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´╗┐Title: Essays on Work and Culture
Author: Mabie, Hamilton Wright
Language: English
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Henry Van Dyke

"Along the slender wires of speech
 Some message from the heart is sent;
 But who can tell the whole that's meant?
 Our dearest thoughts are out of reach."


I.     Tool or Man?
II.    The Man in the Work
III.   Work as Self-Expression
IV.    The Pain of Youth
V.     The Year of Wandering
VI.    The Ultimate Test
VII.   Liberation
VIII.  The Larger Education
IX.    Fellowship
X.     Work and Pessimism
XI.    The Educational Attitude
XII.   Special Training
XIII.  General Training
XIV.   The Ultimate Aim
XV.    Securing Right Conditions
XVI.   Concentration
XVII.  Relaxation
XVIII. Recreation
XIX.   Ease of Mood
XX.    Sharing the Race-Fortune
XXI.   The Imagination in Work
XXII.  The Play of the Imagination
XXIII. Character
XXIV.  Freedom from Self-Consciousness
XXV.   Consummation

Work and Culture

Chapter I

Tool or Man?

A complete man is so uncommon that when he appears he is looked upon with
suspicion, as if there must be something wrong about him. If a man is
content to deal vigorously with affairs, and leave art, religion, and
science to the enjoyment or refreshment or enlightenment of others, he is
accepted as strong, sounds and wise; but let him add to practical sagacity
a love of poetry and some skill in the practice of it; let him be not only
honest and trustworthy, but genuinely religious; let him be not only
keenly observant and exact in his estimate of trade influences and
movements, but devoted to the study of some science, and there goes abroad
the impression that he is superficial. It is written, apparently, in the
modern, and especially in the American, consciousness, that a man can do
but one thing well; if he attempts more than one thing, he betrays the
weakness of versatility. If this view of life is sound, man is born to
imperfect development and must not struggle with fate. He may have natural
aptitudes of many kinds; he may have a passionate desire to try three or
four different instruments; he may have a force of vitality which is equal
to the demands of several vocations or avocations; but he must disregard
the most powerful impulses of his nature; he must select one tool, and
with that tool he must do all the work appointed to him.

If he is a man of business, he must turn a deaf ear to the voices of art;
if he writes prose, he must not permit himself the delight of writing
verse; if he uses the pen, he must not use the voice. If he ventures to
employ two languages for his thought, to pour his energy into two
channels, the awful judgment of superficiality falls on him like a decree
of fate.

So fixed has become the habit of confusing the use of manifold gifts with
mere dexterity that men of quality and power often question the promptings
which impel them to use different or diverse forms of expression; as if a
man were born to use only one limb and enjoy only one resource in this
many-sided universe!

Specialisation has been carried so far that it has become an organised
tyranny through the curiously perverted view of life which it has
developed in some minds. A man is permitted, in these days, to cultivate
one faculty or master one field of knowledge, but he must not try to live
a whole life, or work his nature out on all sides, under penalty of public
suspicion and disapproval. If a Pericles were to appear among us, he would
be discredited by the very qualities which made him the foremost public
man of his time among the most intelligent and gifted people who have yet
striven to solve the problems of life. If Michelangelo came among us, he
would be compelled to repress his tremendous energy or face the suspicion
of the critical mind of the age; it is not permitted a man, in these days,
to excel in painting, sculpture, architecture, and sonnet-writing. If, in
addition, such a man were to exhibit moral qualities of a very unusual
order, he would deepen the suspicion that he was not playing the game of
life fairly; for there are those who have so completely broken life into
fragments that they not only deny the possibility of the possession of the
ability to do more than one thing well, but the existence of any kind of
connection between character and achievement.

Man is not only a fragment, but the world is a mass of unrelated parts;
religion, science, morals, and art moving in little spheres of their own,
without the possibility of contact. The arts were born at the foot of the
altar, as we are sometimes reminded; but let the artist beware how he
entertains religious ideas or emotions to-day; to suggest that art and
morals have any interior relation is, in certain circles, to awaken pity
that one's knowledge of these things is still so rudimentary. The scholar
must beware of the graces of style; if, like the late Master of Balliol,
he makes a translation so touched with distinction and beauty that it is
likely to become a classic in the language in which it is newly lodged,
there are those who look askance at his scholarship; for knowledge, to be
pure and genuine, must be rude, slovenly, and barbarous in expression. The
religious teacher may master the principles of his faith, but let him
beware how he applies them to the industrial or social conditions of
society. If he ventures to make this dangerous experiment, he is promptly
warned that he is encroaching on the territory of the economist and
sociologist. The artist must not permit himself to care for truth, because
it has come to be understood in some quarters that he is concerned with
beauty, and with beauty alone. To assume that there is any unity in life,
any connection between character and achievement, any laws of growth which
operate in all departments and in all men, is to discredit one's
intelligence and jeopardise one's influence. One field and one tool to
each man seems to be the maxim of this divisive philosophy--if that can be
called a philosophy which discards unity as a worn-out metaphysical
conception, and separates not only men but the arts, occupations, and
skills from each other by impassable gulfs.

Versatility is often a treacherous ease, which leads the man who possesses
it into fields where he has no sure footing because he has no first-hand
knowledge, and therefore no real power; and against this tendency, so
prevalent in this country, the need of concentration must continually be
urged. The great majority of men lack the abounding vitality which must
find a variety of channels to give it free movement. But the danger which
besets some men ought not to be made a limitation for men of superior
strength; it ought not to be used as a barrier to keep back those whose
inward impulse drives them forward, not in one but in many directions.
Above all, the limitations of a class ought not to be made the basis of a
conception of life which divides its activities by hard and fast lines,
and tends, by that process of hardening which shows itself in every field
of thought or work, to make men tools and machines instead of free,
creative forces in society.

A man of original power can never be confined within the limits of a
single field of interest and activity, nor can he ever be content to bear
the marks and use the skill of a single occupation. He cannot pour his
whole force into one channel; there is always a reserve of power beyond
the demands of the work which he has in hand at the moment. Wherever he
may find his place and whatever work may come to his hand, he must always
be aware of the larger movement of life which incloses his special task;
and he must have the consciousness of direct relation with that central
power of which all activities are inadequate manifestations. To a man of
this temper the whole range of human interests must remain open, and such
a man can never escape the conviction that life is a unity under all its
complexities; that all activities stand vitally related to each other;
that truth, beauty, knowledge, and character must be harmonised and
blended in every real and adequate development of the human spirit. To the
growth of every flower earth, sun, and atmosphere must contribute; in the
making of a man all the rich forces of nature and civilisation must have

Chapter II

The Man in the Work

The general mind possesses a kind of divination which discovers itself in
those comments, criticisms, and judgments which pass from man to man
through a wide area and sometimes through long periods of time. The
opinion which appears at first glance to be an expression of materialism
often shows, upon closer study, an element of idealism or a touch of
spiritual discernment. It is customary, for instance, to say of a man that
he lives in his works; as if the enduring quality of his fame rested in
and was dependent upon the tangible products of his genius or his skill.
There is truth in the phrase even when its scope is limited to this
obvious meaning; but there is a deeper truth behind the truism,--the truth
that a man lives in his works, not only because they commemorate but
because they express him. They are products of his skill; but they are
also the products of his soul. The man is revealed in them, and abides in
them, not as a statue in a temple, but as a seed in the grain and the
fruit. They have grown out of him, and they uncover the secrets of his
spiritual life. No man can conceal himself from his fellows; everything he
fashions or creates interprets and explains him.

This deepest significance of work has always been divined even when it has
not been clearly perceived. Men have understood that there is a spiritual
quality even in the most material products of a man's activity, and, even
in ruder times, they have discerned the inner relation of the things which
a man makes with the man himself. In our time, when the immense
significance of this essential harmony between spirit and product has been
accepted as a guiding principle in historic investigation, the stray
spear-head and broken potsherd are prized by the anthropologist, because a
past race lives in them. The lowest and commonest kind of domestic vessels
and implements disclose to the student of to-day not only the stage of
manual skill which their makers had reached, but also the general ideas of
life which those makers held. When it comes to the higher products,
character, temperament, and genius are discerned in every mutilated
fragment. The line on an urn reveals the spirit of the unknown sculptor
who cut it in the enduring stone. It has often been said that if every
memorial of the Greek race save the Parthenon had perished, it would be
possible to gain a clear and true impression of the spiritual condition
and quality of that race.

The great artists are the typical and representative men of the race, and
whatever is true of them is true, in a lesser degree, of men in general.
There is in the work of every great sculptor, painter, writer, composer,
architect, a distinctive and individual manner so marked and unmistakable
as to identify the man whenever and wherever a bit of his work appears. If
a statue of Phidias were to be found without any mark of the sculptor upon
it, there would be no delay in determining whose work it was; no educated
musician would be uncertain for a moment about a composition of Wagner's
if he heard it for the first time without knowledge of its source; nor
would a short story from the hand of Hawthorne remain unclaimed a day
after its publication. Now, this individual manner and quality, so evident
that it is impossible not to recognise it whenever it appears, is not a
trick of skill; it has its source in a man's temperament and genius; it is
the subtlest and most deep-going disclosure of his nature. In so far as a
spiritual quality can be contained and expressed in any form of speech
known among men--and all the arts are forms of speech--that which is most
secret and sacred in a man is freely given to the world in his work.

Work is sacred, therefore, not only because it is the fruit of self-
denial, patience, and toil, but because it uncovers the soul of the
worker. We deal with each other on so many planes, and have so much speech
with each other about things of little moment, that we often lose the
sense of the sanctity which attaches to personality whenever it appears.
There come moments, however, when some intimate experience is confided to
us, and then, in the pause of talk, we become aware that we are in
presence of a human soul behind the familiar face of our friend, and that
we are on holy ground. In such moments the quick emotion, the sudden
thrill, bear eloquent witness to that deeper and diviner life in which we
all share, but of which we rarely seem aware. This perception of the
presence of a man's soul comes to us when we stand before a true work of
art. We not only uncover our heads, but our hearts are uncovered as well.
Here is one who through all his skill speaks to us in a language which we
understand, but which we rarely hear. A great work of art not only
liberates the imagination, but the heart as well; for it speaks to us more
intimately than our friends are able to speak, and that reticence which
holds us back from perfect intercourse when we look into each other's
faces vanishes. A few lines read in the solitude of the woods, or before
the open fire, often kindle the emotion and imagination which slumber
within us; in companionship with the greatest minds our shyness vanishes;
we not only take but give with unconscious freedom. When we reach this
stage we have reached the man who lives not only by but in the work, and
whose innermost nature speaks to us and confides in us through the form of
speech which he has chosen.

The higher the quality of the work, the clearer the disclosure of the
spirit which fashioned it and gave it the power to search and liberate.
The plays of Sophocles are, in many ways, the highest and most
representative products of the Greek literary genius; they show that
genius at the moment when all its qualities were in harmony and perfectly
balanced between the spiritual vision which it formed of life, and the art
form to which it commits that precious and impalpable possession. One of
the distinctive qualities of these plays is their objectivity; their
detachment from the moods and experiences of the dramatist. This
detachment is so complete that at first glance every trace of the
dramatist seems to have been erased. But there are many passages besides
the famous lines descriptive of the grove at Colonus which betray the
personality behind the plays; and, studied more closely, the very
detachment of the drama from the dramatist is significant of character. In
the poise, harmony, and balance of these beautiful creations there is
revealed the instinct for proportion, the self-control and the
subordination of the parts to the whole which betray a nature committed by
its very instincts to a passionate devotion to beauty. In one of the poems
of our own century which belongs in the first rank of artistic
achievements, "In Memoriam," the highest themes are touched with the
strength of one who knows how to face the problems of life with impartial
and impersonal courage, and with the tenderness of one whose own heart has
felt the immediate pressure of these tremendous questions. So every great
work, whether personal or impersonal in intention, conveys to the
intelligent reader an impression of the thought behind the skill, and of
the character behind the thought. Goethe frankly declared that his works
constituted one great confession. All work is confession and revelation as

Chapter III

Work as Self-Expression

The higher the kind and quality of a man's work, the more completely does
it express his personality. There are forms of work so rudimentary that
the touch of individuality is almost entirely absent, and there are forms
of work so distinctive and spiritual that they are instantly and finally
associated with one man. The degree in which a man individualises his work
and gives it the quality of his own mind and spirit is, therefore, the
measure of his success in giving his nature free and full expression. For
work, in this large sense, is the expression of the man; and as the range
and significance of all kinds of expression depend upon the scope and
meaning of the ideas, forces, skills, and qualities expressed, so the
dignity and permanence of work depend upon the power and insight of the
worker. All sound work is true and genuine self-expression, but work has
as many gradations of quality and significance as has character or
ability. Dealing with essentially the same materials, each man in each
generation has the opportunity of adding to the common material that touch
of originality in temperament, insight, or skill which is his only
possible contribution to civilisation.

The spiritual nature of work and its relation to character are seen in the
diversity of work which the different races have done, and in the
unmistakable stamp which the work of each race bears. First as a matter of
instinct, and later as a matter of intelligence, each race has followed,
in its activities, the lines of least resistance, and put its energies
forth in ways which were most attractive because they offered the freest
range and were nearest at hand. The attempt of some historians of a
philosophical turn of mind to fit each race into a category and to give
each race a sharply defined sphere of influence has been carried too far,
and has discredited the effort to interpret arbitrarily the genius of the
different races and to assign arbitrarily their functions. It remains
true, however, that, in a broad sense, each race has had a peculiar
quality of mind and spirit which may be called its genius, and each has
followed certain general lines and kept within certain general limits in
doing its work. The people who lived on the great plains of Central Asia
worked in a different temper and with wide divergence of manner from the
people who lived on the banks of the Nile; and the Jew, the Greek, and the
Roman showed their racial differences as distinctly in the form and
quality of their work as in the temper of their mind and character. And
thus, on a great historical scale, the significance of work as an
expression of character is unmistakably disclosed.

In this sense work is practically inclusive of every force and kind of
life since every real worker puts into it all that is most distinctive in
his nature. The moral quality contributes sincerity, veracity, solidity of
structure; the intellectual quality is disclosed in order, lucidity, and
grasp of thought; the artistic quality is seen in symmetry proportion,
beauty of construction and of detail; the spiritual quality is revealed in
depth of insight and the scope of relationships brought into view between
the specific work and the world in which it is done. In work of the finer
order, dealing with the more impressionable material, there are
discoverable not only the character and quality of the worker, but the
conditions under which he lives; the stage of civilisation, the vigour or
languor of vital energy, the richness or poverty of social life, the
character of the soil and of the landscape, the pallor or the bloom of
vegetation, the shining or the veiling of the skies. So genuinely and
deeply does a man put himself into the thing he does that whatever affects
him affects it, and all that flows into him of spiritual, human, and
natural influence flows into and is conserved by it. A bit of work of the
highest quality is a key to a man's life because it is the product of that
life, and it brings to light that which is hidden in the man as truly as
the flower lays bare to the sun that which was folded in the seed. What a
man does is, therefore, an authentic revelation of what he is, and by
their works men are fairly and rightly judged.

For this reason no man can live in any real sense who fails to give his
personality expression through some form of activity. For action in some
field is the final stage of development; and to stop short of action, to
rest in emotion or thought, is to miss the higher fruits of living and to
evade one's responsibility to himself as well as to society. The man whose
artistic instinct is deep cannot be content with those visions which rise
out of the deeps of the imagination and wait for that expression which
shall give them objective reality; the vision brings with it a moral
necessity which cannot be evaded without serious loss. Indeed, the
vitality of the imagination depends largely upon the fidelity with which
its images are first realised in thought and then embodied by the hand. To
comprehend what life means in the way of truth and power, one must act as
well as think and feel. For action itself is a process of revelation, and
the sincerity and power with which a man puts forth that which is
disclosed to him determine the scope of the disclosure of truth which he
receives. To comprehend all that life involves of experience, or offers of
power, one must give full play to all the force that is in him. It is
significant that the men of creative genius are, as a rule, men of the
greatest productive power. One marvels at the magnitude of the work of
such men as Michelangelo and Rembrandt, as Beethoven and Wagner, as
Shakespeare, Balzac, Thackeray, Carlyle, and Browning; not discerning
that, as these master workers gave form and substance to their visions and
insight, the power to see and to understand deepened and expanded apace
with their achievements.

