uses. The lark sings, the ox bears burdens, the horse is for strength and speed. But men who are wise toward beasts are often foolish toward themselves. Multitudes drag themselves toward the factory or field who would have moved toward the forum with “feet as hind’s feet.” Other multitudes fret and chafe in the office whose desires are in the streets and fields. Whoever scourges himself to a task he hates serves a hard master, and the slave will get but scant pay. If a farmer should hitch horses to a telescope and try to plow with it he would ruin the instrument in the summer and starve his family in the winter. Not the wishes of parent, nor the vanity of wife, nor the pride of place, but God and nature choose occupation. Each child is unique, as new as was the first arrival upon this planet. The school is to help the boy unpack what intellectual tools he has; education does not change, but puts temper into these tools. No man can alter his temperament, though trying to he can break his heart. How pathetic the wrecks of men who have chosen the wrong occupation! The driver bathes the raw shoulder of a horse whose collar does not fit, but when men make their misfits and the heart is sore society does not soothe, but with whips it scourges the man to his fruitless task. This large class may be counted unproductive. John Stuart Mill placed the industrial mismatings among the heavier losses of society.
To this element of wisdom in relating one’s self to duties must be added skill in maintaining smooth relations with one’s fellows. Men may produce much by industry and ability, and yet destroy more by the malign elements they carry. The proud domineering employer tears down with one hand what he builds up with the other. One foolish man can cost a city untold treasure. How many factories have failed because the owner has no skill in managing men and mollifying difficulties. History shows that stupid thrones and wars go together, while skillful kings bring long intervals of peace. Contrasting the methods of two prominent men, an editor once said: “The first man in making one million cost society ten millions; but the other so produced his one million as to add ten more to society’s wealth.” A most disastrous strike in England’s history had its origin in ignorance of this principle. The miners of a certain coal field had suffered a severe cut in wages. They had determined to accept it, though it took their children out of school, and took away their meat dinner. When the hour appointed for the conference came, prudence would have dictated that every cause of irritation be guarded against. But the employer foolishly drove his liveried carriage into the center of the vast crowd of workmen, and for an hour flaunted his wealth before the sore-hearted miners. When the men saw the footman, the prancing horses, the gold-plated harness, and thought of their starving wives, they reversed their acceptance of the cut in wages. They plunged into a long strike, taking this for their motto: “Furs for his footmen and gold plate for his horses, and also three meals a day for our wives and children.” Now, the ensuing strike and riots, long protracted, cost England £5,000,000. But that bitter strike was all needless. These are the men who take off the chariot wheels for God’s advancing hosts. When one comes to the front who has skill in allaying friction, all society begins a new forward march. Skill in personal carriage has much to do with a man’s value.
Integrity enhances human worth. Iniquities devastate a city like fire and pestilence. Social wealth and happiness are through right living. Goodness is a commodity. Conscience in a cashier has a cash value. If arts and industries are flowers and fruits, moralities are the roots that nourish them. Disobedience is slavery. Obedience is liberty. Disobedience to law of fire or water or acid is death. Obedience to law of color gives the artist his skill; obedience to the law of eloquence gives the orator his force; obedience to the law of iron gives the inventor his tool; disobedience to the law of morals gives waste and want and wretchedness. That individual or nation is hastening toward poverty that does not love the right and hate the wrong. So certain is the penalty of wrongdoing that sin seems infinitely stupid. Every transgression is like an iron plate thrown into the air; gravity will pull it back upon the wrongdoer’s head to wound him. It has been said for a man to betray his trust for money, is for him to stand on the same intellectual level with a monkey that scalds its throat with boiling water because it is thirsty. A drunkard is one who exchanges ambrosia and nectar for garbage. A profligate is one who declines an invitation to banquet with the gods that he may dine out of an ash barrel. What blight is to the vine, sin is to a man. When the first thief appeared in Plymouth colony a man was withdrawn from the fields to make locks for the houses; when two thieves came a second toiler was withdrawn from the factory to serve as night watchman. Soon others were taken from productive industry to build a jail and to interpret and execute the law. Every sin costs the state much hard cash. Consider what wastes hatred hath wrought. Once Italy and Greece and Central Europe made one vast storehouse filled with precious art treasures. But men turned the cathedrals into arsenals of war. If the clerks in some porcelain or cut-glass store should attend to their duties in the morning, and each afternoon have a pitched battle, during which they should throw the vases and cups and medallions at each other, and each night pick up a piece of vase, here an armless Venus and there a headless Apollo, to put away for future generations to study, we should have that which answers precisely to what has gone on for centuries through hatreds and class wars. An outlook upon society is much like a visit to Lisbon after an earthquake has filled the streets with debris and shaken down homes, palaces, and temples. History is full of the ruins of cities and empires. Not time, but disobedience, hath wrought their destruction. New civilizations will be reared by coming generations; uprightness will lay the foundations and integrity will complete the structure. The temple is righteousness in which God dwelleth.
