Transcriber's Notes: Text in italics in the original is surrounded by underscores. Text in bold in the original is surrounded by plus signs. A complete set of corrections follows the text.
WILLIAM DEWITT HYDE, D. D. President of Bowdoin College
NEW YORK HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1892, BY HENRY HOLT & CO.
THE MERSHON COMPANY PRESS, RAHWAY, N. J.
The steady stream of works on ethics during the last ten years, rising almost to a torrent within the past few months, renders it necessary for even the tiniest rill to justify its slender contribution to the already swollen flood.
On the one hand treatises abound which are exhaustive in their presentation of ethical theory. On the other hand books are plenty which give good moral advice with great elaborateness of detail. Each type of work has its place and function. The one is excellent mental gymnastic for the mature; the other admirable emotional pabulum for the childish mind. Neither, however, is adapted both to satisfy the intellect and quicken the conscience at that critical period when the youth has put away childish things and is reaching out after manly and womanly ideals.
The book which shall meet this want must have theory; yet the theory must not be made obtrusive, nor stated too abstractly. The theory must be deeply imbedded in the structure of the work; and must commend itself, not by metaphysical deduction from first principles, but by its ability to comprehend in a rational and intelligible order the concrete facts with which conduct has to do.
Such a book must be direct and practical. It must contain clear-cut presentation of duties to be done, virtues to be cultivated, temptations to be overcome, and vices to be shunned: yet this must be done, not by preaching and exhortation, but by showing the place these things occupy in a coherent system of reasoned knowledge.
Such a blending of theory and practice, of faith and works, is the aim and purpose of this book.
The only explicit suggestions of theory are in the introduction (which should not be taken as the first lesson) and in the last two chapters. Religion is presented as the consummation, rather than the foundation of ethics; and the brief sketch of religion in the concluding chapter is confined to those broad outlines which are accepted, with more or less explicitness, by Jew and Christian, Catholic and Protestant, Orthodox and Liberal. WILLIAM DEWITT HYDE.
BOWDOIN COLLEGE, BRUNSWICK, ME. May 10, 1892.
I. FOOD AND DRINK, 9
II. DRESS, 19
III. EXERCISE, 25
IV. WORK, 32
V. PROPERTY, 40
VI. EXCHANGE, 46
VII. KNOWLEDGE, 53
VIII. TIME, 60
IX. SPACE, 65
X. FORTUNE, 70
XI. NATURE, 81
XII. ART, 89
XIII. ANIMALS, 98
XIV. FELLOW-MEN, 104
XV. THE POOR, 117
XVI. WRONGDOERS, 127
XVII. FRIENDS, 137
XVIII. FAMILY, 144
XIX. STATE, 157
XX. SOCIETY, 167
XXI. SELF, 179
XXII. GOD, 194
OUTLINE OF PRACTICAL ETHICS
SEE LAST PARAGRAPH OF INTRODUCTION.
==================================================================== Object. Duty. Virtue. Reward. Food and Vigor, Temperance, Health, drink, Dress, Comeliness, Neatness, Respectability, Exercise, Recreation, Cheerfulness, Energy, Work, Self-support, Industry, Wealth, Property, Provision, Economy, Prosperity, Exchange, Equivalence, Honesty, Self-respect, Sex, Reproduction, Purity, Sweetness, Knowledge, Truth, Veracity, Confidence, Time, Co-ordination, Prudence, Harmony, Space, System, Orderliness, Efficiency, Fortune, Superiority, Courage, Honor, Nature, Appreciation, Sensitiveness, Inspiration, Art, Beauty, Simplicity, Refinement, Animals, Consideration, Kindness, Tenderness, Fellow-men, Fellowship, Love, Unity, The Poor, Help, Benevolence, Sympathy, Wrong-doers, Justice, Forgiveness, Reformation, Friends, Devotion, Fidelity, Affection, Family, Membership, Loyalty, Home, State, Organization, Patriotism, Civilization, Society, Co-operation, Public Spirit, Freedom, Self, Realization, Conscientiousness, Character, God, Obedience, Holiness, Life,
OUTLINE OF PRACTICAL ETHICS (cont.)
=============================================================================== Object Temptation Vice of Defect Vice of Excess Penalty - Food and Appetite, Asceticism, Intemperance, Disease. drink, Dress, Vanity, Slovenliness, Fastidiousness, Contempt. Exercise, Excitement, Morbidness, Frivolity, Debility. Work, Ease, Laziness, Overwork, Poverty. Property, Indulgence, Wastefulness, Miserliness, Want. Exchange, Gain, Dishonesty, Compliance, Degradation. Sex, Lust, Prudery, Sensuality, Bitterness. Knowledge, Ignorance, Falsehood, Gossip, Distrust. Time, Dissipation, Procrastination, Anxiety, Discord. Space, Disorder, Carelessness, Red Tape, Obstruction. Fortune, Risk, Cowardice, Gambling, Shame. Nature, Utility, Obtuseness, Affectation, Stagnation. Art, Luxury, Ugliness, Ostentation, Vulgarity. Animals, Neglect, Cruelty, Subjection, Brutality. Fellow-men, Indifference, Selfishness, Sentimentality, Strife. The Poor, Alienation, Niggardliness, Indulgence, Antipathy. Wrong-doers, Vengeance, Severity, Lenity, Perversity. Friends, Betrayal, Exclusiveness, Effusiveness, Isolation. Family, Independence, Self-sufficiency, Self- Loneliness. obliteration, State, Spoils, Treason, Ambition, Anarchy. Society, Self-interest, Meanness, Officiousness, Constraint. Self, Pleasure, Unscrupulousness, Formalism, Corruption. God, Self-will, Sin, Hypocrisy, Death.
Ethics is the science of conduct, and the art of life.
Life consists in the maintenance of relations; it requires continual adjustment; it implies external objects, as well as internal forces. Conduct must have materials to work with; stuff to build character out of; resistance to overcome; objects to confront.
These objects nature has abundantly provided. They are countless as the sands of the seashore, or the stars of heaven. In order to bring them within the range of scientific treatment we must classify them, and select for study those classes of objects which are most essential to life and conduct. Each chapter of this book presents one of these fundamental objects with which life and conduct are immediately concerned.
A great many different relations are possible between ourselves and each one of these objects. Of these many possible relations some would be injurious to ourselves; some would be destructive of the object. Toward each object there is one relation, and one only, which at the same time best promotes the development of ourselves and best preserves the object's proper use and worth. The maintenance of this ideal union of self and object is our duty with reference to that object.
Which shall come first and count most in determining this right relation, self or object, depends on the character of the object.
In the case of inanimate objects, such as food, drink, dress, and property, the interests of the self are supreme. Toward these things it is our right and duty to be sagaciously and supremely selfish. When persons and mere things meet, persons have absolute right of way.