Chapter IV

The Pain of Youth

It is the habit of the poets, and of many who are poets neither in vision
nor in faculty, to speak of youth as if it were a period of unshadowed
gaiety and pleasure, with no consciousness of responsibility and no sense
of care. The freshness of feeling, the delight in experience, the joy of
discovery, the unspent vitality which welcomes every morning as a
challenge to one's strength, invest youth with a charm which art is always
striving to preserve, and which men who have parted from it remember with
a sense of pathos; for the morning of life comes but once, and when it
fades something goes which never returns. There are ample compensations,
there are higher joys and deeper insights and relationships; but a magical
charm which touches all things and turns them to gold, vanishes with the
morning. In reaching its perfection of beauty the flower must part with
the dewy promise of its earliest growth.

All this is true of youth, which in many ways symbolises the immortal part
of man's nature, and must be, therefore, always beautiful and sacred to
him. But it is untrue that the sky of youth has no clouds and the spirit
of youth no cares; on the contrary, no period of life is in many ways more
painful. The finer the organisation and the greater the ability, the more
difficult and trying the experiences through which the youth passes.
George Eliot has pointed out a striking peculiarity of childish grief in
the statement that the child has no background of other griefs against
which the magnitude of its present sorrow may be measured. While that
sorrow lasts it is complete, absolute, and hopeless, because the child has
no memory of other trials endured, of other sorrows survived. In this fact
about the earliest griefs lies the source also of the pains of youth. The
young man is an undeveloped power; he is largely ignorant of his own
capacity, often without inward guidance towards his vocation; he is
unadjusted to the society in which he must find a place for himself. He is
full of energy and aspiration, but he does not know how to expend the one
or realise the other. His soul has wings, but he cannot fly, because, like
the eagle, he must have space on the ground before he rises in the air. If
his imagination is active he has moments of rapture, days of exaltation,
when the world seems to lie before him clear from horizon to horizon. His
hours of study overflow with the passion for knowledge, and his hours of
play are haunted by beautiful or noble dreams. The world is full of wonder
and mystery, and the young explorer is impatient to be on his journey. No
plan is then too great to be accomplished, no moral height too difficult
to be attained. After all that has been said, the rapture of youth, when
youth means opportunity, remains unexpressed. No poet will ever entirely
compass it, as no poet will ever quite ensnare in speech the measureless
joy of those festival mornings in June when Nature seems on the point of
speaking in human language.

But this rapture is inward; it has its source in the earliest perception
of the richness of life and man's capacity to appropriate it. It is the
rapture of discovery, not of possession; the rapture of promise, not of
achievement. It is without the verification of experience or the
corroborative evidence of performance. Youth is possibility; that is its
charm, its joy, and its power; but it is also its limitation. There lies
before it the real crisis through which every man of parts and power
passes: the development of the inward force and the adjustment of the
personality to the order of life. The shadow of that crisis is never quite
absent from those radiant skies which the poets love to recall; the
uncertainty of that supreme issue in experience is never quite out of
mind. Siegfried must meet the dragon before he can climb those heights on
which, encircled by fire, his ideal is to take the form and substance of
reality; and the prelusive notes of that fateful struggle are heard long
before the sword is forged or the hour of destiny has come.

There is no test of character more severe or difficult to bear than the
suspense of waiting. The man who can act eases his soul under the greatest
calamities; but he who is compelled to wait, unless he be of hardy fibre,
eats his heart out in a futile despair. Troops will endure losses when
they are caught up in the stir of a charge which would demoralise and
scatter them if they were compelled to halt under the relentless guns of
masked batteries. Now, the characteristic trial of youth is this
experience of waiting at a moment when the whole nature craves expression
and the satisfaction of action. The greater the volume of energy in the
man who has yet to find his vocation and place, the more trying the
ordeal. There are moments in the life of the young imagination when the
very splendour of its dreams fills the soul with despair, because there
seems no hope of giving them outward reality; and the clearer the
consciousness of the possession of power, the more poignant the feeling
that it may find no channel through which to add itself to the impulsion
which drives forward the work of society.

The reality of this crisis in spiritual experience--the adjustment between
the personality and the physical, social, and industrial order in which it
must find its place and task--is the measure of its possible painfulness.
It is due, perhaps, to the charm which invests youth, as one looks back
upon it from maturity or age, that its pain is forgotten and that sympathy
withheld which youth craves often without knowing why it craves. A helpful
comprehension of the phase of experience through which he is passing is
often the supreme need of the ardent young spirit. His pain has its roots
in his ignorance of his own powers and of the world. He strives again and
again to put himself in touch with organised work; he takes up one task
after another in a fruitless endeavour to succeed. He does not know what
he is fitted to do, and he turns helplessly from one form of work for
which he has no faculty to another for which he has less. His friends
begin to think of him as a ne'er-do-weel; and, more pathetic still, the
shadow of failure begins to darken his own spirit. And yet it may be that
in this halting, stumbling, ineffective human soul, vainly striving to put
its hand to its task, there is some rare gift, some splendid talent,
waiting for the ripe hour and the real opportunity! In such a crisis
sympathetic comprehension is invaluable, but it is rarely given, and the
youth works out his problem in isolation. If he is courageous and
persistent he finds his place at last; and work brings peace, strength,

Chapter V

The Year of Wandering

Goethe prefaces Wilhelm Meister's travels with some lines full of that
sagacity which was so closely related to his insight:

   What shap'st thou here at the world? 't is shapen long ago;
   The Maker shaped it, he thought it best even so;
   Thy lot is appointed, go follow its hest;
   Thy way is begun, thou must walk, and not rest;
   For sorrow and care cannot alter the case;
   And running, not raging, will win thee the race.

       My inheritance, how wide and fair!
       Time is my estate: to time I'm heir.

Between the preparation and the work, the apprenticeship and the actual
dealing with a task or an art, there comes, in the experience of many
young men, a period of uncertainty and wandering which is often
misunderstood and counted as time wasted, when it is, in fact, a period
rich in full and free development. In the days when Wilhelm Meister was
written, the _Wanderjahr_ or year of travel was a recognised part of
student life, and was held in high regard as contributing a valuable
element to a complete education. "The Europe of the Renaissance," writes
M. Wagner, "was fairly furrowed in every direction by students, who often
travelled afoot and barefoot to save their shoes." These wayfarers were
light-hearted and often empty-handed; they were in quest of knowledge, but
the intensity of the search was tempered by gaiety and ease of mood. Under
a mask of frivolity, however, youth often wears a serious face, and behind
apparent aimlessness there is often a steady and final turning of the
whole nature towards its goal.

Uncertainty breeds impatience; and in youth, before the will is firmly
seated and the goal clearly seen, impatience often manifests itself in the
relaxation of all forms of restraint. The richer the nature the greater
the reaction which sometimes sets in at this period; the more varied and
powerful the elements to be harmonised in a man's character and life, the
greater the ferment and agitation which often precede the final
discernment and acceptance of one's work. If the pressure of uncertainty
with regard to one's gifts and their uses ought to call out patience and
sympathy, so ought that experience of spiritual and intellectual agitation
which often intervenes between the training for life and the process of
actual living. This experience is a true year of wandering, and there is
nothing of which the wanderer stands in such need as the friendly hand and
the door which stands hospitably open.

It is the born drudge alone who is content to go from the school to the
office or the shop without so much as asking the elementary questions
about life. The aspiring want to know what is behind the occupation; they
must discover the spiritual necessity of work before they are ready to
bend to the inevitable yoke. Strong natures are driven by the Very
momentum of their own moral impulse to explore the world before they build
in it and unite themselves with it; the imagination must be fed with
beauty and truth before they are content to choose their task and tools.
It is often a sign of greatness in a man that he does not quickly fit into
his place or easily find his work. Let him look well at the stars before
he bends to his task; he will need to remember them when the days of toil
come, as they must come, at times, to every man. Let him see the world
with his own eyes before he gives to fortune those hostages which hold him
henceforth fast-bound in one place.

It is as natural for ardent and courageous youth to wish to know what is
in life, what it means, and what it holds for its children, as for a child
to reach for and search the things that surround and attract it. Behind
every real worker in the world is a real man, and a man has a right to
know the conditions under which he must live, and the choices of
knowledge, power, and activity which are offered him. In the education of
many men and women, therefore, there comes the year of wandering; the
experience of travelling from knowledge to knowledge and from occupation
to occupation. There are men and women, it is true, who are born under
conditions so free and prosperous that the choice of work is made almost
instinctively and unconsciously, and apprenticeship merges into mastery
without any intervening agitation or uncertainty. At long intervals Nature
not only sends a great talent into the world, but provides in advance for
its training and for its steady direction and unfolding; but Nature is not
often so minute in her provision for her children. Those who receive most
generously from her hand are, for the most part, compelled to discover
their gifts and find their places in the general order as the result of
much searching, and often of many failures.

And even in the most harmonious natures the elements of agitation and
ferment are rarely absent. The forces which go to the making of a powerful
man can rarely be adjusted and blended without some disturbance of
relations and conditions. This disturbance is sometimes injurious, because
it affects the moral foundations upon which character rests; and for this
reason the significance of the experience in its relation to development
ought to be sympathetically studied. The birth of the imagination and of
the passions, the perception of the richness of life, and the
consciousness of the possession of the power to master and use that
wealth, create a critical moment in the history of youth,--a moment richer
in possibilities of all kinds than comes at any later period. Agitation
and ferment of soul are inevitable in that wonderful moment. It is as idle
to ask youth to be calm and contented in that supreme moment as to ask the
discoverer who is catching his first glimpse of a new continent to avoid
excitement. There are times when agitation is as normal as is self-control
at other and less critical times. There are days in June when Nature seems
to betray an almost riotous prodigality of energy; but that prodigality is
always well within the limits of order. In youth that which is to be
feared is not the explosive force of vitality, but its wrong direction;
and it is at this crisis that youth so often makes its mute and unavailing
appeal to maturity. The man who has left his year of wandering behind him
forgets its joys and perils, and regards it as a deflection from a course
which is now perfectly plain, although it may once have been confused and
uncertain. He is critical and condemnatory where he ought to be
sympathetic and helpful. If he reflects and comprehends, he will hold out
the hand of fellowship; for he will understand that the year of wandering
is not a manifestation of aimlessness, but of aspiration, and that in its
ferment and uncertainty youth is often guided to and finally prepared for
its task.

Chapter VI

The Ultimate Test

"I have cut more than one field of oats and wheat," writes M. Charles
Wagner, "cradled for long hours under the August sky to the slow cadence
of the blade as it swung to and fro, laying low at every stroke the heavy
yellow heads. I have heard the quail whistle in the distant fields beyond
the golden waves of wheat and the woods that looked blue above the vines.
I have thought of the clamours of mankind, of the oven-like cities, of the
problems which perplex the age, and my insight has grown clearer. Yes, I
am Positive that one of the great curatives of our evils, our maladies,
social, moral, and intellectual, would be a return to the soil, a
rehabilitation of the work of the fields." In these characteristically
ardent words one of the noblest Frenchmen of the day has brought out a
truth of general application. To come once more into personal relations
with mother earth is to secure health of body and of mind; and with health
comes clarity of vision. To touch the soil as a worker is to set all the
confined energies of the body free, to incite all its functions to normal
activity, to secure that physical harmony which results from a full and
normal play of all the physical forces on an adequate object.

In like manner, true work of mind or technical skill brings peace,
composure, sanity, to one to whom the proper outlet of his energy has been
denied. To youth, possessed by an almost riotous vitality, with great but
unused powers of endurance and of positive action, the finding of its task
means concentration of energy instead of dissipations directness of action
instead of indecision, conscious increase of power instead of deepened
sense of inefficiency, and the happiness which rises like a pure spring
from the depths of the soul when the whole nature is poised and
harmonised. The torments of uncertainty, the waste and disorder of the
period of ferment, give place to clear vision, free action, natural
growth. There are few moments in life so intoxicating as those which
follow the final discovery of the task one is appointed to perform. It is
a true home-coming after weary and anxious wandering; it is the lifting of
the fog off a perilous coast; it is the shining of the sun after days of
shrouded sky.

The "storm and stress" period is always interesting because it predicts
the appearance of a new power; and men instinctively love every evidence
of the greatness of the race, as they instinctively crave the disclosure
of new truth. In the reaction against the monotony of formalism and of
that deadly conventionalism which is the peril of every accepted method in
religion, art, education, or politics, men are ready to welcome any
revolt, however extravagant. Too much life is always better than too
little, and the absurdities of young genius are nobler than the selfish
prudence of aged sagacity. The wild days at Weimar which Klopstock looked
at askance, and not without good reason; the excess of passion and action
in Schiller's "Robbers;" the turbulence of the young Romanticists, with
long hair and red waistcoats, crowding the Theatre Francais to compel the
acceptance of "Hernani,"--these stormy dawns of the new day in art are
always captivating to the imagination. Their interest lies, however, not
in their turbulence and disorder, but in their promise. If real
achievements do not follow the early outbreak, the latter are soon
forgotten; if they herald a new birth of power, they are fixed in the
memory of a world which, however slow and cold, loves to feel the fresh
impulse of the awakening human spirit. The wild days at Weimar were the
prelude to a long life of sustained energy and of the highest
productivity; "The Robbers" was soon distanced and eclipsed by the noble
works of one of the noblest of modern spirits; and to the extravagance of
the ardent French Romanticists of 1832 succeeded those great works in
verse and prose which have made the last half-century memorable in French
literary history.

It is the fruitage of work, not the wild play of undirected energy, which
gives an epoch its decisive influence and a man his place and power. Both
aspects of the "storm and stress" period need to be kept in mind. When it
is tempted to condemn too sternly the extravagance of such a period,
society will do well to recall how often this undirected or ill-directed
play of energy has been the forerunner of a noble putting forth of
creative power. And those who are involved in such an outpouring of new
life, on the other hand, will do well to remember that extravagance is
never the sign of art; that licence is never the liberty which sets free
the creative force; that "storm and stress" is, at the best, only a
promise of sound work; and that its importance and reality depend entirely
upon the fruit it bears.

The decisive test, in other words, comes when a man deals, in patience and
fidelity, with the task which is set before him. Up to this point his
life, however rich and varied, has been a preparation; now comes that
final trial of strength which is to bring into clear light whatever power
is in him, be that power great or small. If work had no other quality, the
fact that it settles a man's place among men would invest it with the
highest dignity; for a man's place can be determined only by a complete
unfolding and measurement of all the powers that are in him, and this
process of development must have all the elements of the highest moral
process. So great, indeed, is the importance of work from this point of
view that it seems to involve, under the appearance of a provisional
judgment, the weight and seriousness of a final judgment of men. Such a
judgment, as every man knows who has the conscience either of a moralist
or of an artist, is being hourly registered in the growth which is
silently accomplished through the steady and skilful doing of one's work,
or in the gradual but inevitable decline and decay which accompany and
follow the slovenly, indifferent, or unfaithful performance of one's task.

We make or unmake ourselves by and through our work; marring our material
and spiritual fortunes or discovering and possessing them at will. The
idle talk about the play of chance in the world, the futile attempt to put
on the broad back of circumstances that burden of responsibility which
rests on our own shoulders, deceives no man in his saner moments. The
outward fruits of success are not always within our reach, no matter how
strenuous our struggles to pluck them; but that inward strength, of which
all forms of outward prosperity are but visible evidences, lies within the
grasp of every true worker. Fidelity, skill, energy--the noble putting
forth of one's power in some worthy form of work--never fail of that
unfolding of the whole man in harmonious strength which is the only
ultimate and satisfying form of success.

Chapter VII


Work is the most continuous and comprehensive form of action; that form
which calls into play and presses into steady service the greatest number
of gifts, skills, and powers. Into true work, therefore, a man pours his
nature without measure or stint; and in that process he comes swiftly or
slowly to a clear realisation of himself. Work sets him face to face with
himself. So long as he is getting ready to work he cannot measure his
power, nor take full account of his resources of skill, intelligence, and
moral endurance; but when he has closed with his task and put his entire
force into the doing of it, he comes to an understanding not only of but
with himself. Under the testing process of actual contact with materials
and obstacles, his strength and his weakness are revealed to him; he
learns what lies within his power and what lies beyond it; he takes
accurate account of his moral force, and measures himself with some degree
of accuracy against a given task or undertaking; he discovers his capacity
for growth, and begins to see, through the mist of the future, how far he
is likely to go along the road he has chosen. He discerns his lack of
skill in various directions, and knows how to secure what he needs; in
countless ways he measures himself and comes to know himself.