“Have life more abundantly.” Man is not fated to a scant allowance nor a fixed amount, but he is allured forward by an unmeasured possibility. Personality may be enlarged and enriched. It has been said that Cromwell was the best thing England ever produced. And the mission of Jesus Christ is to carry each up from littleness to full-orbed largeness. It has always been true that when some genius, e.g., Watt, invents a model the people have reproduced it times innumerable. So what man asks for is not the increase of birth talent, but a pattern after which this raw material can be fashioned. Carbon makes charcoal, and carbon makes diamond, too, but the “sea of light” is carbon crystallized to a pattern. Builders lay bricks by plan; the musician follows his score; the value of a York minster is not in the number of cords of stone, but in the plan that organized them; and the value of a man is in the reply to this question: Have the raw materials of nature been wrought up into unity and harmony by the Exemplar of human life? Daily he is here to stir the mind with holy ambitions; to wing the heart with noble aspirations; to inspire with an all-conquering courage; to vitalize the whole manhood. By making the individual rich within he creates value without. For all things are first thoughts. Tools, fabrics, ships, houses, books are first ideas, afterward crystallized into outer form. A great picture is a beautiful conception rushing into visible expression upon the canvas. Wake up taste in a man and he beautifies his home. Wake up conscience and he drives iniquities out of his heart. Wake up his ideas of freedom and he fashions new laws. Jesus Christ is here to inflame man’s soul within that he may transform and enrich his life without. No picture ever painted, no statue ever carved, no cathedral ever builded is half so beautiful as the Christ-formed man. What is man’s value to society? Let him who knoweth what is in us reply: “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”
ITS MATERIALS AND EXTERNAL TEACHERS
Dying, Horace Greeley exclaimed: “Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, riches take wings, those who cheer to-day will curse to-morrow, only one thing endures—character!” These weighty words bid all remember that life’s one task is the making of manhood. Our world is a college, events are teachers, happiness is the graduating point, character is the diploma God gives man. The forces that increase happiness are many, including money, friends, position; but one thing alone is indispensable to success—personal worth and manhood. He who stands forth clothed with real weight of goodness can neither be feeble in life, nor forgotten in death. Society admires its scholar, but society reveres and loves its hero whose intellect is clothed with goodness. For character is not of the intellect, but of the disposition. Its qualities strike through and color the mind and heart even as summer strikes the matured fruit through with juicy ripeness.
Of that noble Greek who governed his city by unwritten laws, the people said: “Phocion’s character is more than the constitution.” The weight of goodness in Lamartine was such that during the bloody days in Paris his doors were unlocked. Character in him was a defense beyond the force of rock walls or armed regiments. Emerson says there was a certain power in Lincoln, Washington and Burke not to be explained by their printed words. Burke the man was inexpressibly finer than anything he said. As a spring is more than the cup it fills, as a poet or architect is more than the songs he sings or the temple he rears, so the man is more than the book or business he fashions. Earth holds many wondrous scenes called temples, battle-fields, cathedrals, but earth holds no scene comparable for majesty and beauty to a man clothed indeed with intellect, but adorned also with integrities and virtues. Beholding such a one, well did Milton exclaim: “A good man is the ripe fruit our earth holds up to God.”
Character has been defined as the joint product of nature and nurture. Nature gives the raw material, character is the carved statue. The raw material includes the racial endowment, temperament, degree of vital force, mentality, aptitude for tool or industry, for art or science. These birth-gifts are quantities, fixed and unalterable. No heart-rendings can change the two-talent nature into a ten-talent man. No agony of effort can add a cubit to the stature. The eagle flies over the chasm as easily as an ant crawls over the crack in the ground. Shakespeare writes Hamlet as easily as Tupper wrote his tales. Once an oak, always an oak. Care and culture can thicken the girth of the tree, but no degree of culture can cause an oak bough to bring forth figs instead of acorns. Rebellion against temperament and circumstance is sure to end in the breaking of the heart. Happiness and success begin with the sincere acceptance of the birth-gift and career God hath chosen.
Since no man can do his best work save as he uses his strongest faculties, the first duty of each is to search out the line of least resistance. He who has a genius for moral themes but has harnessed himself to the plow or the forge, is in danger of wrecking both happiness and character. All such misfits are fatal. No farmer harnesses a fawn to the plow, or puts an ox into the speeding-wagon. Life’s problem is to make a right inventory of the gifts one carries. As no carpenter knows what tools are in the box until he lifts the lid and unwraps one shining instrument after another, so the instruments in the soul must be unfolded by education. Ours is a world where the inventor accompanies the machine with a chart, illustrating the use of each wheel and escapement. But no babe lying in the cradle ever brought with it a hand-book setting forth its mental equipment and pointing out its aptitude for this occupation, or that art or industry. The gardener plants a root with perfect certainty that a rose will come up, but no man is a prophet wise enough to tell whether this babe will unfold into quality of thinker or doer or dreamer. To each Nature whispers: “Unsight, unseen, hold fast what you have.” For the soul is shadowless and mysterious. No hand can carve its outline, no brush portray its lineaments. Even the mother embosoming its infancy and carrying its weaknesses, studying it by day and night through years, sees not, she cannot see, knows not, she cannot know, into what splendor of maturity the child will unfold.
Man beholds his fellows as one beholds a volume written in a foreign language; the outer binding is seen, the inner contents are unread. Within general lines phrenology and physiognomy are helpful, but it is easier to determine what kind of a man lives in the house by looking at the knob on his front door than to determine the brain and heart within by studying the bumps upon face and forehead. Nature’s dictum is, “Grasp the handle of your own being.” Each must fashion his own character. Nature gives trees, but not tools; forests, but not furniture. Thus nature furnishes man with the birth materials and environment; man must work up these materials into those qualities called industry, integrity, honor, truth and love, ever patterning after that ideal man, Jesus Christ.
The influences shaping nature’s raw material into character are many and various. Of old, the seer likened the soul unto clay. The mud falls upon the board before the potter, a rude mass, without form or comeliness. But an hour afterwards the clay stands forth adorned with all the beauty of a lovely vase. Thus the soul begins, a mere mass of mind, but hands many and powerful soon shape it into the outlines of some noble man or woman. These sculptors of character include home, friendship, occupation, travel, success, love, grief and death.
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