When we come to ideal objects, such as knowledge, art, Nature, this cool selfishness is out of place. The attempt to cram knowledge, appropriate nature, and "get up" art, defeats itself. These objects have a worth in themselves, and rights of their own which we must respect. They resent our attempts to bring them into subjection to ourselves. We must surrender to them, we must take the attitude of humble and self-forgetful suitors, if we would win the best gifts they have to give, and claim them as our own.
As we rise to personal relations, neither appropriation nor surrender, neither egoism nor altruism, nor indeed any precisely measured mechanical mixture of the two, will solve the problem. Here the recognition of a common good, a commonwealth in which each person has an equal worth with every other, is the only satisfactory solution. "Be a person, and respect the personality of others," is the duty in this sphere.
As we approach social institutions we enter the presence of objects which represent interests vastly wider, deeper, more enduring than the interests of our individual lives. The balance, which was evenly poised when we weighed ourselves against other individuals, now inclines toward the side of these social institutions, without which the individual life would be stripped of all its worth and dignity, apart from which man would be no longer man. Duty here demands devotion and self-sacrifice.
Finally, when we draw near to God, who is the author and sustainer of individuals, of science and art and nature, and of social institutions, then the true relation becomes one of reverence and worship.
In each case duty is the fullest realization of self and object. Whether self or the object shall be the determining factor in the relation depends on whether the object in question has less, equal, or greater worth than the individual self.
If we do our duty repeatedly and perseveringly in any direction, we form the habit of doing it, learn to enjoy it, and acquire a preference for it. This habitual preference for a duty is the virtue corresponding to it.
Virtue is manliness or womanliness. It is the steadfast assertion of what we see to be our duty against the solicitations of temptation. Virtue is mastery; first of self, and through self-mastery, the mastery of the objects with which we come in contact.
Since duty is the maintenance of self and its objects in highest realization, and virtue is constant and joyous fidelity to duty, it follows that duty and virtue cannot fail of that enlargement and enrichment of life which is their appropriate reward.
The reward of virtue will vary according to the duty done and the object toward which it is directed. The virtues which deal with mere things will bring as their rewards material prosperity. The virtues which deal with ideal objects will have their reward in increased capacities, intensified sensibilities, and elevated tastes. The virtues which deal with our fellow-men will be rewarded by enlargement of social sympathy, and deeper tenderness of feeling. The virtues which are directed toward family, state, and society, have their reward in that exalted sense of participation in great and glorious aims, which lift one up above the limitations of his private self, and can make even death sweet and beautiful—a glad and willing offering to that larger social self of which it is the individual's highest privilege to count himself a worthy and honorable member.
Life, however, is not this steady march to victory, with beating drums and flying banners, which, for the sake of continuity in description, we have thus far regarded it. There are hard battles to fight; and mighty foes to conquer. We must now return to those other possible relations which we left when we selected for immediate consideration that one right relation which we call duty.
Since there is only one right relation between self and an object, all others must be wrong. These other possible relations are temptations. Temptation is the appeal of an object to a single side of our nature as against the well-being of self as a whole. Each object gives rise to many temptations. "Broad is the way that leadeth to destruction."
Just as duty performed gives rise to virtue, so temptation, yielded to, begets vice. Vice is the habitual yielding to temptation.
Temptations fall into two classes. Either we are tempted to neglect an object, and so to give it too little influence over us; or else we are tempted to be carried away by an object, and to give it an excessive and disproportionate place in our life. Hence the resulting vices fall into two classes. Vices resulting from the former sort of temptation are vices of defect. Vices resulting from the latter form of temptation are vices of excess. As one of these temptations is usually much stronger than the other, we will discuss simply the strongest and most characteristic temptation in connection with each object. Yet as both classes of vice exist with reference to every object, it will be best to consider both.
Vice carries its penalty in its own nature. Being a perversion of some object, it renders impossible that realization of ourselves through the object, or in the higher relations, that realization of the object through us, on which the harmony and completeness of our life depends. In the words of Plato: "Virtue is the health and beauty and well-being of the soul, and vice is the disease and weakness and deformity of the soul."
Each chapter will follow the order here developed. The outline on pp. x, xi shows the logical framework on which the book is constructed. Under the limitations of such a table, confined to a single term in every case, it is of course impossible to avoid the appearance of artificiality of form and inadequacy of treatment. This collection of dry bones is offered as the easiest way of exhibiting at a glance the conception of ethics as an organic whole of interrelated members: a conception it would be impossible to present in any other form without entering upon metaphysical inquiries altogether foreign to the practical purpose of the book.
Food and Drink.
The foundations of life, and therefore the first concerns of conduct, are food and drink. Other things are essential if we are to live comfortably and honorably. Food and drink are essential if we are to live at all. In order that we may not neglect these important objects, nature has placed on guard over the body two sentinels, hunger and thirst, to warn us whenever fresh supplies of food and drink are needed.
Body and mind to be kept in good working order.—In response to these warnings it is our duty to eat and drink such things, in such quantities, at such times, and in such ways as will render the body the most efficient organ and expression of the mind and will.
Hygiene and physiology, and our own experience and common sense, tell us in detail what, when, and how much it is best for us to eat and drink. Ethics presupposes this knowledge, and simply tells us that these laws of hygiene and physiology are our best friends; and that it is our duty to heed what they say.
Temperance is self-control.—These sentinels tell us when to begin; but they do not always tell us when to leave off: and if they do, it sometimes requires special effort to heed the warning that they give. The appetite for food and drink, if left to itself, would run away with us. Our liking for what tastes good, if allowed to have its own way, would lead us to eat and drink such things and in such quantities as to weaken our stomachs, enfeeble our muscles, muddle our brains, impair our health, and shorten our lives. Temperance puts bits into the mouth of appetite; holds a tight rein over it; compels it to go, not where it pleases to take us, but where we see that it is best for us to go; and trains it to stop when it has gone far enough.
Virtue means manliness. Temperance is a virtue because it calls into play that strong, firm will which is the most manly thing in us. The temperate man is the strong man. For he is the master, not the slave of his appetites. He is lord of his own life.
The temperate man has all his powers perpetually at their best.—Into work or play or study he enters with the energy and zest which come of good digestion, strong muscles, steady nerves, and a clear head. He works hard, plays a strong game, thinks quickly and clearly; because he has a surplus of vitality to throw into whatever he undertakes. He prospers in business because he is able to prosecute it with energy. He makes friends because he has the cheerfulness and vivacity which is the charm of good-fellowship. He enjoys life because all its powers are at his command.
The pleasures of taste an incidental good, but not the ultimate good.—Food tastes good to the hungry, and to the thirsty drinking is a keen delight. This is a kind and wise provision of nature; and as long as this pleasure accompanies eating and drinking in a normal and natural way it aids digestion and promotes health and vigor. The more we enjoy our food the better; and food, well-cooked, well-served, and eaten in a happy and congenial company, is vastly better for us than the same food poorly cooked, poorly served, and devoured in solitude and silence.
Yet it is possible to make this pleasure which accompanies eating and drinking the end for the sake of which we eat and drink. The temptation is to eat and drink what we like and as much as we like; instead of what we know to be best for us.