For work speedily turns inward power into outward achievement, and so
makes it possible to take accurate account of what has hitherto lain
wholly within the realm of the potential. In a very deep and true sense an
artist faces his own soul when he looks at his finished work. He sees a
bit of himself in every book, painting, statue, or other product of his
energy and skill. What was once concealed in the mystery of his own nature
is set in clear light in the work of his hands; the reality or unreality
of his aspirations is finally settled; the question of the possession of
original power or of mere facility is answered. The worker is no longer an
unknown force; he has been developed, revealed, measured, and tested.

In this process one of his highest gains is the liberation of his inward
power and the attainment of self-knowledge and self-mastery. No man is
free until he knows himself, and whatever helps a man to come to clear
understanding of himself helps him to attain freedom. A man does not
command his resources of physical strength until he has so trained and
developed his body that each part supplements every other part and bears
the strain with equal power of resistance. When every part has been
developed to its highest point of efficiency, and the whole body answers
the command of the will with that completeness of strength which has its
source in harmony of parts through unity of development, the man has come
into full possession of his physical resources. In like manner a man comes
into complete mastery of himself when through self-knowledge he presses
every force and faculty into activity, and through activity secures for
each its ultimate perfection of power and action.

When every force within has been developed to its highest efficiency,
complete liberation has been effected. The perfectly developed and trained
man would have the poise and peace which come from the harmonious
expression of the soul through every form of activity, and the freedom
which is the result of complete command of all one's resources and the
power to use them at will. This ultimate stage of power and freedom has,
perhaps, never been attained by any worker under the conditions of this
present life; but in the exact degree in which the worker approaches this
ideal does he secure his own freedom. The untrained man, whose sole
resource is some kind of unskilled labour, is in bondage to the time and
place in which and at which he finds himself, and to the opportunities and
rewards close at hand; the trained man has the freedom of the whole world
of work. Michael Angelo receives commissions from princes and popes;
Velasquez paints with kings looking over his shoulder; Tesla can choose
the place where he will work; Mr. Gladstone would have found fame and
fortune at the end of almost any road he chose to take. In the case of
each of these great workers inward power was matured and harmonised by
outward work, and through work each achieved freedom.

No man is free until he can dispose of himself; until he is sought after
instead of seeking; until, in the noblest sense of the words, he commands
his own price in the world. There are men in every generation who push
this self-development and self-mastery so far, and who obtain such a large
degree of freedom in consequence, that the keys of all doors are open to
them. We call such men masters, not to suggest subjection to them, but as
an instinctive recognition of the fact that they have secured emancipation
from the limitations from which most men never escape. In a world given
over to apprenticeship these heroic spirits have attained the degree of
mastership. They have not been carried to commanding positions by happy
tides of favourable circumstance; they have not stumbled into greatness;
they have attained what they have secured and they hold it by virtue of
superior intelligence, skill, and power. They possess more freedom than
their fellows because they have worked with finer insight, with steadier
persistence, and with more passionate enthusiasm. They are masters because
they are free; but their freedom was bought with a great price.

Chapter VIII

The Larger Education

The old idea that the necessity of working was imposed upon men as a
punishment is responsible, in large measure, for the radical
misunderstanding of the function and uses of work which has so widely
prevailed. In the childhood of the world a garden for innocence to play in
secured the consummation of all deep human longings for happiness; but
there is a higher state than innocence: there is the state to which men
attain through knowledge and trial. Knowledge involves great perils, but
it is better than innocuous ignorance; virtue involves grave dangers, but
it is nobler than innocence. Character cannot be secured if choice between
higher and lower aims is denied; and without character the world would be
meaningless. There can be no unfolding of character without growth, and
growth is inconceivable without the aid of work. The process of self-
expression through action is wrought, therefore, into the very structure
of man's life; it is not a penalty, but a spiritual opportunity of the
highest order. It is the most comprehensive educational process to which
men are subjected, and it has done more, probably, than all other
processes to lift the moral and social level of the race.

Instead of being a prison, the workshop has been a place of training,
discipline, and education. The working races have been the victorious
races; the non-working races have been the subject races. Wandering
peoples who trust to what may be called geographical luck for a living
often develop strong individual qualities and traits, but they never
develop a high degree of social or political organisation, nor do they
produce literature and art. The native force of imagination which some
semi-civilised races seem to possess never becomes creative until it is
developed and directed by training. Education is as essential to greatness
of achievement in any field as the possession of gifts of genius. An
untrained race, like an untrained man, is always at an immense
disadvantage, not only in the competition of the world, but in the working
out of individual destiny. The necessity for work is so far from being a
penalty that it must be counted the highest moral opportunity open to men,
and, therefore, one of the divinest gifts offered to the race. The
apparent freedom of nomadic peoples is seen, upon closer view, to be a
very hard and repulsive bondage; the apparent servitude of working peoples
is seen to be, upon closer view, an open road to freedom.

There is no real freedom save that which is based upon discipline. The
chance to do as one pleases is not liberty, as so many people imagine;
liberty involves knowledge, self-mastery, capacity for exertion, power of
resistance. Emerson uncovered the fundamental conception when he declared
that character is our only definition of freedom and power. Now, character
is always the product of an educational process of some kind; its
production involves tests, trials, temptations, toils. It does not
represent innocence, but that which is higher and more difficult of
attainment, virtue. Innocence is the starting-point in life; virtue is the
goal. Between these two points lies that arduous education which is
effected, for most men, chiefly by and through work. In comparison with
the field, the shop, the factory, the mine, and the sea, the school has
educated a very inconsiderable number; the vast majority of the race have
been trained by toil. On the farm, in the innumerable factories, in
offices and stores, on sea-going craft of all kinds, and in the vast field
of land transportation, the race, as a rule, has had its education in
those elemental qualities which make organised society possible. When the
race goes to its work in the morning, it goes to its school; and the chief
result of its toil is not that which it makes with its hands, but that
which it slowly and unconsciously creates within itself. It is concerned
with the product of its toil; with soil, seed, or grain; with wood, paper,
metal, or stone; with processes and forces; but in the depths of the
worker's nature there is a moral deposit of habit, quality, temper, which
is the invisible moral result of his toil. The real profit of a day's work
in the world can never be estimated in terms of money; it can be estimated
only in terms of character.

The regularity, promptness, obedience, fidelity, and skill demanded in
every kind of work, skilled or unskilled, compels the formation of a
certain degree of character. No worker can keep his place who does not
develop certain moral qualities in connection with his work. Honesty,
truthfulness, sobriety, and skill are essential to the most elementary
success,--the getting of the bare necessities of life; and these
fundamental qualities, upon which organised society rests as on an
immovable foundation, are the silent deposit of the work of the world.
Through what seems to be the bondage of toil the race is emancipated from
the ignorance, the licence, and the dull monotony of savagery; through
what seems to be a purely material dealing with insensate things men put
themselves in the way of the most thorough moral training.

The necessity of working gives society steadiness and stability; when
large populations are freed from this necessity, irresponsible mobs take
the place of orderly citizens, and the crowd of idlers must be fed and
amused to be kept out of mischief. A man can never be idle with safety and
advantage until he has been so trained by work that he makes his freedom
from times and tasks more fruitful than his toil has been. When work has
disciplined a man, he may safely be left to himself; for he will not only
govern himself, but he will also employ himself. There are few worse
elements in society than an idle leisure class,--a body of men and women
who make mere recreation the business of living, and so reverse or subvert
the natural order of life.

On the other hand, there is no more valuable element in society than a
working leisure class,--a body of men and women who, emancipated from the
harder and more mechanical work of the world, give themselves to the
higher activities and enrich the common life by intelligence, beauty,
charm of habit and manners, dignity of carriage, and distinction of
character and taste. So long as men need other food than bread, and have
higher necessities than those of the body, a leisure class will be
essential to the richest and completest social development. What society
does not need is an idle class.

Chapter IX


The comradeship of work is an element which is rarely taken into account,
but which is of great importance from many points of view. Men who work
together have not only the same interests, but are likely to develop a
kinship of thought and feeling. Their association extends beyond working
hours, and includes their higher and wider interests. There seems to be
something in the putting forth of effort upon the same material or for the
same end which binds men together with ties which are not wholly the
result of proximity. Those who have given no thought to the educational
side of work, and who are ignorant that it has such a side, are,
nevertheless, brought within the unifying influence of a process which,
using mainly the hands and the feet, is insensibly training the whole

There is a deeper unity in the work of the world than has been clearly
understood as yet; there is that vital unity which binds together those
who are not only engaged in a common task, but who are also involved in a
common spiritual process. The very necessity of work carries with it the
implication of an incomplete world and an imperfectly developed society.
The earth was not finished when it was made ready for the appearance of
man; it will not be finished until man has done with it. In the making of
the world man has his part; here, as elsewhere, he meets God and co-
operates with him; the divine and the human combining to perfect the
process of unfolding and evolution. Until the work of men has developed
it, the earth is raw material. It is full of power, but that power is not
conserved and directed, it is full of the potentialities of fertility, but
there are no harvests; all manner of possibilities both of material and
spiritual uses are in it,--food, ore, force, beauty,--but these
possibilities must await the skill of man before they can be turned into
wealth, comfort, art, civilisation. God gives the earth as a mine, and man
must work it; as a field, and man must till it; as a reservoir of force,
and man must make connection with it; as the rough material out of which
order, symmetry, utility, beauty, culture may be wrought, and men must
unfold these higher uses by intelligence, skill, toil, and character. At
some time every particle of the civilised world has been like the old
frontier on this continent, and men have reclaimed either the desert or
the wilderness by their heroic sacrifices and labours. It is a misuse of
language, therefore, to say that the world is made; it is not made,
because it is being made century by century through the toil of successive

Now, this creative process, in which God and men unite, is what we call
work. It is not a process introduced among men as an afterthought or as a
form of punishment; it was involved in the initial creative act, and it is
part of the complete creative act. The conception of a process of
development carries with it the idea, not of a finished but of an
unfinished world; it interprets history not as a record of persons and
events separate from the stage upon which they appear, like actors on the
boards, but as the story of the influence of an unfinished world upon an
undeveloped race, and of the marvellous unfolding through which the hidden
powers and qualities of the material and the worker are brought into play.
Work becomes, therefore, not only a continuation of the divine activity in
the world, but a process inwrought in the very constitution of that world.
Growth is the divinest element in life, and work is one of the chief
factors in growth.

The earth is, therefore, in its full unfolding and its final form, the
joint product of the love and power of God and of the toil and sacrifice
of men; the creative purpose is not accomplished in a single act; it is
being wrought out through a long progression of acts; and in this
continuous process God and men are brought together in a way which makes
the labour of the hand the work also of the spirit. If one reflects on all
that this intimate cooperation of the divine and the human in the fields,
the factories, and the shops means, the nobility of work and its
possibilities of spiritual education become impressively clear. In this
fellowship men are trained in ways of which they are insensible; spiritual
results are accomplished within them of which they are unconscious. The
Infinite is nowhere more beneficently present than in the strain and
anguish of toil; and the necessity of putting forth one's strength in some
form of activity is not a hardship but a divine opportunity.

To well-conditioned men work is a joy; under normal conditions, for
healthful men, it is always a joy. The spiritual meaning behind the hard
face which toil wears makes itself dimly understood at times, and men sing
at their tasks not only out of pure exuberance of good spirits and sound
health, but because there is something essentially rhythmical and
harmonious in their toil. The song of the sailor at the windlass is a song
of fellowship; an expression of the deepened consciousness of strength and
exhilaration which come from standing together in a joint putting forth of
strength. When a man honestly gives himself to any kind of work he makes
himself one with his fellows in the creative process; he enters into
deepest fellowship with the race. And, as in the intimacy of the family,
in its structure and habit, there lies a very deep and rich educational
process, so in the community of work there lies a training and enrichment
which go to the very centre of the individual life. The ideal development
involves harmonious adjustment of the man to the world, through complete
development of his personality and through complete unity with the race;
and the deepest and most fruitful living is denied those who fail of
entire unfolding in either of these hemispheres, which together make up
the perfect whole. In genuine culture solitude and society must both find
place; a man must secure the strength and poise which enable him to stand
alone, and he must also unite himself in hand, mind, and heart with his
fellows. In isolation the finer parts of nature wither; in fellowship they
bear noble fruitage. To work in one's day with one's fellows; to accept
their fortune, bear their burdens, perform their tasks, and accept their
rewards; to be one with them in the toil, sorrow, and joy of life,--is to
put oneself in the way of the richest growth and the purest happiness.

Chapter X

Work and Pessimism

When perils thickened about him and the most courageous grew faint-
hearted, Francis Drake's favourite phrase was: "It matters not; God hath
many things in store for us." No man ever wore a more dauntless face in
the presence of danger than the great adventurer who destroyed the
foundations of Spanish power in this continent, and whose smile always
grew sweeter as the situation grew more desperate. That smile carried the
conviction of ultimate safety to a crew which was often on the verge of
despair; its serenity and confidence were contagious; it conveyed the
impression, in the blackest hour, that the leader knew some secret way of
escape from encircling peril. He knew, as a rule, no more than his men
knew; but as danger deepened, his genius became energised to the utmost
quickness of discernment and the utmost rapidity of action. He had no time
for despair; he had only time for decision and action. In his dying hour,
on a hostile sea, half a hemisphere from home, he arose, dressed himself,
and called for his arms; falling before the only foe to whom he ever
yielded with the same dauntless courage which had made him the master of
untravelled seas and the terror of a continent. He so completely
identified himself with the work he had in hand that he sapped the very
sources of fear.

Such heroic self-forgetfulness is not the exclusive possession of men of
action; it lies within the reach of any man who is strong enough to grasp
it. Two writers of our time have nobly worn this jewel of courage in the
eyes of the world. John Addington Symonds was for many years an invalid
whose life hung on a thread. He had youth, gifts of a high order, culture,
ambition, but a desolating shadow blackened the landscape of his life; he
might have yielded to the lassitude which came with his disease; he might
have become embittered and poured his sorrows into the ear of the world,
as too many less burdened men and women have done in these recent decades.
Instead of accepting these weak alternatives and wasting his brief years
in useless complainings, he plucked opportunity out of the very jaws of
death; found in the high Alps the conditions most favourable for activity,
and poured his life out in work of such sustained interest and value that
he laid the English-reading peoples under lasting obligations. In spite of
his invalidism he achieved more than most men who live out the full period
of life in complete possession of their powers.

In like manner disease touched Robert Louis Stevenson in his early prime,
and would have daunted a spirit less gallant than his. He bore himself in
the presence of death as a dashing leader bears himself in the presence of
an overwhelming foe; he was intrepid, but he was also wise. He sought such
alleviations as climates afforded a man in his condition, and then gave
himself to his work with a kind of passionate ardour, as if he would pluck
the very heart out of time and toil before the night fell. Neither of
these men was blind to his condition; neither was indifferent; both loved
life and both had their moments of revolt and depression; but both found
in work resource from despair, and both made the world richer not only by
the fruits of self-conquest, but by the contagious power of heroic
example. Such careers put to shame the self-centred, egotistic, morbid
pessimism which has found so many voices in recent years that its cowardly
outcries have almost drowned the great, sane, authoritative voices of the

Despair has many sources, but one of its chief sources is the attempt to
put an incomplete in the place of a complete life, and to substitute a
partial for a full and rounded development. The body keeps that physical
unconsciousness which is the evidence of health only so long as every part
of it is normally used and exercised; when any set of organs is ignored
and neglected, some form of disorder begins, and sooner or later physical
self-consciousness in some part announces the appearance of disease. In
like manner, intellectual and spiritual self-unconsciousness, which is
both the condition and the result of complete intellectual and spiritual
health, is preserved only so long as a man lives freely and naturally in
and through all his activities. Expression of the whole nature through
every faculty is essential to entire sanity of mind and spirit. Every
violation of this fundamental law is followed by moral or spiritual
disorder, loss of balance, decline of power. To see the world with clear
eyes, as Shakespeare saw it, instead of seeing it through distorted
vision, as Paul Verlaine saw it, one must think, feel, and act. To
compress one's vital power into any one of these forms or channels of
expression is to limit growth, to destroy the balance and symmetry of
development, to lose clarity of vision, and to invite that devastating
disease of our time and of all times, morbid self-consciousness. The man
who lives exclusively in thought becomes a theorist, an indifferent
observer, or a cynic; he who lives exclusively in feeling becomes a
sentimentalist or a pessimist; he who lives exclusively in action becomes
a mere executive energy, a pure objective force in society. These types
are found in all times, and exhibit in a great variety of ways the perils
of incomplete development.

In our time the chief peril for men of imagination and the artistic
temperament comes from that aloofness of temper which separates its victim
from his fellows, isolates him in the very heart of society, and turns his
energy inward so that he preys upon himself. The root of a great deal of
that pessimism which has found expression in modern literature is found in
inactivity. He who contents himself with looking at life as a spectator
sees its appalling contradictions and its baffling confusions, and misses
the steadying power of the common toil, the comprehension through
sympathy, the slow but deep unfolding and education which come from
participation in the world's work. He who approaches life only through his
feelings is bruised, hurt, and finally exhausted by a strain of emotion
unrelieved by thought and action. No man is sound either in vision or in
judgment who holds himself apart from the work of society. Participation
in that work not only liberates the inward energy which preys upon itself
if repressed; it also, through human fellowship, brings warmth and love to
the solitary spirit; above all, it so identifies the man with outward
activities that his personal force finds free access to the world, and he
is delivered from the peril of self-consciousness. He who cares supremely
for some worthy activity and gives himself to it has no time to reflect on
his own woes, and no temptation to exaggerate his own claims. He sees
clearly that he is an undeveloped personality to whom the supreme
opportunity comes in the guise of the discipline of work. To forget
oneself in heroic action as did Drake, or in heroic toil as did Symonds
and Stevenson, is to make even disease contribute to health and mastery.

Chapter XI

The Educational Attitude

The man whose life is intelligently ordered is always preparing himself
for the highest demands of his work; he is not only doing that work with
adequate skill from day to day, but he is always fitting himself in
advance for more exacting and difficult tasks.

If a man is to become an artist in his work, his specific preparation for
particular occasions and tasks must be part of a general preparation for
all possible occasions and tasks. It is not only impossible to foresee
opportunities, but it is often impossible to recognise their importance
until they are past. It is well to know by heart Emerson's significant

  "Daughters of Time, the hypocritic Days,
   Muffled and dumb like barefoot dervishes,
   And marching single in an endless file,
   Bring diadems and fagots in their hands.
   To each they offer gifts after his will,
   Bread, kingdoms, stars, and sky that holds them all.
   I, in my pleached garden, watched the pomp,
   Forgot my mourning wishes, hastily
   Took a few herbs and apples, and the Day
   Turned and departed silent. I, too late,
   Under her solemn fillet saw the scorn."

The Days, which come so unobtrusively and go so silently, are
opportunities in disguise, and to enable a man to penetrate that disguise
and discern the royal figure in the meanest dress is one of the great ends
of that education which must always, in some form, precede real success.
For nothing which endures is ever done without some kind of preliminary
training. Men do not happen, by chance, upon greatness; they achieve it.
Noble work of any kind is the fruit of laborious apprenticeship, and from
the higher forms of success the idler and the amateur are for ever shut
out. A man often enters a new field or takes up a new tool with surprising
facility and power; but in these cases the man is only carrying into a
fresh field the skill already acquired elsewhere. It has sometimes
happened that a sudden occasion has called an obscure man to his feet, and
he has sat down famous. In such instances it is the custom to say that the
orator has spoken without preparation; as a matter of fact, the man knows
that he has been all his life preparing for that critical moment. If he
had not risen full of his theme, with the rich material of noble speech
within reach of his memory or imagination, he would have left the hour
empty and unmarked. In such a moment a man rises as high as the reach of
his nature and no higher, and the reach of his nature depends on the
training he has given himself.

The hour for commanding speech comes to the politician, whose study of
public affairs is chiefly a study of the management of his constituents,
and he sits down as empty as he arose; the same hour, arriving
unexpectedly to Burke or Webster, draws upon vast accumulations of
knowledge, thought, and illustration. In the famous debate with Hayne,
Webster had practically but one day in which to prepare his reply to his
persuasive and accomplished adversary; but when he spoke it was to put
into language for all time the deep conviction of the reality of the
national idea. The great orator had scant time to make ready for the
greatest opportunity of his life, but, in reality, he had been preparing
from boyhood to make that immortal speech. Brilliant speeches are often
made extemporaneously; but such speeches are never made without long and
arduous preparation. "The gods sell anything and to everybody at a fair
price," says Emerson; and he might have added that they give nothing away.
Whatever a man secures in the way of power or fame he pays for in
preliminary preparation; nothing is given him except his native capacity;
everything else he must pay for. To recognise opportunity when it comes,
or to make the highest use of it when it is not to be recognised at the
moment, involves constant enrichment and education of the whole nature.

It is one of the secrets of the higher kind of success to make life
interesting, and this secret is committed mainly to those who get the
educational value of events, conditions, and relationships. The man who
can rationalise his entire experience is in the way of learning the
deepest lesson of life and of keeping the keenest interest in all its
happenings. A mass of facts exhausts and wearies the student, but when
they fall into order, disclose connections, and reveal truth they awaken
enthusiasm. The body of fact without the soul of truth is a dead and
repellent thing; but if the soul of truth shine through straightway it
becomes vital, companionable, stimulating. Now, the most fruitful
preparation for opportunities and tasks of all degrees of importance is
that attitude towards life which habitually secures from it the truth
behind the experience and the principle behind the fact. Some men are
enriched by everything they touch because they seem instinctively to get
at the spiritual meaning of events; other men get nothing but material
results from their dealing with the world. One man takes nothing off his
broad acres but crops; another harvests his crops with as large results,
but harvests also knowledge of the chemistry of nature, appreciation of
the landscape beyond his own fields, and those qualities of character
which have their root in honest work in the open fields.

A striking difference is discernible between two classes of men of
business; one class is shrewd, keen, successful, but entirely
uninteresting, because it fastens its attention exclusively upon the bare,
hard facts of the situation; the other class is not only equally
successful, but possesses a rare interest, because it penetrates behind
the facts of trade to the laws of trade, studies general conditions, and
continually deals with the situation from the point of view of large
intelligence. No human being is so entirely devoid of interest to his
fellows as the trader who barters one commodity for another without any
comprehension of higher values or wider connections; on the other hand,
few men are more interesting than the great merchants whose vision
penetrates to the principles behind business, and who acquire a kind of
wisdom which is the more engaging because it is constantly verified by
contact with affairs. The man who is a trader never gets beyond the profit
of his shrewd bargain; the man who trains himself to study general
conditions puts himself in the way, not only of great wealth, but of
leadership and power.

Behind every trade and occupation there are the most intimate human
connections; beneath every trade and occupation there are deep human
relationships; and it is only as we discern these fundamental relations
and connections that we get at a true conception of the magnitude of the
practical activities of society and of their significance in civilisation.
The man who treats his trade as mere opportunity of making money, without
taking into account the service of that trade to men or its relation to
the totality of social activities, is as truly anti-social in his spirit
and methods as an anarchist. Such a man breaks society into selfish
fragments, and turns commerce into vulgar bartering. The penalty of such a
sordid and narrow view of life is never evaded; the trader makes gains and
often swells them by hoarding; but he rarely secures great wealth,--for
great fortunes are built by brains and force,--and he never secures
leadership. He who is to win the noblest successes in the world of affairs
must continually educate himself for larger grasp of principles and
broader grasp of conditions.

Chapter XII

Special Training

It is a very superficial conception of workmanship which sets it in
conflict with originality. There is often an inherent antagonism between
the impulse for freedom and spontaneity which is characteristic of genius,
and a conventional, hard-and-fast rule or method of securing certain
technical results; but there is no antagonism between the boldest
originality and the most complete mastery of craftsmanship. There is,
rather, a deep and vital relationship between the two. For every art is a
language, and to secure power and beauty and adequacy of expression a man
must command all the secrets and resources of the form of speech which he
has chosen. The power of the great artist rests, in the last analysis,
upon the freedom with which he uses his material; and this freedom does
not come by nature; it comes by training. It is fatal to the highest
success to have the command of a noble language and to have nothing to say
in it; it is equally fatal to have noble thoughts and to lack the power of
giving them expression. Technical skill is not, therefore, an exterior,
mechanical possession; it is the fitting of tools and material to heart
and mind; it is the fruit of character; it is the evidence of sincerity,
thoroughness, truthfulness. In his characteristically suggestive comment
upon the Japanese artist Hokusai, Mr. John La Farge gives an interesting
account of the training established and enforced in the school of the
Kanos, a family of painters which survived the vicissitudes of more than
four centuries. The course of study in a Kano school covered at least ten
years, and the average age of graduation was thirty. The rules of conduct
were rigid; the manner of life simple to the point of bareness; the
discipline of work severe and unbroken. During the first year and a half
of study the pupil devoted his entire time to copying certain famous works
in the possession of the school; making, in the first instance, a copy
from the picture set before him, and then reproducing his own copy again
and again until every stroke and detail was thoroughly comprehended and
mastered. In the course of eighteen months sixty pictures were studied
with this searching thoroughness; the secrets of skill in each were
uncovered, the sources of beauty or power discerned; and the eye and hand
of the pupil gained intelligence, quickness, penetration. Month after
month passed in what seemed to be a monotony of mechanical imitation; but
in this arduous and literal reproduction of the skill of others was laid
the sure foundations of individual skill. This devout attention to methods
secured for a considerable number of men a technical expertness for which
we look, as a rule, only in the work of the greatest artists. The result
of this training was not mechanical skill, but truth and freshness of
observation. The signature of the artist in question reveals not an
imitative but an original nature, not a faculty absorbed in accuracy but
in passion for expression: "Hokusai, the Old Man Crazy about Painting."

The arduous patience of these Oriental students of painting bore its fruit
in a tradition of skill which was in itself an immense stimulus to the
aspiring and ambitious; it established standards of craftsmanship which
made the possession of expert knowledge a necessity on the part of every
one who seriously attempted to practice the art. Mr. La Farge comments
upon the level of superior artistic culture which these Japanese artists
had attained. They had advanced their common skill so far that a superior
man began at a great height of attainment, and was compelled to exhibit
power of a very rare order before he could claim any kind of prominence
among his fellows.

The establishment of such a standard in any art, profession, or occupation
has the immense educational value of making clear to the student, at the
very beginning of his career, the prime importance of mastering in detail
every part of the work which he has undertaken to do. There is no place in
the modern working world for the sloven, the indifferent, or the
unskilled; no one can hope for any genuine success who fails to give
himself the most thorough technical preparation, the most complete special
education. Good intentions go for nothing, and industry is thrown away, if
one cannot infuse a high degree of skill into his work. The man of medium
skill depends upon fortunate conditions for success; he cannot command it,
nor can he keep it. In the fierce competition of the day the trained man
has all the advantages on his side; the untrained man invites all the
tragic possibilities of industrial and economic failure. He is always at
the mercy of conditions. To know every detail, to gain an insight into
every secret, to learn every method, to secure every kind of skill, are
the prime necessities of success in any art, craft, or trade. No time is
too long, no study too hard, no discipline too severe for the attainment
of complete familiarity with one's work and complete ease and skill in the
doing of it. As a man values his working life, he must be willing to pay
the highest price of success in it,--the price which severe training

The external prosperity which is called success is of value because it
evidences, as a rule, thoroughness and ability in the man who secures it,
and because it supplies the ease of body and of mind which is essential to
the fullest and most effective putting forth of one's power; and the sane
man, even while he subordinates it to higher things, never entirely
ignores or neglects success. The possession of skill is to-day the
inexorable condition of securing this outward prosperity; and, as a rule,
the greater a man's skill the more enduring his success. But skill has
other and deeper uses and ends. Thoroughness and adequacy in the doing of
one's work are the evidences of the presence of a moral conception in the
worker's mind; they are the witnesses to the pressure of his conscience on
his work. Slovenly, careless, and indifferent work is dishonest and
untruthful; the man who is content to do less than the best he is capable
of doing for any kind of compensation--money, reputation, influence--is an
immoral man. He violates a fundamental law of life by accepting that which
he has not earned.

Skill in one's art, profession, or trade is conscience applied; it is
honesty, veracity, and fidelity using the eye, the voice, and the hand to
reveal what lies in the worker's purpose and spirit. To become an artist
in dealing with tools and materials is not a matter of choice or
privilege; it is a moral necessity; for a man's heart must be in his
skill, and a man's soul in his craftsmanship.

Chapter XIII

General Training

It was the habit of an American statesman who rose to the highest official
position, to prepare himself in advance upon every question which was
likely to come before Congress by thorough and prolonged study. His
vacations and his leisure hours during the session were spent in
familiarising himself with pending questions in all their aspects. He was
not content with a mastery of the details of a measure; he could not rest
until he had mastered the principle behind it, had studied it in the light
of history, and in its relation to our political institutions and
character. His voluminous note-books show the most thorough study, not
only of particular measures and questions as they came before the country
from time to time, but of a wide range of related subjects. He once said
that for every speech he had delivered he had prepared five; and the
statement throws clear light on a career of extraordinary growth and

For the characteristic of this career was its steady expansion along
intellectual lines. It was exceptional in its disclosure of that inward
energy which carries the man who possesses it over all obstacles, enables
him to master adverse conditions, to secure education without means and
culture without social opportunity; but it was not unexampled in a country
which has seen many men of ultimate distinction emerge from entire
obscurity. Its material success has been paralleled many times; but its
intellectual success has rarely been paralleled. It disclosed inward
distinction; a passion for the best in life and thought; an eager desire
to see things in their largest relations. And so out of conditions which
generally breed the politician the statesman was slowly matured. History,
religion, literature, art were objects of his constant and familiar study;
and he made himself rich in general knowledge as well as in specific
information. This ample background of knowledge of the best which the
world has known and done in all the great fields of its activity gave his
discussions of specific questions breadth, variety, charm, and literary
interest. He brought to the particular measure largeness of view,
dispassionateness of temper, and the philosophic mind; and his work came
to have cultural significance and quality.

Such a career, the record of which may be clearly traced not only in
public history but in a vast mass of preparatory notes and memoranda of
every description, illustrates in a very noble way the importance of that
constant and general preparation which ought to include special
preparation as a landscape includes the individual field. That field may
have great value and ought to have the most careful tillage; but it cannot
be separated, in any just and true vision, from the other fields which it
touches and which run, in unbroken continuity, to the horizon; and this
preparation not only involves the fruitful attitude towards life upon
which comment has been made, but it involves also constant study in many
directions with the definite purpose of enrichment and enlargement. No
kind of knowledge comes amiss in this larger training. History,
literature, art, and science have their different kinds of nurture to
impart, and their different kinds of material to supply; and the wise man
will open his mind to their teaching and his nature to their ripening
touch. The widely accepted idea that a man not only needs nothing more for
a specific task than the specific skill which it demands, but that any
larger skill tends to superficiality, is the product of that tendency to
excessive specialisation which has impaired the harmony of modern
education and dwarfed many men of large native capacity.

In some departments of knowledge and activity the demands are so great on
time and strength that the man who works in them can hardly venture
outside of them without impairing the totality of his achievement; but
even in these cases it is often a question whether too great a price has
not been paid for a narrow and highly specialised skill. There is not only
no conflict between a high degree of technical skill and wide interests
and knowledge; there is a clear and definite connection between the two.
For in all those higher forms of work which involve not only expert
workmanship but a spiritual content of some kind, the worker must bring to
his task not only skill but ideas, force, personality, temperament; and,
sound workmanship being secured, his rank will depend not on specific
expertness, but on the depth, energy, and splendour of the personality
which the work reveals.