THE VICE OF DEFECT.
The difference between temperance and asceticism.—Asceticism looks like temperance. People who practice it often pride themselves upon it. But it is a hollow sham. And it has done much to bring discredit upon temperance, for which it tries to pass. What then is the difference between temperance and asceticism? Both control appetite. Both are opposed to intemperance. But they differ in the ends at which they aim. Temperance controls appetite for the sake of greater life and health and strength. Asceticism is the control of appetite merely for the sake of controlling it. Asceticism, in shunning the evils to which food and drink may lead, misses also the best blessings they are able to confer. The ascetic attempts to regulate by rule and measure everything he eats and drinks, and to get along with just as little as possible, and so he misses the good cheer and hearty enjoyment which should be the best part of every meal.
Let us be careful not to confound sour, lean, dyspeptic asceticism with the hale, hearty virtue of temperance. Asceticism sacrifices vigor and vitality for the sake of keeping its rules and exercising self-control. Temperance observes the simple rules of hygiene and common sense for the sake of vigor and vitality; and sacrifices the pleasures of the palate only in so far as it is necessary in order to secure in their greatest intensity and permanence the larger and higher interests of life.
THE VICES OF EXCESS.
Intemperance in eating is gluttony. Intemperance in drinking leads to drunkenness.—Instead of sitting in the seat of reason and driving the appetites before him in obedience to his will, the glutton and the drunkard harness themselves into the wagon and put reins and whip into the hands of their appetites.
The glutton lives to eat; instead of eating to live. This vice is so odious and contemptible that few persons give themselves up entirely to gluttony. Yet every time we eat what we know is not good for us, or more than is good for us, we fall a victim to this loathsome vice.
The drunkard is the slave of an unnatural thirst.—Alcoholic drink produces as its first effect an excitement and exhilaration much more intense than any pleasure coming from the normal gratification of natural appetite. This exhilaration is purchased at the expense of stimulating the system to abnormal exertion. This excessive action of the system during intoxication is followed by a corresponding reaction. The man feels as much worse than usual during the hours and days that follow his debauch, as he felt better than usual during the brief moments that he was taking his drinks. This depression and disturbance of the system which follows indulgence in intoxicating drink begets an unnatural and incessant craving for a repetition of the stimulus; and so in place of the even, steady life of the temperate man, the drinking man's life is a perpetual alternation of brief moments of unnatural excitement, followed by long days of unnatural craving and depression. The habit of indulging this unnatural craving steals upon a man unawares; it occupies more and more of his thought; takes more and more of his time and money, until he is unable to think or care for anything else. It becomes more important to him than business, home, wife, children, reputation, or character; and before he knows it he finds that his will is undermined, reason is dethroned, affection is dead, appetite has become his master, and he has become its beastly and degraded slave.
Total abstinence the only sure defense.—This vice of intemperance is so prevalent in the community, so insidious in its approach, so degrading in its nature, so terrible in its effects, that the only absolutely and universally sure defense against it is total abstinence. A man may think himself strong enough to stop drinking when and where he pleases; but the peculiar and fatal deception about intoxicating drink is that it makes those who become its victims weaker to resist it with every indulgence. It enfeebles their wills directly. The fact that a man can stop drinking to-day is no sure sign that he can drink moderately for a year and stop then. At the end of that time he will have a different body, a different brain, a different mind, a different will from the body and mind and will he has to-day, and would have after a year of abstinence.
As we have seen, with every natural and healthy exercise of our appetites and faculties moderation is preferable to abstinence. It is better to direct them toward the ends they are intended to accomplish that to stifle and suppress them. But the thirst for intoxicating drink is unnatural. It creates abnormal cravings; it produces diseased conditions which corrupt and destroy the very powers of nerve and brain on which the faculties of reason and control depend. "Touch not, taste not, handle not," is the only rule that can insure one against the fearful ravages of this beastly and inhuman vice.
Responsibility for social influence.—A strong argument in favor of abstinence from intoxicating drink is its beneficial social influence. If there are two bridges across a stream, one safe and sure, the other so shaky and treacherous that a large proportion of all who try to cross over it fall into the stream and are drowned; the fact that I happen to have sufficiently cool head and steady nerves to walk over it in safety does not make it right for me to do so, when I know that my companionship and example will lead many to follow who will certainly perish in the attempt.
Mild wines and milder climates may render the moderate use of alcoholic drinks comparatively harmless to races less nervously organized than ours. And there doubtless are individuals in our midst whose strong constitution, phlegmatic temperament, or social training enable them to use wine daily for years without appreciable injury. They can walk with comparative safety the narrow bridge. There are multitudes who cannot. There are tens of thousands for whom our distilled liquors, open saloons, and treating customs, combined with our trying climate and nervous organizations, render moderate drinking practically impossible. They must choose between the safe and sure way of total abstinence, or the fatal plunge into drunkenness and disgrace. And if those who are endowed with cooler heads and stronger nerves are mindful of their social duty to these weaker brethren, among whom are some of the most generous and noble-hearted of our acquaintances and friends, then for the sake of these more sorely tempted ones, and for the sake of their mothers, wives, and sisters to whom a drunken son, husband, or brother is a sorrow worse than death, they will forego a trifling pleasure in order to avert the ruin that their example would otherwise help to bring on the lives, fortunes, and families of others.
Fatal fascination of the opium habit.—What has been said of alcoholic drink is equally true of opium. The habit of using opium is easy to form and almost impossible to break. The secret workings of this poison upon the mind and will of its victim are most insidious and fatal.
Tobacco a serious injury to growing persons.—On this point all teachers are unanimous. Statistics taken at the naval school at Annapolis, at Yale College, and elsewhere, show that the use of tobacco is the exception with scholars at the head, and the rule with scholars at the foot of the class.
Shortly after we began to take statistics on this point in Bowdoin College I asked the director of the gymnasium what was the result with the Freshman class? "Oh," he said, "the list of the smokers is substantially the same as that which was reported the other day for deficiencies in scholarship." A prominent educator, who had given considerable attention to this subject, after spending an hour in my recitation room with a class of college seniors, indicated with perfect accuracy the habitual and excessive smokers, simply by noting the eye, manner, and complexion.
Tobacco, used in early life, tends to stunt the growth, weaken the eyes, shatter the nervous system, and impair the powers of physical endurance and mental application. No candidate for a college athletic team, or contestant in a race, would think of using tobacco while in training. Every man who wishes to keep himself in training for the highest prizes in business and professional life must guard his early years from the deterioration which this habit invariably brings.
These vices bring disease and disgrace.—These vices put in place of physical well-being the gratification of a particular taste and appetite. Hence they bring about the abnormal action of some organs at the expense of all the rest; and this is the essence of disease.