Creative men feel the necessity of many interests and of wide activities.
Their natures require rich pasturage; they must be fed from many sources.
They secure the skill of the specialist, but they never accept his
limitations of interest and work. The clearer their vision of the unity of
all forms of human action and expression, the deeper their need of
studying at first hand these different forms of action and expression.
Goethe did not choose that comprehensiveness of temper which led him into
so many fields; it was the necessity of a mind vast in its range and deep
in its insight. Herbert Spencer has done work which discloses at every
point the tireless industry and rigorous method of the specialist; but the
field in which he has concentrated his energy has included practically the
development of the universe and of human life and society. Mr. Gladstone
was a master of all the details, skill, and knowledge of his profession;
but how greatly he gained in power by the breadth of his interests, and
what charm there was in the disclosure of the man of religious enthusiasm,
of ardent devotion, and of ripe culture behind the politician and

Byron knew the secrets of the art which he practiced with such splendid
success as few men have known them. His command of the lyric form was
complete. And yet who that loves his work has not felt that lack in it
which Matthew Arnold had in mind when he said that with all his genius
Byron had the ideas of a country squire? The poet was a master of the
technique of his art; he had rare gifts of passion and imagination; but he
lacked breadth, variety, and depth of thought. There is a monotony of
theme and of motive in his compositions. Tennyson, on the other hand,
exalted his technical skill by the reality and richness of his culture.
Nothing which contains and reveals the human spirit was alien to him. He
did not casually touch a great range of themes; he studied them patiently,
thoroughly, persistently. Religion, philosophy, science, literature,
history were his familiar friends; he lived with them, and they so
completely confided to him their richest truths that he became their
interpreter. So wide were his interests and so varied his studies that he
came to be one of those men in whom the deeper currents of an age flow
together and from whom the tumult of angry and contending currents issues
in a great harmonious tide. No modern man has prepared himself more
intelligently for specific excellence by special training, and no man has
more splendidly illustrated the necessity of combining the expertness of
the skilled workman with the insight, power, and culture of a great
personality. A life which issues in an art so beautiful in form and so
significant in content reveals both the necessity of constant and general
preparation, and the identity of great working power with great spiritual

Chapter XIV

The Ultimate Aim

Workers of all kinds are divided into two classes by differences of skill
and by differences of aim. The artist not only handles his materials in a
different way from that which the artisan employs, but he uses them for a
different end and in a different spirit. The peculiar spiritual quality of
the artist is his supreme concern with the quality of his work and his
subordinate interest in the returns of reputation or money which the work
brings him. No wise man ought to be indifferent to recognition and to
material rewards, because there is a vital relation between honest work
and adequate wages of all kinds; a relation as clearly existing in the
case of Michael Angelo or of William Shakespeare as in the case of the
farmhand or the day labourer. But when the artist plans his work, and
while he is putting his life into it day by day, the possible rewards
which await him are overshadowed by the supreme necessity of making the
work sound, true, adequate, and noble. A man is at his best only when he
pours out his vital energy at full tide, without thought or care for
anything save complete self-expression.

He who hopes to reach the highest level of activity in work will not aim,
therefore, to gain specific ends or to touch external goals of any kind;
he will aim at complete self-development. His ultimate aim will be not
material but spiritual; he cannot rest short of the perfect self-
expression. The rewards of work--money, influence, position, fame--will be
the incidents, not the ends, of his toil. He has a right to look for them
and count upon them; but if he be a true workman they will never be his
inspirations, nor can they ever be his highest rewards. The man in public
life who sets out to secure a certain official position as the ultimate
goal of his ambition may be a successful politician but can never be a
statesman; for a statesman is supremely concerned with the interests of
the state, and only subordinately with his own interests. Such a man may
definitely seek a Presidency or a Premiership; but he will seek it, in any
final analysis of his motives, not for that which it will give him in the
way of reward, but for that which it will give him in the way of
opportunity. A genuine man seeks a great place, not that he may be seen of
men, but that he may speak, influence and lead men.

The motives of the vast majority of men are, to a certain extent, confused
and contradictory; for the noblest man never quite completes his education
and brings his nature into final harmony; but the genuine man is inspired
by generous motives, and to such an one success becomes not a snare but an
education, in the process of which all that is noblest becomes controlling
and all that is merely personal becomes subordinate. In this way the
politician often develops into the statesman, and the merely clever and
successful painter or writer grows to the stature of the artist. It is one
of the saving qualities of ability that it has the power of growth, and
great responsibilities often educate an able man out of selfish aims.

The ultimate aim which the worker sets before him ought always to have a
touch of idealism because it must always remain a little beyond his reach.
The man who attains his ultimate aim has come to the end of the race;
there are no more goals to beckon him on; there is no more inspiration or
delight in life. But no man ought ever to come to the end of the road;
there ought always to be a further stretch of highway, an inviting turn
under the shadow of the trees, a bold ascent, an untrodden summit shining

If a man sets a specific position or an external reward of any kind before
him as the limit of his journey, he is in danger of getting to the end
before he has fully put forth his strength, and so giving his life the
pathos of an anti-climax. The more noble and able a man is, the less
satisfaction can he find in any material return which his work brings him;
no man with a touch of the artist in him can ever rest content with
anything short of the complete putting forth of all that is in him, and
the consciousness of having done his work well.

For a man's ultimate responsibility is met by what he is and does, not by
what he gains. When he sets an exterior reward of any kind before him as
the final goal of his endeavour, he breaks away from the divine order of
life and destroys that deep interior harmony which ought to keep a man's
spirit in time and tune with the creative element in the world.

We are not to seek specific rewards; they must come to us. They are the
recognition and fruit of work, not its inspiration and sustaining power.
Let a man select the right seed and give it the right soil, and sun, rain,
and the warm earth must do the rest. Goethe touched the heart of the
matter when he wrote:

  "Shoot your own thread right through the earthly tissue
   Bravely; and leave the gods to find the issue."

In all work of the highest quality God must be taken into account. No man
works in isolation and solitude; he works within the circle of a divine
order, and his chief concern is to work with that order. To aim
exclusively at one's own advancement and ease is to put oneself outside
that order and to sever oneself from those sources of power which feed and
sustain all whom they reach. In that order a man finds his place by
bringing to perfection all that is in him, and so making himself a new
centre of life and power among men.

Whatever is true of the religious life is true also of the working life;
the two are different aspects of the same vital experience. In the field
of work he who would keep his life must lose it, and in losing his life a
man secures it for immortality. The noble worker pours himself into his
work with sublime indifference to its rewards, and by the very
completeness of his self-surrender and self-forgetfulness touches degrees
of excellence and attains a splendour of vision which are denied those
whose ventures are less daring and complete. And the largeness of
conception, the breadth of treatment, the beauty of skill which a man
gains when he casts all his spiritual fortune into his work often secure
the richest measure of those returns which men value so highly because
they are the tangible evidences of success. No man can forget himself for
the sake of fame; but let him forget himself for the sake of his work, and
fame will gladly serve him while lesser men are vainly wooing her. The man
who is superior to fortune is much more likely to be fortunate than he who
flatters fortune and wears her livery. Notwithstanding the successes that
attend cleverness and dexterity and the flattery of popular taste and the
study of the weaknesses of men, it remains true that greatness rules in
every sphere, and that in the exact degree in which a man is superior is
he authoritative and finally successful. Notoriety is easily bought, but
fame remains unpurchasable; external successes, sought as final ends, are
but the hollow mockeries of true achievement.

Chapter XV

Securing Right Conditions

To secure the finest growth of a plant there must be a careful study of
the conditions of soil, exposure, and moisture, or sun which it needs;
when these conditions are supplied and the necessary oversight furnished,
nature may be trusted to do her work with ideal completeness. Now, the
perfect unfolding of a rich personality involves the utmost intelligence
in the discernment of the conditions which are essential, and the utmost
persistence in the maintenance of those conditions after they have been
secured. Perfectly developed men and women are rare, not only because
circumstances are so often unfavourable, but also because so little
thought is given, as a rule, to this aspect of life. The majority of men
make use of such conditions and material as they find at hand; they do not
make a thorough study of the things they need, and then resolutely set
about the work of securing these essential things. Many men use faithfully
the opportunities which come to hand, but they do not, by taking thought,
convert the whole of life into one great opportunity.

When a man discovers that he has a special gift or talent, his first duty
is to turn that gift into personal power by securing its fullest
development. The recognition of such a gift generally brings with it the
knowledge of the conditions which it needs for its complete unfolding; and
when that discovery is made a man holds the clew to the solution of the
problem of his life. The world is full of unintelligent sacrifice,--
sacrifice which is sound in motive, and therefore does not fail to secure
certain results in character, but which is lacking in clear discernment,
and fails, therefore, to accomplish the purpose for which it was made.
Such unavailing sacrifice is always pathetic, for it involves a waste of
spiritual power. One of the chief sources of this kind of waste is the
habit which so many American communities have formed of calling a man into
all kinds of activity before he has had time to thoroughly train and
develop himself. Let a young teacher, preacher, speaker, or artist give
promise of an unusual kind, and straightway all manner of enterprises
solicit his support, local organisations and movements urge their claims
upon him, reforms and philanthropies command his active co-operation; and
if he wisely resists the pressure he is in the way of being set down as
selfish, unenterprising, and lacking in public spirit.

As a matter of fact, in most cases, it is the community, not the
individual, which is selfish; for communities are often ruthless
destroyers of promising youth.

The gifted young preacher must clearly discern the needs of his own nature
or he will miss the one thing which he was probably sent into the world to
accomplish, the one thing which all men are sent into the world to
secure,--free and noble self-development. He must be wiser than his parish
or the community; he must recognise the peril which comes from the too
close pressure of near duties at the start. The community will
thoughtlessly rob him of the time, the quiet, and the repose necessary for
the unfolding of his spirit; it will drain him in a few years of the
energy which ought to be spread over a long period of time; and at the end
of a decade it will begin to say, under its breath, that its victim has
not fulfilled the promise of his youth. It will fail to discern that it
has blighted that promise by its own urgent demands. The young preacher
who is eager to give the community the very greatest service in his power
will protect it and himself by locking his study door and resolutely
keeping it locked.

The young artist and writer must pass through the same ordeal, and must
learn before it is too late that he who is to render the highest service
to his fellows must be most independent in his relations to them. He
cannot commit the management of his life to others without maiming or
blighting it. The community insists upon immediate activity at the expense
of ultimate service, upon present productivity at the cost of ultimate
power. The artist must learn, therefore, to bar his door against the
public until he has so matured his own strength and determined his own
methods that neither crowds nor applause nor demands can confuse or
disturb him. The great spirits who have nourished the best life of the
race have not turned to their fellows for their aims and habits of work;
they have taken counsel of that ancient oracle which speaks in every man's
soul, and to that counsel they have remained steadfastly true. There is no
clearer disclosure of divine guidance in the confusion of human aims and
counsels than the presence of a distinct faculty or gift in a man; and
when such a gift reveals itself a man must follow it, though it cost him
everything which is most dear; and he must give it the largest opportunity
of growth, though he face the criticism of the world in the endeavour.

Life is always a struggle, and no man comes to any kind of mastery without
a conflict. The really great man is often compelled to light for his right
to live in the freedom of spirit. Prophets, poets, teachers, and artists
have known the scorn, hatred, and rejection of society; they have known
also its flatteries, rewards, and imperious demands; and they have learned
that in both moods society is the foe of the highest development and of
the noblest talent. He who breaks under the scorn or yields to the
adulation becomes the creature of those whom he would serve, and so misses
his own highest fortune and theirs as well; he who forgets the
indifference in steadfast work, and holds to his aims and habits when
success knocks at his door, gains the most and the best for himself and
for others.

For the highest service which a man can render to his kind is possible
only when he secures for himself the largest and noblest development; to
stop short of that development is to rob himself and society. Selfishness
does not lie in turning a deaf ear to present calls for work and help; it
lies in indifference to the ultimate call. Goethe was by no means a man of
symmetrical character, and there were reaches of spiritual life which he
never traversed; but the charge of selfishness urged against him because
he gave himself up completely to the work which he set out to do cannot be
sustained. The very noblest service which he could render to the world was
to hold himself apart from its multiform activities in order that he might
enrich every department of its thought. For life consists not only in the
doing of present duties, but in the unfolding of the relations of men to
the entire spiritual order of which they are part, and in the enrichment
of human experience by insight, interpretation, and the play of the
creative faculties. The artist finds his use in the enrichment of life,
and his place in the order of service is certainly not less assured and
noble than that of the man of action. Such a nature as Dante's does more
for men than a host of those who are doing near duties and performing the
daily work of the world. Let no man decry the spiritual greatness of these
obvious claims and tasks; but on the other hand, let not the man of
practical affairs and of what may be called the executive side of ethical
activity decry the artists, the thinkers, and the poets.

It is the duty of some men to leave reforms alone, and to give themselves
up to study, meditation, and the creative spirit and mood. Of men of
practical ability the world stands in little need; of men of spiritual
insight, imaginative force, and creative energy it stands in sore need.
When such a gift appears it ought to be sacredly guarded. It may be that
it has a work to do which demands absolute detachment from the ordinary
affairs of society. To assault it with the claims of the hour is to defeat
its purpose and rob the future. It must have quiet, leisure, repose. Let
it dream for a while in the silence of sweet gardens, within the walls of
universities, in the fruitful peace of undisturbed days; for out of such
dreams have come "As You Like It," "The Tempest," "In Memoriam," and "The
Vision of Sir Launfal." Out of such conditions have come also the work of
Darwin, Spencer, Martineau, Maurice, Jowett, and Childs. He who is bent on
making a wise use of his abilities may safely be left to choose his own
methods and to create his own conditions.

Chapter XVI


When a man has discovered the conditions which are necessary to his most
complete development, he will, if he is wise and strong, resolutely
preserve these conditions from all disturbing influences and claims. He
will not hesitate to disappoint the early and eager expectation of his
friends by devoting himself to practice while they are clamorous for work;
he will take twenty years for preparation, if necessary, and cheerfully
accept indifference and the pangs of being forgotten, if at the end of
that time he can do a higher work in a better way. He who takes a long
range must expect that his target will be invisible to those who happen to
be taking note of him; he will need, therefore, to have a very clear
perception of the end he is pursuing, and great persistence in the pursuit
of that end.

The alertness and facility of the American temperament are very engaging
and useful qualities, but they involve serious perils for those who are
bent upon doing the best thing in the best way. The man who can turn his
hand readily to many things is likely to do many things well, but to do
nothing with commanding force and skill. One may have a fund of energy
which needs more than one field to give it adequate play; but he who hopes
to achieve genuine distinction in any kind of production must give some
particular work the first place in his interest and activity, and must
pour his whole soul into the doing of that work. A man may enjoy many
diversions by the way, but he must never forget the end of his journey. If
he is wise, he will not hasten; he will not miss the sights and sounds and
pleasures which give variety to travel and bring rest to the traveller;
but he will hold all these things subordinate to the accomplishment of his
journey. He will rest for the sake of the strength it will give him; he
will turn aside for the enjoyment of the view; he will linger in sweet and
silent places to take counsel with his own thoughts; but the staff and
wallet will never be laid aside.

There are no men so interesting as those who are quietly and steadfastly
following some distant aim which is invisible to others. One recognises
them because they seem to be moving silently but surely onward. Skill,
insight, and power steadily flow to them; and, apparently without effort,
they climb step by step the steep acclivity where influence and fame
abide. They are supremely interesting because, through absorption in their
work, they are largely free from self-consciousness, and because they
bring with them the air and stir of growth and movement. They rarely
obtrude their interests or pursuits upon others, but they give the
impression of a definiteness of aim which cannot be obscured or blurred,
and a concentration of energy which steadily reacts in increase of power.
They are not only the heroic workers of the world, but they also set in
motion the deeper currents of thought and action; into the atmosphere of a
sluggish age they infuse freshness and vitality; they do not drift with
majorities, they determine their own courses, and sweep others into the
wide circles of influence which issue from them. They are the leaders,
organisers, energising spirits of society; they do not copy, but create;
they do not accept, but form conditions; they mould life to their purpose,
and stamp themselves on materials.

To the making of genuine careers concentration is quite as essential as
energy; to achieve the highest success, a man must not only be willing to
pour out his vitality without stint or measure, but he must also be
willing to give himself. For concentration is, at bottom, entire surrender
of one's life to some definite end. In order to focus all one's powers at
a single point, there must be abandonment of a wide field of interest and
pleasure. One would like to do many things and take into himself many
kinds of knowledge, many forms of influence; but if one is to master an
art, a craft, or a profession, one must be willing to leave many paths
untrod, to build many walls, and to lock many doors. When the boy has
learned his lessons he may roam the fields and float on the river at his
own sweet will; but so long as he is at the desk he must be deaf to the
invitation of sky and woods. When a man has mastered his work he may
safely roam the world; but while he is an apprentice let him be deaf and
blind to all things that interrupt or divert or dissipate the energies.

Mr. Gladstone's astonishing range of interests and occupations was made
possible by his power of concentration. He gave himself completely to the
work in hand; all his knowledge, energy, and ability were focussed on that
work, so that his whole personality was brought to a point of intense
light and heat, as the rays of the sun are brought to a point in a
burning-glass. When the power of concentration reaches this stage of
development, it liberates a man from dependence upon times, places, and
conditions; it makes privacy possible in crowds, and silence accessible in
tumults of sound; it withdraws a man so completely from his surroundings
that he secures complete isolation as readily as if the magic carpet of
the "Arabian Nights" were under him to bear him on the instant into the
solitude of lonely deserts or inaccessible mountains. More than this, it
enables a man to work with the utmost rapidity, to complete his task in
the shortest space of time, and to secure for himself, therefore, the
widest margin of time for his own pleasure and recreation.

The marked differences of working power among men are due chiefly to
differences in the power of concentration. A retentive and accurate memory
is conditioned upon close attention. If one gives entire attention to what
is passing before him, he is not likely to forget it or to confuse persons
or incidents. The book which one reads with eyes which are continually
lifted from the page may furnish entertainment for the moment, but cannot
enrich the reader, because it cannot become part of his knowledge.

Attention is the simplest form of concentration, and its value illustrates
the supreme importance of that focussing of all the powers upon the thing
in hand which may be called the sustained attention of the whole nature.

Here, as everywhere in the field of man's life, there enters that element
of sacrifice without which no real achievement is possible. To secure a
great end, one must be willing to pay a great price. The exact adjustment
of achievement to sacrifice makes us aware, at every step, of the
invisible spiritual order with which all men are in contact in every kind
of endeavour. If the highest skill could be secured without long and
painful effort it would be wasted through ignorance of its value, or
misused through lack of education; but a man rarely attains great skill
without undergoing a discipline of self-denial and work which gives him
steadiness, restraint, and a certain kind of character. The giving up of
pleasures which are wholesome, the turning aside from fields which are
inviting, the steady refusal of invitations and claims which one would be
glad to accept or recognise, invest the power of concentration with moral
quality, and throw a searching light on the nature of all genuine success.
To do one thing well, a man must be willing to hold all other interests
and activities subordinate; to attain the largest freedom, a man must
first bear the cross of self-denial.

Chapter XVII


The ability to relax the tension of work is as important as the power of
concentration; for the two processes combine in the doing of the highest
kind of work. There are, it is true, great differences between men in
capacity for sustained toil. Some men are able to put forth their energy
at the highest point of efficiency for a short time only, while the
endurance of others seems to be almost without limit. In manual or
mechanical work it is mainly a question of physical or nervous resources;
in creative work, however relaxation is not a matter of choice; it is a
matter of necessity, because it affects the quality of the product. In the
alertness of attention, the full activity of every faculty, the glow of
the imagination, which accompany the putting forth of the creative power,
the whole force of the worker is concentrated and his whole nature is
under the highest tension. Everything he holds of knowledge, skill,
experience, emotion flows to one point; as waters which have gathered from
the surface of a great stretch of country sometimes run together and
sweep, in deep, swift current, through a narrow pass. In such moments
there is a concentration of thought, imagination, and spiritual energy
which fuses all the forces of the worker into one force and directs that
force to a single point.

In such a moment there is obviously a closing in of a man's nature from
outward influences. The very momentum with which the absorbed worker is
urged on in the accomplishment of his design shuts him from those
approaches of truth and knowledge which are made only when the mind is at
ease. One sees a hundred things in the woods as he saunters through their
depths which are invisible as he rushes through on a flying train; and one
is conscious of a vast world of sights, sounds, and odours when he sits
out of doors at ease, of which he is oblivious when he is absorbed in any
kind of task. Now, in order to give work the individuality and freshness
of the creative spirit, one must be, at certain times, as open to these
manifold influences from without as one must be, at other times, closed
against them; the tension of the whole being which is necessary for the
highest achievement must be intermitted. The flow of energy must be
stopped at intervals in order that the reservoir may have time to fill. In
the lower forms of work relaxation is necessary for health; in the higher
forms of work it is essential for creativeness.

It is a very superficial view of the nature of man which limits growth to
periods of self-conscious activity; a view so superficial that it not only
betrays ignorance of the real nature of man's relation to his world, but
also of the real nature of work. Activity is not necessarily work; it is
often motion without direction, progress, or productiveness; mere waste of
energy. In every field of life--religious, intellectual, material--there
is an immense amount of activity which is sheer waste of power. Work is
energy intelligently put forth; and intelligence in work depends largely
upon keeping the whole nature in close and constant relation with all the
sources of power. To be always doing something is to be as useless for the
higher purposes of growth and influence as to be always idle; one can do
nothing with a great show of energy, and one can do much with very little
apparent effort. In no field of work is the difference between barren and
fruitful activity more evident than in teaching. Every one who has
acquaintance with teachers knows the two types: the man who is never at
rest, but who pushes through the school day, watch in hand, with gongs
sounding, monitors marking, classes marching, recitations beginning and
ending with military precision, sharply defined sections in each text-book
arbitrarily covered in each period; a mechanic of tireless activity, who
never by any chance touches the heart of the subject, opens the mind of
the pupil, enriches his imagination, or liberates his personality: and the
other type, the real teacher, who is concerned not to sustain a mechanical
industry, but to create a dynamic energy; who cares more for truth than
for facts, for ability than for dexterity, for skill of the soul than for
cunning of the brain; who aims to put his pupil in heart with nature as
well as in touch with her phenomena; to disclose the formative spirit in
history as well as to convey accurate information; to uncover the depths
of human life in literature as well as to set periods of literary
development in external order. Such a man may use few methods, and attach
small importance to them; the railroad atmosphere of the schedule may be
hateful to him in the school-room; but he is the real worker, for he
achieves that which his noisier and more bustling colleague misses,--the
education of his pupils. He is not content to impart knowledge; he must
also impart culture; for without culture knowledge is the barren
possession of the intellectual artisan.

Now, culture involves repose, openness of mind, that spiritual hospitality
which is possible only when the nature is relaxed and lies fallow like the
fields which are set aside in order that they may regain fertility. The
higher the worker the deeper the need of relaxation in the large sense. A
man must be nourished before he can feed others; must be enriched in his
own nature before he can make others rich; must be inspired before he
reveal, prophesy, or create in any field. If he makes himself wholly a
working power, he isolates himself from the refreshment and re-creative
power of the living universe in which he toils; in that isolation he may
do many things with feverish haste, but he can do nothing with commanding
ability. He narrows his energy to a rivulet by cutting himself off from
the hills on which the feeding springs rise and the clouds pour down their
richness. The rivulet may be swift, but it can never have depth, volume,
or force. The great streams in which the stars shine and on which the
sails of commerce whiten and fade are fed by half a continent.

To the man who is bent upon the highest personal efficiency through the
most complete self-development a large part of life must be set aside for
that relaxation which, by relief from tension and from concentration, puts
the worker into relation with the influences and forces that nourish and
inspire the spirit. The more one can gain in his passive moods, the more
will he have to give in his active moods; for the greater the range of
one's thought, the truer one's insight, and the deeper one's force of
imagination, the more will one's skill express and convey. A man's life
ought to be immensely in excess of his expression, and a man's life has
its springs far below the plane of his work. Emerson's work reveals the
man, because it contains the man, but the man was fashioned before the
work began. The work played no small part in the unfolding of the man's
nature, but that which gave the work individuality and authority antedated
both poems and essays. These primal qualities had their source in the
personality of the thinker and poet, and were developed and refined by
long intimacy with nature, by that fruitful quietness and solitude which
open the soul to the approach of the deepest truths and most liberating
experiences. Emerson knew how to relax, to surrender to the hour and the
place, to invite the higher powers by throwing all the doors open; and
these receptive hours, when he gave himself into the keeping of the
spirit, were the most fertile periods of his life; they enriched and
inspired him for the hours of work.

Chapter XVIII


There is a radical difference between relaxation and recreation. To relax
is to unbend the bow, to diminish the tension, to lie fallow, to open the
nature on all sides. Relaxation involves passivity; it is a negative
condition so far as activity is concerned, although it is often a positive
condition so far as growth is concerned. Recreation, on the other hand,
involves activity, but activity along other lines than those of work.
Froebel first clearly developed the educational significance and uses of
play. Earlier thinkers and writers on education had seen that play is an
important element in the unfolding of a child's nature, but Froebel
discerned the psychology of play and showed how it may be utilised for
educational purposes. His comments on this subject are full of
significance: "The plays of the child contain the germ of the whole life
that is to follow; for the man develops and manifests himself in play, and
reveals the noblest aptitudes and the deepest elements of his being.
...The plays of childhood are the germinal leaves of all later life; for
the whole man is developed and shown in these, in his tenderest
dispositions, in his innermost tendencies." And one of Froebel's most
intimate associates suggests another service of play, when he says: "It is
like a fresh bath for the human soul when we dare to be children again
with children." Play is the prelude to work, and stands in closest
relation to it; it is the natural expression of the child's energy, as
work is the natural expression of the man's energy. In play and through
play the child develops the power that is in him, comes to knowledge of
himself, and realises his relation with other children and with the world
about him. In the free and unconscious pouring out of his vitality he
secures for himself training, education, and growth.

The two instincts which impel the child to play are the craving for
activity and the craving for joy. In a healthy child the vital energy
rushes out with a fountain-like impetuosity and force; he does not take
thought about what he shall do, for it is of very little consequence what
he does so long as he is in motion. A boy, with the high spirits of
perfect health, is, at times, an irresponsible force. He acts
instinctively, not intelligently; and he acts under the pressure of a
tremendous vitality, not as the result of design or conviction. The
education of play is the more deep and fundamental because it is received
in entire unconsciousness; like the landscape which sank into the soul of
the boy blowing mimic hootings to the owls on the shore of Winander. The
boy who has the supreme good fortune of physical, mental, and moral health
often passes the invisible line between play and work without
consciousness of the critical transition. In the life of a man so
harmonious in nature and so fortunate in condition, work is a normal
evolution of play; and the qualities which make play educational and vital
give work its tone and temper. Activity and joy are not dissevered in such
a normal unfolding of a man's life.

Now, play is as much a need of the man's nature as of the boy's, and if
work is to keep its freshness of interest, its spontaneity, and its
productiveness, it must retain the characteristics of play; it must have
variety, unconsciousness of self, joy. Activity it cannot lose, but joy
too often goes out of it. The fatal tendency to deadness, born of routine
and repetition, overtakes the worker long before his force is spent, and
blights his work by sapping its vitality. Real work always sinks its roots
deep in a man's nature, and derives its life from the life of the man;
when the vitality of the worker begins to subside, through fatigue,
exhaustion of impulse, or loss of interest, the work ceases to be
original, vital, and genuine. Whatever impairs the worker's vitality
impairs his work. So close is the relation between the life of the artist
and the life of his art that the stages of his decline are clearly marked
in the record of his work. It is of the highest importance, therefore,
that a man keep himself in the most highly vitalised condition for the
sake of productiveness.

No one can keep in this condition without the rest which comes from self-
forgetfulness and the refreshment which comes from joy; one can never lose
the capacity for play without some sacrifice of the capacity for work. The
man who never plays may not show any loss of energy, but he inevitably
shows loss of power; he may continue to do a certain work with a certain
efficiency, but he cannot give it breadth, freshness, spiritual
significance. To give one's work these qualities one must withdraw from it
at frequent intervals, and suffer the energies to play in other
directions; one must not only diminish the tension and lessen the
concentration of attention; one must go further and seek other objects of
interest and other kinds of activity; and these objects and activities
must be sought and pursued freely, joyfully, and in forgetfulness of self.
The old delight of the playground must be called back by the man, and must
be at the command of the man. The boy's play, in a real sense, creates the
man; the man's play re-creates him by re-vitalising him, refreshing him
and restoring to him that delight in activity for its own sake which is
the evidence of fresh impulse.

This is the true meaning of recreation; it involves that spiritual
recuperation and reinforcement which restore a man his original energy of
impulse and action. Recreation is, therefore, not a luxury, but a
necessity; not an indulgence, but a duty. When a man is out of health
physically and neglects to take the precautions or remedies which his
condition demands, he becomes, if he has intelligence, a suicide; for he
deliberately throws his life away. In like manner, the man who destroys
his freshness and force by making himself a slave to work and so
transforming what ought to be a joy into a task, commits a grave offence
against himself and society. The highest productivity will never be
secured until the duty of recreation is set on the same plane with that of
work, and the obligation to nourish one's life made as binding as the
obligation to spend one's life.

How a man shall secure recreation and in what form he shall take it
depends largely upon individual conditions. Mr. Gladstone found recreation
not only in tree-cutting but in Homeric studies; Lord Salisbury finds it
in chemistry; Washington found it in hunting; Wordsworth in walking;
Carlyle in talking and smoking; Mr. Balfour finds it in golf, and Mr.
Cleveland in fishing. Any pursuit or occupation which takes a man out of
the atmosphere of his work-room and away from his work, gives him
different interests, calls into activity different muscles or faculties,
brings back the spirit of play, recalls the spontaneous and joyous mood,
and re-creates through diversion, variety, and the appeal to another side
of the nature. To work long and with cumulative power, one must play often
and honestly; that is to say, one must play for the pure joy of it.

Chapter XIX

Ease of Mood

Ease, it has been said, is the result of forgotten toil; and ease is
essential to the man who works continuously and on a large scale. It is
fortunate, rather than the reverse, when one's work is not easily done at
the start; for early facility is often fatal to real proficiency. The man
who does his work without effort at the beginning is tempted to evade the
training and discipline which bring ease to the mind and the hand because
both have learned the secret of the particular work and mastered the art
of doing it with force and freedom. Facility is mere agility; ease comes
from the perfect adjustment of the man to his tools, his materials, and
his task. The facile man, as a rule, does his work with as little effort
at twenty as at fifty; the man of trained skill does his work with
increasing comfort and power. The first starts more readily; the second
has the greater faculty of growth, and is more likely to become an artist
in the end.

It is significant that the most original and capacious minds, like the
most powerful bodies, often betray noticeable awkwardness at the start;
they need prolonged exercise in order to secure freedom of movement; they
must have time for growth. Minds of a certain superficial brilliancy, on
the other hand, often mature early because they have so little depth and
range. To be awkward in taking hold of one's work is not, therefore, a
thing to be regretted; as a rule it is a piece of good fortune.

But awkwardness must finally give place to ease if one is to do many
things or great things, and do them well. Balzac wrote many stories before
he secured harmony and force of style; but if, as the result of his long
apprenticeship, he had failed to secure these qualities, the creation of
the "Comedie Humaine" would have been beyond his power. The work was so
vast that no man could have accomplished it who had not learned to work
rapidly and easily. For ease, when it is the result of toil, evidences the
harmonious action of the whole nature; it indicates that mastery which
comes to those only who see all the possibilities of the material in hand
and readily put all their power into the shaping of it. A great work of
art conveys an impression, not of effort, but of force and resource. One
is convinced that Shakespeare could have written plays and Rembrandt
painted portraits through an indefinite period of time without strain or

Strain and exhaustion are fatal to fine quality of work,--exhaustion,
because it deprives work of vitality; and strain, because it robs work of
repose, harmony, and charm. It is interesting to note how deeply an
audience enjoys ease in a speaker; when he seems to be entirely at home
and to have complete command of his resources, his hearers throw off all
apprehension, all fear that their sympathies may be drawn upon, and give
themselves up to the charm of beautiful or compelling speech. Let a
speaker show embarrassment or anxiety, on the other hand, and his hearers
instantly share his anxiety. There are speakers, moreover, who give no
occasion for any concern about their ability to deal with a subject or an
occasion, but whose exertion is so evident that the audience, which is
always sensitive to the psychologic condition of a speaker, is wearied and
sometimes exhausted. It is one of the characteristics of art that it
conceals all trace of toil; and a man's work never takes on the highest
qualities until all evidences of labour and exertion are effaced from it.
Not many months ago the members of a court of very high standing expressed
great pleasure in the prospect of hearing a certain lawyer of eminence on
the following morning. These judges were elderly men, who had listened
patiently through long years to arguments of all kinds, presented with all
degrees of skill. They had doubtless traversed the whole field of
jurisprudence many times, and could hardly anticipate any surprises of
thought or novelties of argument. And yet these patient and long-suffering
jurists were looking forward with delight to the opportunity of hearing
another argument on an abstruse question of legal construction! The
explanation of their interest was not far to seek. The jurist whose
appearance before them was anticipated with so much pleasure is notable in
his profession for ease of manner, which is in itself a very great charm.
This ease invests his discussions of abstract or obscure questions with a
grace and finish which are within the command of the artist only; and the
artist is always fresh, delightful, and captivating. Mr. Gladstone's
friends recall as one of his captivating qualities the ease with which he
seemed to do his work. He was never in haste; he always conveyed the
impression of having ample time for his varied and important tasks. If he
had felt the spur of haste he would have lost his power of winning through
that delightful old-fashioned courtesy which none could resist; if in his
talks, his books, or his speeches there had been evidences of strain, he
would not have kept to the end an influence which was due in no small
measure to the impression of reserve power which he always conveyed.