A diseased body causes a disordered mind and an enfeebled will. The excessive and over-stimulated activity of one set of organs involves a corresponding defect in the activity and functions of the other faculties. The glutton or drunkard neglects his business; loses interest in reading and study; fails to provide for his family; forfeits self-respect; and thus brings upon himself poverty and wretchedness and shame. He sinks lower and lower in the social scale; grows more and more a burden to others and a disgrace to himself; and at last ends a worthless and ignominious life in an unwept and dishonored grave.
Next in importance to food and drink stand clothing and shelter. Without substantial and permanent protection against cold and rain, without decent covering for the body and privacy of life, civilization is impossible. The clothes we wear express the standing choices of our will; and as clothes come closer to our bodies than anything else, they stand as the most immediate and obvious expression of our mind. "The apparel oft proclaims the man."
Attractive personal appearance.—Clothes that fit, colors that match, cosy houses and cheery rooms cost little more, except in thought and attention, than ill-fitting and unbecoming garments and gloomy and unsightly dwellings. Attractiveness of dress, surroundings, and personal appearance is a duty; because it gives free exercise to our higher and nobler sentiments; elevates and enlarges our lives; while discomfort and repulsiveness in these things lower our standards, and drive us to the baser elements of our nature in search of cheap forms of self-indulgence to take the place of that natural delight in attractive dress and surroundings which has been repressed. Both to ourselves and to our friends we owe as much attractiveness of personal surroundings and personal appearance as a reasonable amount of thought and effort and expenditure can secure.
Neatness inexpensive and its absence inexcusable.—No one is so poor that he cannot afford to be neat. No one is so rich that he can afford to be slovenly. Neatness is a virtue, or manly quality; because it keeps the things we wear and have about us under our control, and compels them to express our will and purpose.
Dress an indication of the worth of the wearer.—Neatness of dress and personal appearance indicates that there is some regard for decency and propriety, some love of order and beauty, some strength of will and purpose inside the garments. If dress is the most superficial aspect of a person, it is at the same time the most obvious one. Our first impression of people is gained from their general appearance, of which dress is one of the most important features.
Consequently dress goes far to determine the estimate people place upon us. Fuller acquaintance may compel a revision of these original impressions. First impressions, however, often decide our fate with people whose respect and good-will is valuable to us. Important positions are often won or lost through attention or neglect in these matters.
Dress has its snares.—We are tempted to care, not for attractiveness in itself, but for the satisfaction of thinking, and having others think, how fine we look. Worse still, we are tempted to try to look not as well as we can, but better than somebody else; and by this combination of rivalry with vanity we get the most contemptible and pitiable level to which perversity in dress can bring us. There is no end to the ridiculous and injurious absurdities to which this hollow vanity will lead those who are silly enough to yield to its demands.
Cynicism regarding appearance.—Vanity may take just the opposite form. We may be just as proud of our bad looks, as of our good looks. This is the trick of the Cynic. This is the reason why almost every town has its old codger who seems to delight in wearing the shabbiest coat, and driving the poorest horse, and living in the most dilapidated shanty of anyone in town. These persons take as much pride in their mode of life as the devotee of fashion does in hers. One of these Cynics went to the baths with Alcibiades, the gayest of Athenian youths. When they came out Alcibiades put on the Cynic's rags, leaving his own gay and costly apparel for the Cynic. The Cynic was in a great rage, and protested that he would not be seen wearing such gaudy things as those. "Ah!" said Alcibiades; "so you care more what kind of clothes you wear than I do after all; for I can wear your clothes, but you cannot wear mine." Another of the Cynics, as he entered the elegant apartments of Plato, spat upon the rug, exclaiming: "Thus I pour contempt on the pride of Plato." "Yes," was Plato's reply, "with a greater pride of your own." Since pride and vanity have these two forms, we need to be on our guard against them both. For one or the other is pretty sure to assail us. An eye single to the attractiveness of our personal appearance is the only thing that will save us from one or the other of these lines of temptation.
THE VICE OF DEFECT.
Too little attention to dress and surroundings is slovenliness.—The sloven is known by his dirty hands and face, his disheveled hair, and tattered garments. His house is in confusion; his grounds are littered with rubbish; he eats his meals at an untidy table; and sleeps in an unmade bed. Slovenliness is a vice; for it is an open confession that a man is too weak to make his surroundings the expression of his tastes and wishes, and has allowed his surroundings to run over him and drag him down to their own level. And this subjection of man to the tyranny of things, when he ought to exercise a strong dominion over them, is the universal mark of vice.
THE VICE OF EXCESS.
Too much attention to dress and appearance is fastidiousness.—These things are important; but it is a very petty and empty mind that can find enough in them to occupy any considerable portion of its total attention and energy. The fastidious person must have everything "just so," or the whole happiness of his precious self is utterly ruined. He spends hours upon toilet and wardrobe where sensible people spend minutes. Hence he becomes the slave rather than the master of his dress.
The sloven and the dude are both slaves; but in different ways.—Slovenliness is slavery to the hideous and repulsive. Fastidiousness is slavery to this or that particular style or fashion. The freedom and mastery of neatness consists in the ability to make as attractive as possible just such material as one's means place at his disposal with the amount of time and effort he can reasonably devote to them.
Fastidiousness belittles: slovenliness degrades. Both are contemptible.—The man who does not care enough for himself to keep the dirt off his hands and clothes, when not actually engaged in work that soils them, cannot complain if other people place no higher estimate upon him than he by this slovenliness puts upon himself. The woman whose soul rises and falls the whole distance between ecstasy and despair with the fit of a glove or the shade of a ribbon must not wonder if people rate her as of about equal consequence with gloves and ribbons. These vices make their victims low and petty; and the contempt with which they are regarded is simply the recognition of the pettiness and degradation which the vices have begotten.
When the body is well fed and clothed, the next demand is for exercise. Our powers are given us to be used; and unless they are used they waste away. Nothing destroys power so surely and completely as disuse. The only way to keep our powers is to keep them in exercise. We acquire the power to lift by lifting; to run, by running; to write, by writing; to talk, by talking; to build houses, by building; to trade, by trading. In mature life our exercise comes to us chiefly along the lines of our business, domestic, and social relations. In childhood and youth, before the pressure of earning a living comes upon us, we must provide for needed exercise in artificial ways. The play-impulse is nature's provision for this need. It is by hearty, vigorous play that we first gain command of those powers on which our future ability to do good work depends.
The best exercise that of which we are least conscious.—It is the duty of every grown person as well as of every child to take time for recreation. Exercise taken in a systematic way for its own sake is a great deal better than nothing; and in crowded schools and in sedentary occupations such gymnastic exercises are the best thing that can be had. The best exercise, however, is not that which we get when we aim at it directly; but that which comes incidentally in connection with sport and recreation. A plunge into the river; a climb over the hills; a hunt through the woods; a skate on the pond; a wade in the trout brook; a ride on horseback; a sail on the lake; camping out in the forest;—these are the best ways to take exercise. For in these ways we have such a good time that we do not think about the exercise at all; and we put forth ten times the amount of exertion that we should if we were to stop and think how much exercise we proposed to take.
Next in value to these natural outdoor sports come the artificial games; baseball, football, hare and hounds, lawn tennis, croquet, and hockey. When neither natural nor artificial sports can be had, then the dumb-bells, the Indian clubs, and the foils become a necessity.
Everyone should become proficient in as many of these sports as possible. These are the resources from which the stores of vitality and energy must be supplied in youth, and replenished in later life.
The value of superfluous energy.—The person whose own life-forces are at their best cannot help flowing over in exuberant gladness to gladden all he meets. Herbert Spencer has set this forth so strongly in his Data of Ethics that I quote his words: "Bounding out of bed after an unbroken sleep, singing or whistling as he dresses, coming down with beaming face ready to laugh at the slightest provocation, the healthy man of high powers enters on the day's business not with repugnance but with gladness; and from hour to hour experiencing satisfaction from work effectually done, comes home with an abundant surplus of energy remaining for hours of relaxation. Full of vivacity, he is ever welcome. For his wife he has smiles and jocose speeches; for his children stories of fun and play; for his friends pleasant talk interspersed with the sallies of wit that come from buoyancy."
"Unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance." The reward of exertion is the power to make more exertion the next time. And the reward of habits of regular exercise and habitual cheerfulness is the ability to meet the world at every turn in the consciousness of power to master it, and to meet men with that good cheer which disarms hostility and wins friends.
Excitement not to be made an end in itself.—The exhilaration of sport may be carried to the point of excitement; and then this excitement may be made an end in itself. This is the temptation which besets all forms of recreation and amusement. It is the fear of this danger that has led many good people to distrust and disparage certain of the more intense forms of recreation. Their mistake is in supposing that temptation is peculiar to these forms of amusement. As we shall see before we complete our study of ethics, everything brings temptation with it; and the best things bring the severest and subtlest temptations; and if we would withdraw from temptation, we should have to withdraw from the world.
We must all recognize that this temptation to seek excitement for its own sake is a serious one. It is least in the natural outdoor sports like swimming and sailing and hunting and fishing and climbing and riding. Hence we should give to these forms of recreation as large a place as possible in our plans for exercise and amusement. We should see clearly that the artificial indoor amusements, such as dancing, card-playing, theater-going, billiard-playing, are especially liable to give rise to that craving for excitement for excitement's sake which perverts recreation from its true function as a renewer of our powers into a ruinous drain upon them. The moment any form of recreation becomes indispensable to us, the moment we find that it diminishes instead of heightening our interest and delight in the regular duties of our daily lives, that instant we should check its encroachment upon our time and, if need be, cut it off altogether. It is impossible to lay down hard and fast rules, telling precisely what forms of amusement are good and what are bad. So much depends on the attitude of the individual toward them, and the associations which they carry with them in different localities, that what is right and beneficial for one person in one set of surroundings would be wrong and disastrous to another person or to the same person in other circumstances. To enable us to see clearly the important part recreation must play in every healthy life, and to see with equal clearness the danger of giving way to a craving for constant and unnatural excitement, is the most that ethics can do for us. The application of these principles to concrete cases each parent must make for his own children, and each individual for himself.
THE VICE OF DEFECT.
Neglect of exercise and recreation leads to moroseness.—Like milk which is allowed to stand, the spirit of man or woman, if left unoccupied, turns sour. One secret of sourness and moroseness is the sense that some side of our nature has been repressed; and this inward indignation at our own wrongs we vent on others in bitterness and complainings. Moroseness is first a sign that we ourselves are miserable; and secondly it is the occasion of making others miserable too. Having had Spencer's account of the benefits of the cheerfulness that comes from adequate recreation, let us now see his description of its opposite. "Far otherwise is it with one who is enfeebled by great neglect of self. Already deficient, his energies are made more deficient by constant endeavors to execute tasks that prove beyond his strength, and by the resulting discouragement. Hours of leisure, which, rightly passed, bring pleasures that raise the tide of life and renew the powers of work, cannot be utilized: there is not vigor enough for enjoyments involving action, and lack of spirits prevents passive enjoyments from being entered upon with zest. In brief, life becomes a burden. The irritability resulting now from ailments, now from failures caused from feebleness, his family has daily to bear. Lacking adequate energy for joining in them, he has at best but a tepid interest in the amusements of his children; and he is called a wet blanket by his friends."
THE VICE OF EXCESS.
Perpetual amusement-seeking: brings ennui, satiety, and disgust.—"All play and no work makes Jack a mere toy," is as true as that "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." The constant pursuit of amusement makes life empty and frivolous. Rightly used recreation increases one's powers for serious pursuits. Pursued wrongly, pursued as the main concern of life, amusement makes all serious work seem stale and dull; and finally makes amusement itself dull and stale too. Ennui, loathing, disgust, and emptiness are the marks of the amusement-seeker the world over. "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. All things are full of weariness. The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor the ear filled with hearing"—this is the experience of the man who "withheld not his heart from any joy." It is the experience of everyone who exalts amusement from the position of an occasional servant to that of abiding master of his life.
The penalty of neglected exercise is confirmed debility.—"Whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that which he hath." Enfeebled from lack of exercise a man finds himself unequal to the demands of his work; and soured by his consequent dissatisfaction with himself, he becomes alienated from his fellows. The tide of life becomes low and feeble; and he can neither overcome obstacles in his own strength nor attract to himself the help of others.
Food, clothes, shelter, and all the necessities of life are the products of labor. Even the simplest food, such as fruit and berries, must be picked before it can be eaten: the coarsest garment of skins must be stripped from the animal before it can be worn: the rudest shelter of rock or cave must be seized and defended against intruders before it can become one's own. And as civilization advances, the element of labor involved in the production of goods steadily increases. The universal necessity of human labor to convert the raw materials given us by nature into articles serviceable to life and enjoyment renders work a fundamental branch of human conduct. Regular meals, comfortable homes, knowledge, civilization, all are the fruits of work. And unless we contribute our part to the production of these goods, we have no moral right to be partakers of the fruits. "If any will not work, neither let him eat." "All work," says Thomas Carlyle, "is noble: work alone is noble. Blessed is he that has found his work; let him ask no other blessedness. Two men I honor, and no third. First, the toilworn craftsman who with earth-made implement laboriously conquers the Earth, and makes her man's. A second man I honor, and still more highly: him who is seen toiling for the spiritually indispensable; not daily bread, but the bread of life. These two in all their degrees I honor; all else is chaff and dust, which let the wind blow whither it listeth. We must all toil, or steal (howsoever we name our stealing), which is worse."