Ease of mood is essential to long-sustained working-power. The anxious man
loses force, and the laborious man time, which cannot be spared from the
greater tasks. Wellington used to say that a successful commander must do
nothing which he could get other men to do; he must delegate all lesser
tasks and relieve himself of all care of details, in order that he might
concentrate his full force on the matter in hand. It is said that the most
daring and compelling men are invariably cool and quiet in manner. Such
men lose nothing by friction or waste of energy; they work with the ease
which is born of toil.

Chapter XX

Sharing the Race-Fortune

The development of one's personality cannot be accomplished in isolation
or solitude; the process involves close and enduring association with
one's fellows. If work were purely a matter of mechanical skill, each
worker might have his cell and perform his task, as in a prison. But work
involves the entire personality, and the personality finds its complete
unfolding, not in detachment, but in association. Talent, says Goethe,
thrives in solitude, but character grows in the stream of the world. It is
a twofold discovery which a man must make before the highest kind of
success lies within his grasp: the discovery of his own individual gift,
force, or aptitude, and the discovery of his place in society. If it were
possible to secure complete development of one's power in isolation, the
product would be, not the full energy of a man expressing itself through a
congenial activity, but a detached skill exercised automatically and apart
from a personality.

In order to stand erect on his feet, in true and fruitful relations with
the world about him, a man must join hands with his fellows. For a very
large part of his education must come from his contact with the race.
Since men began to live and to learn the lessons of life, each generation
has added something to that vital knowledge of the art of living which is
the very soul of culture, and something to the constructive and positive
product of this vital knowledge wrought out into institutions,
organisations, science, art, and religion. This inheritance of culture and
achievement is the richest possession into which the individual member of
the race is born, and he cannot take possession of his share of the race-
fortune unless he becomes one of the race family. This race-fortune is the
product of the colossal work of the race through its entire history; it
represents the slow and painful toil and saving of countless multitudes of
men and women. It is a wealth beside which all purely monetary forms of
riches are fleeting and secondary; it is the enduring spiritual endowment
of the race secured by the incalculable toil of all past generations.

Now, no man can secure his share in this race-fortune until he joins the
ranks of the workers and takes his place in the field, the shop, the
factory, the study, or the _atelier_. The idle man is always a detached
man, and is, therefore, excluded from the privileges of heirship. To get
the beauty of any kind of art one must train himself to see, to
understand, and to enjoy; for art is a sealed book to the ignorant. To
secure the largeness of view which comes from a knowledge of many cities
and races, one must travel with a mind already prepared by prolonged
study. The approach to every science is guarded by doors which open only
to the hand which has been made strong by patient and persistent exercise.
Every department of knowledge is barred and locked against the ignorant;
nothing which represents achievement, thought, knowledge, skill, beauty,
is within reach of the idle. Society has secured nothing which endures
save as the result of persistent and self-denying work; and nothing which
it has created can be understood, nothing which it has accumulated can be
appropriated, without kindred self-denial and toil. It is evident,
therefore, that the material for the education of the individual cannot be
secured save by intimate fellowship with the race. This fellowship must
rest also in present relations; for while man may get much that is of vast
importance by contact with the working race of the past, he cannot get
either the richest material or put himself under the deepest educational
process without making himself one with the working race of to-day. The
race-fortune, unlike other fortunes, does not increase by its own
productive powers; it grows only as it is employed by those who inherit
it. Investments of capital often lose their vitality; they still represent
a definite sum of money, but they make no returns of interest. In like
manner the accumulations of the race become dead unless they are
constantly vitalised by effective use. The richest material for culture is
valueless unless it is so employed as continually to renew the temper of
culture in those who possess it. The richest results of past toil, genius,
and life are without significance in the hands of the ignorant; and it has
happened more than once that the pearls of past civilisation have been
trampled into the mire by the feet of swine.

The architectural remains of the older Rome were ruthlessly destroyed in
the years before the Renaissance and put to menial use as mere building
material. They had reverted to the condition and value of crude stone,
because no one perceived their higher values.

There is, unfortunately, another kind of ignorance, not quite so dense as
that which does not recognise beauty of form or value of historical
association, but not less destructive; there is that ignorance of the
spiritual force behind the form which makes a fetish of the form, and so
misses the interior wealth which it contains. There has spread among men
and women of the _dilettante_ temper the belief that to know the results
and products of the past simply as curios and relics is to share the
culture which these things of beauty and skill embody and preserve; and
this false idea has helped to spread abroad the feeling that culture is
accomplishment rather than force, and that it is for the idle rather than
for the active and creative. There never was a more radical misconception
of a fundamental process, for culture in the true sense involves, as a
process, the highest and truest development of a race, and, as a product,
the most enduring spiritual expression of race genius and experience. The
culture of the Greeks was the highest form of their vital force; and the
product of that culture was not only their imperishable art, but their
political, social, and religious organisation and ideals. Their deepest
life went into their culture, and the most enduring fruits of that culture
are also the most significant expressions of their life.

To get at the sources of power in Shakespeare's plays, one must not only
understand the secrets of their structure as works of art, but one must
also discern their value as human documents; one must pass through them
into the passion, the suffering, the toil of the race. No one can get to
the heart of those plays without getting very near to the heart of his
race; and no one can secure the fruits of culture from their study until
he has come to see, with Shakespeare, that the unrecorded life-experience
of the race is more beautiful, more tragic, and more absorbing than all
the transcriptions of that experience made by men of genius. In other
words, the ultimate result of a true study of Shakespeare is such an
opening of the mind and such a quickening of the imagination that the
student sees on all sides, in the lives of those about him, the stuff of
which the drama is made. Not to the idle, but to the workers, does
Shakespeare reveal himself.

Chapter XXI

The Imagination in Work

The uses of the imagination are so little understood by the great majority
of men, both trained and untrained, that it is practically ignored not
only in the conduct of life, but of education. It receives some incidental
development as a result of educational processes, but the effort to reach
and affect it as the faculties of observation, of reasoning, and of memory
are made specific objects of training and unfolding, is rarely made. It is
relegated to the service of the poets and painters if it is recognised at
all; and so far as they are concerned it is assumed that they will find
their own way of educating this elusive faculty. As for other men, dealing
with life from the executive or practical sides, it is taken for granted
that if they have imagination they can find no proper use for it.
Individual teachers have often understood the place and function of the
imagination, and have sought to liberate and enrich it by intelligently
planned study; but the schools of most, if not of all, times have treated
it as a wayward and disorderly gift, not amenable to discipline and
training, and of very doubtful value. There has always been, in every
highly civilised society, a good deal that has appealed to this divinest
of all the gifts with which men have been endowed; there have been periods
in which the imagination has been stirred to its depths by the force of
human energy and the play and splendour of human experience and
achievement; but there has never yet been adequate recognition of its
place in the life of the individual and of society, nor intelligent
provision for its education. The movements of thought along educational
lines in recent years show, however, a slow but steady drift toward a
clearer conception of what the imagination may do for men, and of what
education may do for the imagination.

So long as the uses of the imagination in creative work are so little
comprehended by the great majority of men, it can hardly be expected that
its practical uses will be understood. There is a general if somewhat
vague recognition of the force and beauty of its achievements as
illustrated in the work of Dante, Raphael, Rembrandt, and Wagner; but very
few people perceive the play of this supreme architectural and structural
faculty in the great works of engineering, or in the sublime guesses at
truth which science sometimes makes when she comes to the end of the solid
road of fact along which she has travelled. The scientist, the engineer,
the constructive man in every department of work, use the imagination
quite as much as the artist; for the imagination is not a decorator and
embellisher, as so many appear to think; it is a creator and constructor.
Wherever work is done on great lines or life is lived in fields of
constant fertility, the imagination is always the central and shaping
power. Burke lifted statesmanship to a lofty plane by the use of it;
Edison, Tesla, and Roebling in their various ways have shown its magical
quality; and more than one man of fortune owes his success more to his
imagination than to that practical sagacity which is commonly supposed to
be the conjurer which turns all baser metals into gold.

That splendour of the spirit which shines in the great art of the world
shines also in all lesser work that is genuine and sincere; for the higher
genius of man, which is the heritage of all who make themselves ready to
receive it, is present in all places where honest men work, and moulds all
materials which honest men handle. Indeed the most convincing evidence of
the activity of this supreme faculty is to be found, not in the works of
men of exceptional gift, but in the work of the obscure and
undistinguished. It is impossible to energise the imagination among the
workers without energising it among the artists; and artists never appear
in great numbers unless there is in the common work of common men a touch
of vitality and freshness. A real movement of the imagination is never
confined to a class; it is always shared by the community. It does not
come in like a group of unrelated rivulets fed by separate fountains; it
comes like a tide, slowly or swiftly rising until it enfolds a wide reach
of territory. The presence of a true art spirit shows itself not so
conclusively in a few noble works as in the touch of originality and
beauty on common articles in common use; on furniture, and domestic
pottery, and in the love of flowers.

The genius of a race works from below upward, as the seed sends its shoot
out of the hidden place where it is buried; and when it becomes luminous
in books, painting, and architecture, it grows also in out-of-the-way
places and in things of humble use. The instinct for beauty, which is more
pronounced and fruitful among the Japanese than among any other modern
people, shows itself most convincingly in the originality, variety, and
charm of the shapes which household pottery takes on, and in the quiet but
deep enjoyment of the blossoming apple or cherry, the blooming vine or the
fragrant rose. It is the presence of beauty diffused through the life of a
people in habit, taste, pleasure, and daily use which makes the
concentration of beauty in great and enduring works not only possible but
inevitable; for if a people really care for beauty they will never lack
artists to give enduring expression to that craving which, among men of
lesser gift, shows itself in a constant endeavour to bring material
surroundings into harmony with spiritual aspirations.

This play of the imagination over the whole landscape of life gives it
perennial charm, because it perpetually re-forms and re-arranges it; and
the free movement of the imagination in all occupations and tasks not only
makes work a delight, but gives it a significance and adequacy, which make
it the fit expression, not of a mere skill, but of an immortal spirit. The
work from which this quality is absent may be honest and sincere, but it
cannot be liberalising, joyful, and contagious; it cannot give the nature
free play; it cannot express the man. Patience, persistence, fidelity are
fundamental but not creative qualities; the true worker must possess and
practise them; but he must go far beyond them if he is to put himself into
his work, and bring his work into harmony with those spiritual conditions
and aims which are the invisible but final standards and patterns of all
works and tasks.

One may always get out of hard work the satisfaction which comes from the
consciousness of an honest endeavour to do an honest piece of work; but
the work which inspires rather than exhausts, and the doing of which gives
the hand more freedom and power for the next tasks must be penetrated,
suffused, and shaped by the imagination. The great lawyer, physician,
electrician, teacher, and builder must give his work largeness,
completeness, and nobility of structure by the use of the imagination in
as real and true a sense as the great poet or painter. Without it all work
is hard, detached, mechanical; with it all work is vital, co-ordinated,
original. It must shape, illumine, and adorn; it must build the house,
light the lamp within its walls, and impart to it that touch of beauty
which invests wood and stone with the lightness, the grace, and the
loveliness of spirit itself. We begin with the imagination; it holds its
light over the play of childhood; it is the master of the revels, the
enchantments, and the dreams of youth; it must be also the inspiration of
all toil and the shaping genius of all work.

Chapter XXII

The Play of the Imagination

It is interesting to study the personality of a man whose work is invested
with freshness, charm, and individuality, because such a study invariably
makes us aware of that subtle and elusive skill in the use of all
materials which is not technical but vital. That skill is impossible
without special training, but it is not the product of training; it is not
dexterity; it is not facility; it has the ease and grace of a harmonious
expression of all that is distinctive and original in the man. No one
thinks of technical skill in that moment of revelation which comes when
one stands for the first time in the presence of a noble work; later one
may study at length and with delight the perfection of workmanship
disclosed in solidity of structure and in harmony of detail; but in the
moment of revelation it is the essential and interior truth and beauty,
which shine from form and colour and texture as the soul shines in a human
face, which evoke a thrill of recognition in us.

Now, this higher skill which dominates and subordinates the technical
skill, this skill of the spirit which commands and uses the skill of the
body, is born in the soul of the worker and is the ultimate evidence and
fruit of his mastership. It is conditioned on the free play of the
imagination through all the material which the worker uses. It involves
that fusion of knowledge, intelligence, facility, and insight which can be
effected only by the constant use of the imagination. In statesmanship
Burke and Webster are examples of this highest type of worker; men who not
only command the facts with which they are called upon to deal, but who so
organise and vitalise those facts that, in their final presentation, they
possess the force of irresistible argument, and are illumined and clothed
with perennial beauty as works of art. In like manner, in the pulpit,
Chrysostom, Fenelon, Newman, and Brooks not only set religious truth in
impressive order, but gave it the appealing power of a noble and enduring

It is impossible to do a great piece of work unless one can form an image
of it in advance, unless one can see it as it will finally appear. If one
were limited in vision to the detail actually in hand, the whole would
never be completed; that which makes the perfection of the whole possible
is the ability of the worker to keep that whole before him while he deals
with the detached parts. Without that power the worker is a mechanical
drudge, whose work has no quality save that of dogged fidelity to the
task. Now, this power of keeping the whole before the mind while dealing
with the parts, of seeing the completed machine while shaping a pin or a
cog, of getting the complete effect of the argument while elaborating a
minor point, resides in the imagination. It is the light which must shine
upon all toil that has in it intelligence, prevision, and freshness; and
its glow is as essential in mechanical as in purely artistic work.
Whenever, in any kind of work dealing with any kind of material, there is
any constructive quality, any fitting of part with part, any adjustment of
means to ends, there must be imagination.

Work which is done without imagination is so rudimentary that, at the
best, its highest use is to save some one else a little drudgery. This
elementary kind of work is often done by those students of literature who
confuse the study of grammatical construction with style, and those
students of the Bible who think they are illustrating the truths of
religion by purely textual study. Theology has suffered many things at the
hands of those who have attempted to explain the divine mysteries without
the light which alone penetrates these mysteries. To do the commonest work
with sincerity and force; to understand the simplest character; to perform
the simplest services of friendship; to enter into another's trial and to
give the balm of sympathy to one who is smitten and bruised; to conduct a
campaign by foreseeing the movements of an adversary, or to carry on
successfully a great enterprise by forecasting its probable development;
to make any invention or discovery; to be a really great preacher,
physician, lawyer, teacher, mechanic;--to do any of these things one must
have and one must use the imagination.

The charm with which the imagination invests childhood is due to its
habitual and unconscious use by children, and is suggestive of the methods
by which this faculty may be made the inspirer of all tasks and toil. The
child makes vivid images of the ideas which appeal to it; it gives reality
to those ideas by identifying them with the objective world; it clothes
all things with which it plays with life. In his autobiography Goethe
describes the door in the wall of a certain garden in Frankfort within
which many marvellous things happened; a true romance of incident and
adventure which became as real to the romancer as to his eager and
credulous listeners. De Quincey created an imaginary kingdom, peopled with
imaginary beings whom he ruled with benignant wisdom, amid universal
prosperity and peace, until, in an unlucky hour, he admitted his brother
into a partnership of authority; and that brother, unable to withstand the
temptation of absolute power, became a remorseless tyrant. And De Quincey
feelingly describes the reality of his anguish when, to protect his
innocent subjects from a tyrant's rapacity, he was compelled to destroy
his imaginary kingdom. The imaginative boy turns a vacant lot into an
African jungle, and hunts wild beasts in constant peril of his life; the
imaginative girl carries on social intercourse with her dolls as seriously
as with her most intimate playmates. Everything is real and alive to a
child, and the world of ideas has as much substance as the world of

These characteristics of a child in its play throw clear light on the true
methods of the man in his work; for the play of childhood is prophetic of
the work of maturity; it is the prelude in which all the great motives are
distinctly audible. The man who gives his work completeness and charm must
conceive of that work, not as a detached and isolated activity, but as
part of the great order of life; a product of the vital forces as truly as
the flower which has its roots in the earth. To the growth of the flower
everything contributes; it is not limited to the tiny plot in which it is
planted: the vast chemistry of nature in soil, atmosphere, and sky nourish
it. In like manner a man must habitually think of his work, not as a mere
putting forth of his technical skill, but as the vital product of all the
forces which sustain him. A real poem grows out of all that is deepest in
a man's nature; to its making in spiritual conception, structure, form,
and style his body, his mind, and his soul contribute; its metre adjusting
itself to his breathing, its ideas taking direction and significance from
his thought, and its elusive suggestiveness and beauty conveying something
of his mysterious personality. A true sermon is never what is sometimes
called a pulpit effort; it is always the product of the preacher's
experience; he does not and cannot make it; it must grow within him. A
great oration has the same vital relationship with the orator, the
occasion, the theme, and human experience. It is never a bit of detached
brilliancy; it is always, like Lincoln's address at Gettysburg, the
summing up and expression of a vast and deep movement of the human spirit.
In its form it reveals the man who makes it; in its content it is seen to
be inevitable. It lies in the consciousness of a race before it rises into
the consciousness of the orator and takes flight on the wings of immortal

To think habitually of one's work as a growth and not a thing made out of
hand, as a product of all the forces of one's nature and not a bit of
skill, as alive in the sense in which all things are alive in which spirit
and life express themselves,--to conceive of one's work in this large and
vital way is to keep the imagination playing through and inspiring it.