Every man lives either upon the fruit of his own work, or upon the fruit of the work of others.—In childhood it is right for us to live upon the fruits of the toil of our parents and friends. But to continue this life of dependence on the work of others after one has become an able-bodied man or woman is to live the life of a perpetual baby. No life so little justifies itself as that of the idle rich. The idle poor man suffers the penalty of idleness in his own person. He gives little to the world; and he gets little in return. The idle rich man gives nothing, and gets much in return. And while he lives, someone has to work the harder for his being in the world; and when he dies the world is left poorer than it would have been had he never been born. He has simply consumed a portion of the savings of his ancestors, and balanced the energy and honor of their lives by his own life of worthlessness and shame. Inherited wealth should bring with it a life of greater responsibility and harder toil; for the rich man is morally bound to use his wealth for the common good. And that is a much harder task than merely to earn one's own living. An able-bodied man who does not contribute to the world at least as much as he takes out of it is a beggar and a thief; whether he shirks the duty of work under the pretext of poverty or riches.
Every boy and girl should be taught some trade, business, art, or profession.—To neglect this duty is to run the risk of enforced dependence upon others, than which nothing can be more destructive of integrity and self-respect. The increasing avenues open to women, and the fact that a woman is liable at any time to have herself and her children to support, make it as important for women as for men to have the ability to earn an honest living.
Woman's sphere is chiefly in the home and the social circle.—Provided she is able to earn her living whenever it becomes necessary, and in case her parents are able and willing to support her, a young woman is justified in remaining in the home until her marriage. Her assistance to her mother in the domestic and social duties of the home, and her preparation for similar duties in her own future home, is often the most valuable service she can render during the years between school and marriage. In order, however, for such a life to be morally justified she must realize that it is her duty to do all in her power to help her mother; to make home more pleasant; and to take part in those forms of social and philanthropic work which only those who have leisure can undertake.
The son or daughter who is to inherit wealth, should be trained in some line of political, scientific, artistic, charitable, or philanthropic work, whereby he may use his wealth and leisure in the service of the public, and justify his existence by rendering to society some equivalent for that security and enjoyment of wealth which society permits him to possess without the trouble of earning it.
All honest work, manual, mental, social, domestic, political and philanthropic, scientific and literary, is honorable. Any form of life without hard work of either hand or brain is shameful and disgraceful. The idler is of necessity a debtor to society; though there are forms of idleness to which, for reasons of its own, society never presents its bill.
Industry conquers the world.—Industry is a virtue, because it asserts this fundamental interest of self-support in opposition to the solicitations of idleness and ease. Industry masters the world, and makes it man's servant and slave. The industrious man too is master of his own feelings; and compels the weaker and baser impulses of his nature to stand back and give the higher interests room. The industrious man will do thorough work, and produce a good article, cost what it may. He will not suffer his arm to rest until it has done his bidding; nor will he let nature go until her resources and forces have been made to serve his purpose. This mastery over ourselves and over nature is the mark of virtue and manliness always and everywhere.
Industry works; and the fruit of work is wealth.—The industrious man may or may not have great riches. That depends on his talents, opportunities, and character. Great riches are neither to be sought nor shunned. With them or without them the highest life is possible; and on the whole it is easier without than with great riches. A moderate amount of wealth, however, is essential to the fullest development of one's powers and the freest enjoyment of life. Of such a moderate competence the industrious man is assured.
Soft places and easy kinds of work to be avoided.—Work costs pain and effort. Men naturally love ease. Hence arises the temptation to put ease above self-support. This temptation in its extreme form, if yielded to, makes a man a beggar and a tramp. More frequently the temptation is to take an easy kind of work, rather than harder work; or to do our work shiftlessly rather than thoroughly.
Young men are tempted to take clerkships where they can dress well and do light work, instead of learning a trade which requires a long apprenticeship, and calls for rough, hard work. The result is that the clerk remains a clerk all his life on low wages, and open to the competition of everybody who can read and write and cipher. While the man who has taken time to learn a trade, and has taken off his coat and accustomed himself to good hard work, has an assured livelihood; and only the few who have taken the same time to learn the trade, and are as little afraid of hard work as himself, can compete with him. This temptation to seek a "soft berth," where the only work required is sitting in an office, or talking, or writing, or riding around, is the form of sloth which is taking the strength and independence and manliness out of young men to-day faster than anything else. It is only one degree above the loafer and the tramp. The young man who starts in life by seeking an easy place will never be a success either in business or in character.
THE VICE OF DEFECT.
The slavery of laziness.—Laziness is a vice because it sacrifices the permanent interest of self-support to the temporary inclination to indolence and ease. The lazy man is the slave of his own feelings. His body is his master; not his servant. He is the slave of circumstances. What he does depends not on what he knows it is best to do, but on how he happens to feel. If the work is hard; if it is cold or rainy; if something breaks; or things do not go to suit him, he gives up and leaves the work undone. He is always waiting for something to turn up; and since nothing turns up for our benefit except what we turn up ourselves, he never finds the opportunity that suits him; he fails in whatever he undertakes: and accomplishes nothing. Laziness is weakness, submission, defeat, slavery to feeling and circumstance; and these are the universal characteristics of vice.
THE VICE OF EXCESS.
The folly of overwork.—Work has for its end self-support. Work wisely directed makes leisure possible. Overwork is work for its own sake; work for false and unreal ends; work that exhausts the physical powers. Overwork makes a man a slave to his work, as laziness makes him a slave to his ease. The man who makes haste to be rich; who works from morning until night "on the clean jump"; who drives his business with the fierce determination to get ahead of his competitors at all hazards, misses the quiet joys of life to which the wealth he pursues in such hot haste is merely the means, breaks down in early or middle life, and destroys the physical basis on which both work and enjoyment depend. To undertake more than we can do without excessive wear and tear and without permanent injury to health and strength is wrong. Laziness is the more ignoble vice; but the folly of overwork is equally apparent, and its results are equally disastrous. Laziness is a rot that consumes the base elements of society. Overwork is a tempest that strikes down the bravest and best. That work alone is wrought in virtue which keeps the powers up to their normal and healthful activity, and is subordinated to the end of self-support and harmonious self-development. The ideal attitude toward work is beautifully presented in Matthew Arnold's sonnet on "Quiet Work":
One lesson, Nature, let me learn of thee, One lesson which in every wind is blown; One lesson of two duties kept at one Though the loud world proclaim their enmity—
Of toil unsevered from tranquillity; Of labor, that in lasting fruit outgrows Far noisier schemes, accomplished in repose, Too great for haste, too high for rivalry.
Laziness leads to poverty.—The lazy man does nothing to produce wealth. The only way in which he can get it is by inheritance, or by gift, or by theft. Money received by inheritance does not last long. The man who is too lazy to earn money, is generally too weak to use it wisely; and it soon slips through his fingers. When a man's laziness is once found out people refuse to give to him. And the thief cannot steal many times without being caught. Industry is the only sure and permanent title to wealth; and where industry is wanting, there, soon or late, poverty must come.
The products of labor, saved up and appropriated to our use, constitute property. Without property life cannot rise above the hand-to-mouth existence of the savage. It is as important to save and care for property after we have earned it, as it is to earn it in the first place. Property does not stay with us unless we watch it sharply. Left to itself it takes wings and flies away. Unused land is overgrown by weeds; unoccupied houses crumble and decay; food left exposed sours and molds; unused tools rust; and machinery left to stand idle gets out of order. Everything goes to rack and ruin, unless we take constant care. Hence the preservation of property is one of the fundamental concerns of life and conduct.
Provision for family and for old age.—Childhood and old age ought to be free from the necessity of earning a living. Childhood should be devoted to growth and education; old age to enjoyment and repose. In order to secure this provision for old age, for the proper training of children and against sickness and accident, it is a duty to save a portion of one's earnings during the early years of active life. The man who at this period is not doing more than to support himself and family, is not providing for their permanent support at all. They are feasting to-day with the risk of starvation to-morrow.
In primitive conditions of society this provision for the future consisted in the common ownership by family or clan of flocks and herds or lands, whereby the necessities of life were insured to each member of the clan or family from birth to death.
The importance of systematic saving.—In the more complex civilization of to-day, property assumes ten thousand different forms; is held mostly by individuals; and has for its universal symbol, money. Hence the practical duty is to lay aside a certain sum of money out of our regular earnings each month or week during the entire period of our working life, or from sixteen to sixty. Persons who acquire a liberal education, or learn a difficult trade or profession, will not be able to begin to save until they are twenty or twenty-five. Whenever earning begins, saving should begin. If earnings are small, savings must be small too. He who postpones saving until earnings are large and saving is easy, will postpone saving altogether. The habit of saving like all habits must be formed early and by conscious and painful effort, or it will not be formed at all. Saving is as much a duty as earning; and the two should begin together. Earning provides for the wants of the individual and the hour. It requires both earning and saving to provide for the needs of a life-time and the welfare of a family. Savings-banks and building and loan associations afford the best opportunities for small savings at regular intervals; and no man has any right to marry until he has a savings-bank account, or shares in a building and loan association, or an equally regular and secure method of systematic saving. In early life, before savings have become sufficient to provide for his family in case of death, it is also a duty to combine saving with life-insurance. Both in investment of savings and in life-insurance, one should make sure that the institution or organization to which he intrusts his money is on a sound business basis. All speculative schemes should be strictly avoided. Any company or form of investment that offers to give back more than you put into it, plus a fair rate of interest on the money, is not a fit place for a man to trust the savings on which the future of himself and his family depends. Security, absolute security, not profits and dividends, is what one should demand of the institution to which he trusts his savings.
Economy eats the apple to the core; wears clothes until they are threadbare; makes things over; gets the entire utility out of a thing; throws nothing away that can be used again; gets its money's worth for every cent expended; buys nothing for which it cannot pay cash down and leave something besides for saving. It is a manly quality, or virtue, because it masters things, keeps them under our control, compels them to render all the service there is in them, and insures our lasting independence.
The savings of early and middle life support old age in honorable rest, and give to children a fair start in life.—All men are liable to misfortune and accident. The improvident man is crushed by them; for they find him without reserved force to meet them.
The economical man has in his savings a balance wheel whose momentum carries him by hard places. His position is independent and his prosperity is permanent. For it depends not on the fortunes of the day, which are uncertain and variable; but on the fixed habits and principles of a life-time, which are changeless and reliable.
Living beyond one's income: running in debt.—Income is limited; while the things we would like to have are infinite. We must draw the line somewhere. Duty says, draw it well inside of income. Temptation says, draw it at income, or a trifle outside of income. Yield to this temptation, and our earnings are gone before we know it, and debt stares us in the face. Debts are easy to contract, but hard to pay. The debt must be paid sometime with accumulated interest. And when the day of reckoning comes it invariably costs more inconvenience and trouble to pay it than it would have cost to have gone without the thing for the sake of which we ran in debt.
Never, on any account, get in debt. Never spend your whole income. These are rules we are constantly tempted to break. But the man who yields to this temptation is on the high road to financial ruin.
THE VICE OF DEFECT.
Wastefulness.—The wasteful man buys things he does not need; spends his money as fast as he can get it; lives beyond his means; throws things away which are capable of further service; runs in debt; and is forever behindhand. He lives from hand to mouth; is dependent upon his neighbors for things which with a little economy he might own himself; makes no provision for the future, and when sickness or old age comes upon him, he is without resources.
THE VICE OF EXCESS.
Miserliness.—Economy saves for the sake of future expenditure. Miserliness saves for the sake of saving. The spendthrift sacrifices the future to present enjoyment. The miser sacrifices present enjoyment to an imaginary future which never comes; and so misses enjoyment altogether. The prudent man harmonizes present with future enjoyment, and so lives a life of constant enjoyment. The spendthrift spends recklessly, regardless of consequences. The miser hoards anxiously, despising the present. The man of prudence and economy spends liberally for present needs, and saves only as a means to more judicious and lasting expenditure. The miser is as much the slave of his money as is the spendthrift the slave of his indulgences. Economy escapes both forms of slavery and maintains its freedom by making both spending and saving tributary to the true interests of the self.
The thing we waste to-day, we want to-morrow.—The money we spend foolishly to-day we have to borrow to-morrow, and pay with interest the day after. Wastefulness destroys the seeds of which prosperity is the fruit. Wastefulness throws away the pennies, and so must go without the dollars which the pennies make. Years of health and strength spent in hand-to-mouth indulgence inevitably bear fruit in a comfortless old age.
The jack-of-all-trades is a bungler in every one of them. The man who will do anything well must confine himself to doing a very few things. Yet while the things a man can produce to advantage are few, the things he wants to consume are many. Exchange makes possible at the same time concentration in production and diversity of enjoyment. Exchange enables the shoemaker to produce shoes, the tailor to make coats, the carpenter to build houses, the farmer to raise grain, the weaver to make cloth, the doctor to heal disease; and at the same time brings to each one of them a pair of shoes, a coat, a house, a barrel of flour, a cut of cloth, and such medical attendance as he needs. Civilization rests on exchange.
It is the duty of each party in a trade to give a fair and genuine equivalent for what he expects to receive.—Articles exchanged always represent work. And it is our duty to make sure that the article we offer represents thorough work. Good honest work is the foundation of all righteousness. Whatever we offer for sale, whether it be our labor for wages, or goods for a price, ought to be as good and thorough as we can make it. To sell a day's work for wages, and then to loaf a part of that day, is giving a man idleness when he pays for work. To sell a man a shoddy coat when he thinks he is buying good wool, is giving him cold when he pays for warmth. To give a man defective plumbing in his house when he hires you for a good workman, is to sell him disease and death, and take pay for it. Selling adulterated drugs and groceries is giving a man a stone when he asks for and pays for bread. If, after we have done our best to make or secure good articles, we are unable to avoid defects and imperfections, then it is our duty to tell squarely just what the imperfection is, and sell it for a reduced price. On no other basis than this of making genuine goods, and representing them just as they are, can exchange fulfill its function of mutual advantage to all concerned.