Chapter XXIII


Superiority of any kind involves discipline, self-denial, and self-
sacrifice. It is the law of excellence that he who would secure it must
pay for it. In this way the intellectual process is bound up with the
moral process, and a man must give his character firmness and fibre before
he can make his talent effective or his genius fruitful. The way of the
most gifted workman is no easier than that of the most mediocre; he learns
his lesson more easily, but he must learn the same lesson. The familiar
story of the Sleeping Princess protected by a hedge of thorns, told in so
many languages, is a parable of all success of a high order. The highest
prizes are always guarded from the facile hand; they exact patience,
persistence, intelligence, and force. If they were easily secured they
would be easily misused; it rarely happens, however, that a man of high
artistic gifts degrades his talent. He may set it to unprofitable uses,
but he rarely makes merchandise of it. A Rembrandt, Thackeray, or Lowell
cannot do inferior work for personal ends without suffering that devouring
remorse which accompanies the conscience of the artist, and turns all
ignoble popular successes into mockeries and scourges.

Moral education precedes mastership in every art, because the training
which mastery involves reacts upon character and gives it steadiness and
solidity. Great writers have sometimes lived careless, irresponsible
lives, but they have always paid a great price for self-indulgence. The
work of an irresponsible man of genius always suggests the loss which
society has suffered by reason of his moral instability. Such men have
done charming work; they have touched their creations with the magic of
natural grace and the beauty of fresh and rich feeling; but they miss that
completeness and finality which carry with them the conviction that the
man has put forth all that was in him. We value what they have done, but
we are always asking whether they could not have done more. Genius is of
so rare and vital a nature that it will flash through all manner of
obscurations, but there is a vast difference between the light which
shines through a clear medium and that which is dimmed and reflected by a
murky atmosphere. A man of Chatterton's temperament will give evidence of
the possession of genius, but how far removed he is, in influence,
position, and power, from a Tennyson or a Wordsworth!

The connection between sane living and sound work is a physiological and
psychological necessity. The time, strength, poise, capacity for sustained
work, steadiness of will, involved in the successful performance of great
tasks or the production of great artistic creations exclude from the race
all save those who bring to it health, vigour, and energy. It is
unnecessary to inquire with regard to the habits of the man who builds up
a great business enterprise or who secures genuine financial reputation
and authority; these achievements always involve self-control, courage,
persistence, and moral vigour. They are beyond the reach of the self-
indulgent man. The man whose weakness of will makes him the victim of
appetite or passion may make brilliant efforts, but he is incapable of
sustained effort; he may do beautiful things from time to time, he cannot
do beautiful things continuously and on a large scale. A Villon may give
the world a few songs of notable sweetness or power; he cannot give the
world a Divine Comedy or the plays of Corneille.

Every attempt to dissever art from character, however brilliantly
sustained, is doomed to failure because the instinct, the intelligence,
and the experience of the race are against it. Physiology and psychology
are as definite as religion in their declarations on this matter; it is
not a question of dogma or even of faith; it is a question of elementary
laws and of common sense. All modern investigation goes to show the subtle
and vital relations which exist between the different parts of a man's
nature, and the certainty of the reaction of one part upon another; so
that whatever touches the body ultimately touches the innermost nature of
the man, and whatever affects the spirit eventually leaves its record on
the physique. Every piece of genuine work which comes from a man's hand
bears the impress of and is stamped with the quality of his whole being;
it is the complex product of all that the man is and of all that be has
done; it is the result of his genius, his industry, and his character.

Goethe saw clearly, as every critic of insight must see, that the artist
is conditioned on the man; that whenever a man does anything which has
greatness in it he does it with his whole nature. Into his verse the poet
puts his body, his mind, and his soul; he is as powerless to detach his
work from his past as he is to detach himself from it; and one of the
saddest penalties of his misdoings is their survival in his work. The
dulness of the poet's ear shows itself in the defective melody of his
verse; for both metre and rhythm have a physiological basis; they
represent and express the harmony which is in the body when the body is
finely attuned to the spirit. Dull senses and a sluggish body are never
found in connection with a great command of the melodic quality in

Goethe, with his deep insight, held so uncompromisingly to the unity of
man and his works, that he would not have tried to escape the criticism of
his nature which his works, adequately interpreted, suggest. He would have
expected to find his moral limitations reproduced in his art. He indicated
the fundamental principle when he said that his works, taken together,
constituted one great confession. And this may be affirmed of every man's
work; it is inevitably, and by the law of his nature, a disclosure of what
he is, and what he is depends largely upon what he has been. Men have
nowhere more conspicuously failed to escape themselves than in their
works. Literary history, especially, is a practically unused treasure-
house of moral illustration and teaching; for in no other record of human
activity is the dependence of a man's work on his nature more constantly
and strikingly brought out. The subtle relation between temperament,
genius, environment, and character is in constant evidence to the student
of literature; and he learns at last the primary truth that because a
man's work is a revelation of the man, it is, therefore, as much a matter
of his character as of his genius. The order of the world is moral in
every fibre; men may do what they please within certain limits, and
because they do what they please society seems to be in a state of moral
chaos; but every word and deed reacts instantly on the man, and this
reaction is so inevitable that since time began not one violator of any
law of life has ever escaped the penalty. He has paid the price of his
word or his deed on the instant in its reaction upon his character. God
does not punish men; they punish themselves in their own natures and in
the work of their hands. When Mirabeau, in the consciousness of the
possession of the most masterful genius of his time, rose to speak in the
States General, he became aware that his dissolute past was standing
beside him and mocking him. His vast power, honestly put forth for great
ends, was neutralised by a record which made belief in him almost
impossible. In bitterness of soul he learned that genius and character are
bound together by indissoluble ties, and that genius without character is
like oil that blazes up and dies down about a shattered lamp. More than
once, in words full of the deepest pathos, he recognised the immense value
of character in men of far less ability than himself. The words which Mrs.
Ward puts into the mouth of Henri Regnault are memorable as embodying
searching criticism: "No, we don't lack brains, we French. All the same, I
tell you, in the whole of that room there are about half-a-dozen people,--
oh, not so many!--not nearly so many!--who will ever make a mark, even for
their own generation, who will ever strike anything out of nature that is
worth having--wrestle with her to any purpose. Why? Because they have
every sort of capacity--every sort of cleverness--and no _character!"_

If a man is insensibly determining the quality of his work by everything
which he is doing; if he is fixing the excellence of its workmanship by
the standards he is accepting and the habits he is forming; if he is
creating in advance its spiritual content and significance by the quality
which his own nature is unconsciously taking on; and if he is determining
its quantity and force by the strength, persistence, and steadfastness
which he is developing, it is clear that work rests ultimately upon
character, and that character conditions work in quality, content, skill,
and mass.

Chapter XXIV

Freedom from Self-Consciousness

The sublime paradox of the spiritual life is repeated in all true
development of personal gift and power. In order to find his life a man
must first lose it; in order to keep his soul a man must first give it.
The beginning of all education is self-conscious; at the start every
effect must be calculated, every skill, method, or dexterity carefully
studied. Training involves a rigid account of oneself based on searching
self-knowledge. To become an effective speaker one must know his defects
of bearing, gesture, voice; one must bring his whole personality into
clear light, and study it as if it were an external thing; one must become
intensely self-conscious. The initiation to every art is through this door
of rigid scrutiny of self and entire surrender of self to the discipline
of minute study and exacting practice. The pianist knows the artistic
value of every note, and strikes each note with carefully calculated
effect. The artist gives himself up to a patient study of details, and is
content with the monotony of laborious imitation; subjecting every element
of material and manner to the most thorough analysis.

The first stage in the education of the true worker is self-conscious; the
final stage is self-forgetful. No man can enter the final stage without
passing through the initial stage; no man can enter the final stage
without leaving the initial stage behind him. One must first develop
intense self-consciousness, and then one must be able to forget and
obliterate himself. One must first accept the most exacting discipline of
the school, and then one must forget that schools exist. The apprentice is
the servant of detail; the master is the servant of the idea: the first
accepts methods as if they were the finalities of art; the second uses
them as mere instruments. Tennyson's attention was once called to certain
very subtle vowel effects in one of his later poems; he promptly said that
he had not thought of them. That was undoubtedly true, for he had become a
master; but there was a time, in his days of apprenticeship, when he had
studied the musical qualities and resources of words with the most
searching intelligence. The transition from apprenticeship to mastery is
accomplished when a man passes through self-consciousness into self-
forgetfulness, when his knowledge and skill become so much a part of
himself that they become instinctive. When the artist has gained, through
calculation, study, and, practice, complete command of himself and his
materials, he subordinates skill to insight, and makes his art the
unconscious expression of his deepest nature. When this stage is reached
the artist can pour his whole soul into his work almost instinctively; his
skill and methods have become so completely a part of himself that he can
use them almost without being conscious of them.

This ability to transform skill into character, to make instinct do the
work of intelligence, to pass from intense self-consciousness into self-
forgetfulness, is the supreme test to which every artist must subject
himself let him sustain this test and his place is secure. To find one's
life in the deepest sense, to bring out and express one's personality, a
man must lose that life; that is to say, he must have the power of entire
self-surrender. When the inspiration comes, as it does come to all
creative spirits, a man must be able to surrender himself to it
completely. When the hour of vision arrives the prophet has no time or
thought to waste on himself; if he is to speak, he must listen with
intense and utter stillness of soul.

In the degree in which a man masters his art does he attain
unconsciousness of self. Great artists have sometimes been great egotists,
but not in their greatest hours or works. And in so far as their egotism
has touched their art it has invariably limited its range or diminished
its depth and power; for in those moments in which the vision is clearest
a man is always lifted above himself. He escapes for the moment the
limitations which ordinarily encircle him as the horizon encircles the

That which is true of the master worker, the artist, is true of all lesser
workers: the highest efficiency is conditioned on the ability to forget
oneself. Self-consciousness is the most serious and painful limitation of
many men and women of genuine capacity and power. It rests like a heavy
load on shoulders which ought to be free; it is an impediment of speech
when speech ought to have entire spontaneity, and freedom. This intense
consciousness of self, although always revealing a certain amount of
egoism, is often devoid of egotism; it is, in many cases, a sign of
diffidence and essential modesty. It is the burden and limitation of those
especially who have high aims and standards, but who distrust their own
ability to do well the things they are eager to do. To be self-conscious
is to waste a great deal of force which ought to go into work; it is to
put into introspection the vitality which ought to issue in some form of
expression. The speaker is never in full command of his theme or his
audience until he has gotten rid of himself; so long as he has to deal
with himself he cannot wholly surrender himself to his theme nor to his
audience. He is hampered, troubled, and anxious when he ought to be free,
calm, and unconcerned. There is but one remedy for self-consciousness, and
that is absorption in one's work. There must first be not only thorough
preparation for the task in hand but thorough training of the whole
nature; for every weak place in a man's education for his work is a point
of self-consciousness. No man of conscience can do easily and
instinctively that which he knows he cannot do well. The worker must have,
therefore, the serenity which comes from confidence in the adequacy of his
preparation. A man can even fail with a clear conscience, if he has taken
every precaution against the possibility of failure. Adequate training
being assumed, a man must cultivate the habit of self-surrender. This is
sometimes difficult, but it is rarely, if ever, impossible.

To take a further illustration from the experience of the speaker, who is,
perhaps, as often as any other kind of worker, burdened and limited at the
start by self-consciousness: it is entirely possible to lose consciousness
of self for the time in the theme or the occasion. Assuming that the
preparatory work has been thorough, a man can train himself to fasten his
thought entirely on his subject and his opportunity. If his theme is a
worthy one and he has given adequate thought or research to it, he can
learn to forget himself and his audience in complete surrender to it.
Companionship with truth invests a man with a dignity which ought to give
him poise and serenity; which will give him calmness and effectiveness if
he regards himself as its servant and messenger. An ambassador is held in
great honour because of the power which he represents; a man who is
dealing in any way with truth or beauty has a right to repose in the
greatness and charm of that for which he stands. This transference of
interest from the outcome of a personal effort to the sharing of a vision
or the conveyance of a power has often made the stammerer eloquent and the
timid spirit heroically indifferent to self. The true refuge of the artist
is absorption in his art; the true refuge of the self-conscious worker is
complete surrender to the dignity and interest of his work.

Chapter XXV


If the conception of man's relation to the world set forth in these
chapters is sound, work is the chief instrumentality in the education of
the human spirit; for it involves both self-realisation and the adjustment
of self to the order of life. Through effort a man brings to light all
that is in him, and by effort he finds his place in the universal order.
Work is his great spiritual opportunity, and the more completely he
expresses himself through it the finer the product and the greater the
worker. There is an essential unity between all kinds of work, as there is
an essential continuity in the life of the race. The rudest implements of
the earliest men and the divinest creations of the greatest artists are
parts of the unbroken effort of humanity to bring into clear consciousness
all that is in it, and all that is involved in its relationship with the
universe. The spiritual history of the race is written in the blurred and
indistinct record of human energy and creativeness, made by the hands of
all races, in all times, in every kind of material. Work has emancipated,
educated, developed, and interpreted the human spirit; it has made man
acquainted with himself; it has set him in harmony with nature; and it has
created that permanent capital of force, self-control, character, moral
power, and educational influence which we call civilisation.

Work has been, therefore, not only the supreme spiritual opportunity, but
the highest spiritual privilege and one of the deepest sources of joy. It
has been an expression not only of human energy but of the creativeness of
the human spirit. By their works men have not only built homes for
themselves in this vast universe, but they have co-operated with the
divine creativeness in the control of force, the modification of
conditions, the fertilisation of the earth, the fashioning of new forms.

In his work man has found God, both by the revelation of what is in his
own spirit and by the discovery of those forces and laws with which every
created thing must be brought into harmony. The divine element in humanity
has revealed itself in that instinct for creativeness which is always
striving for expression in the work of humanity; that instinct which
blindly pushes its way through rudimentary stages of effort to the
possession of skill; slowly transforming itself meanwhile into
intelligence, and flowering at last in the Parthenon, the Cathedral at
Amiens, the Book of Job, Faust, Hamlet, the Divine Comedy, Beethoven's
Fifth Symphony, Wagner's Parsifal, Rembrandt's portraits. This ascent of
the spirit of man out of the mysterious depths of its own consciousness to
these sublime heights of achievement is the true history of the race; the
history which silently unfolds itself through and behind events, and makes
events comprehensible. In the sweat of his brow man has protected and fed
himself; but this has been but the beginning of that continuous miracle
which has not only turned deserts into gardens and water into wine, but
has transformed the uncouth rock into images of immortal beauty, and the
worker from the servant of natural conditions and forces into their
master. Men still work, as their fathers did before them, for shelter and
bread; but the spiritual products of work have long since dwarfed its
material returns. A man must still work or starve in any well-ordered
society; but the products of work to-day are ease, travel, society, art,--
in a word, culture. In that free unfolding of all that is in man and that
ripening of knowledge, taste, and character, which are summed up in
culture, work finds its true interpretation. A man puts himself into his
work in order that he may pass through an apprenticeship of servitude and
crudity into the freedom of creative power. He discovers, liberates,
harmonises, and enriches himself. Through work he accomplishes his
destiny; for one of the great ends of his life is attained only when he
makes himself skilful and creative, masters the secrets of his craft and
pours his spiritual energy like a great tide into his work. The master
worker learns that the secret of happiness is the opportunity and the
ability to express nobly whatever is deepest in his personality, and that
supreme good fortune comes to him who can lose himself in some generous
and adequate task.

The last word, however, is not task but opportunity; for work, like all
forms of education, prophesies the larger uses of energy, experience, and
power which are to come when training and discipline have accomplished
their ends and borne their fruit.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Essays on Work and Culture" ***

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