Honesty looks people straight in the eye, tells the plain truth about its goods, stands on its merits, asks no favors, has nothing to conceal, fears no investigation.—This bold, open, self-reliant quality of honesty is what makes it a manly thing, or a virtue. To do thorough work; to speak the plain truth; to do exactly as you would be done by; to put another man's interest on a level with your own; to take under no pretext or excuse a cent's worth more than you give in any trade you make, calls out all the strength and forbearance and self-control there is in a man, and that is why it ranks so high among the virtues.
The honest man is the only man who can respect himself.—He carries his head erect, and no man can put him down. Everything about him is sound and every act will bear examination. This sense of one's own genuineness and worth is honesty's chief reward.
Every one-sided transaction dishonest.—In fair exchange both parties are benefited. In unfair exchange one party profits by the other's loss. Any transaction in which either party fails to receive an equivalent for what he gives is a fraud; and the man who knowingly and willfully makes such a trade is a thief in disguise. For taking something which belongs to another, without giving him a return, and without his full, free, and intelligent consent, is stealing.
The temptation to take advantage of another's ignorance; to palm off a poor article for a good one; to get more than we give, is very great in all forms of business. Cheating is very common, and one is tempted to do a little cheating himself in order to keep even with the rest. The only way to resist it is to see clearly that cheating is lying and stealing put together; that it is an injury to our fellow-men and to society; that it is playing the part of a knave and a rascal instead of an honest and honorable man.
THE VICE OF DEFECT.
The meanest and most contemptible kind of cheating is quackery.—The quack is liar, thief, and murderer all in one. For in undertaking to do things for which he has no adequate training and skill, he pretends to be what he is not. He takes money for which he is unable to render a genuine equivalent. And by inducing people to trust their lives in his incompetent and unskilled hands he turns them aside from securing competent treatment, and so confirms disease and hastens death.
The dishonest man a public nuisance and a common enemy.—He gets his living out of other people. Whatever wealth he gets, some honest man who has earned it is compelled to go without. Dishonesty is the perversion of exchange from its noble function as a civilizing agent and a public benefit, into the ignoble service of making one man rich at the expense of the many. It is because the dishonest man is living at other people's expense, profiting by their losses, and fattening himself on the earnings of those whom he has wronged, that dishonesty is deservedly ranked as one of the most despicable and abominable of vices.
THE VICE OF EXCESS.
It is as important to protect our own interest, as to regard the interests of others.—No man has any more right to cheat me than I have to cheat him; and if he tries to take advantage of me it is my duty to resist him, and to say a decided "no" to his schemes for enriching himself at my expense.
One rule in particular is very important. Never sign a note for another in order to give him a credit which he could not command without your name. That is a favor which no man has a right to ask, and which no man who regards his duty to himself and to his family will grant. If a man is in a tight place and asks you to lend him money, or to give him money, that is a proposition to be considered on its merits. But to assume an indefinite responsibility by signing another man's note, is accepting the risk of ruining ourselves for his accommodation. We owe it to ourselves and our families to keep our finances absolutely under our own control, free from all complication with the risks and uncertainties of another's enterprises and fortunes.
Our own rights are as sacred as those of another. There are two sides to every bargain; and one side is as important as the other. The sacrifice of a right may be as great an evil as the perpetration of a wrong.
Dishonesty eats the heart out of a man.—The habit of looking solely to one's own interest deadens the social sympathies, dwarfs the generous affections, weakens self-respect, until at length the dishonest men can rob the widow of her livelihood; take an exorbitant commission on the labor of the orphan; charge an extortionate rent to a family of helpless invalids; sell worthless stocks to an aged couple in exchange for the hard earnings of a life-time, and still endure to live. Dishonesty makes men inhuman. The love of gain is a species of moral and spiritual decay. When it attacks the heart the finer and better feelings wither and die; and on this decay of sympathy and kindness and generosity and justice there thrive and flourish meanness and heartlessness and cruelty and inhumanity.
Hereditary effects of dishonesty.—So deeply does the vice of dishonesty eat into the moral nature that mental and moral deterioration is handed down to offspring. The scientific study of heredity shows that the deterioration resulting from this cause is more sure and fatal than that following many forms of insanity. The son or daughter of a mean, dishonest man is handicapped with tendencies toward moral turpitude and anti-social conduct for which no amount of his ill-gotten gains, received by inheritance, can be an adequate compensation. Says Maudsley, "I cannot but think that the extreme passion for getting rich, absorbing the whole energies of a life, predisposes to mental degeneracy in the offspring, either to moral defect, or to intellectual deficiency, or to outbursts of positive insanity." And the same author says elsewhere: "The anti-social, egoistic development of the individual predisposes to, if it does not predetermine, the mental degeneracy of his progeny; he, alien from his kind by excessive egoisms, determines an alienation of mind in them. If I may trust in that matter my observations, I know no one who is more likely to breed insanity in his offspring than the intensely narrow, self-sensitive, suspicious, distrustful, deceitful, and self-deceiving individual, who never comes into sincere and sound relations with men and things, who is incapable by nature and habit of genuinely healthy communion with himself or with his kind. A moral development of that sort, I believe, is more likely to predetermine insanity in the next generation than are many forms of actual derangement in parents: for the whole moral nature is essentially infected, and that goes deeper down, and is more dangerous, qua heredity, than a particular derangement. A mental alienation is a natural pathological evolution of it."
What food is to the body, that knowledge is to the mind. It is the bread of intellectual life. Without knowledge of agriculture and the mechanic arts we should be unable to provide ourselves with food and clothing and houses and ships and roads and bridges. Without knowledge of natural science we should be strangers in the world in which we live, the victims of the grossest superstitions. Without knowledge of history and political science we could have no permanent tranquility and peace, but should pass a precarious existence, exposed to war and violence, rapine and revolution. Knowledge unlocks for us the mysteries of nature; unfolds for us the treasured wisdom of the world's great men; interprets to us the longings and aspirations of our hearts.
Books, we know, Are a substantial world, both pure and good: Round these with tendrils strong as flesh and blood, Our pastime and our happiness will grow.
The severity of truth.—Things exist in precise and definite relations. Events take place according to fixed and immutable laws. Truth is the perception of things just as they are. Between truth and falsehood there is no middle ground. Either a fact is so, or it is not. "Truth," says Ruskin, "is the one virtue of which there are no degrees. There are some faults slight in the sight of love, some errors slight in the estimation of wisdom; but truth forgives no insult, and endures no stain." Truth does not always lie upon the surface of things. It requires hard, patient toil to dig down beneath the superficial crust of appearance to the solid rock of fact on which truth rests. To discover and declare truth as it is, and facts as they are, is the vocation of the scholar. Not what he likes to think, not what other people will be pleased to hear, not what will be popular or profitable; but what as the result of careful investigation, painstaking inquiry, prolonged reflection he has learned to be the fact;—this, nothing less and nothing more, the scholar must proclaim. Truth is fidelity to fact; it plants itself upon reality; and hence it speaks with authority. The truthful man is one whom we can depend upon. His word is as good as his bond. "He sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not." The truthful man brings truth and man together.
Veracity has two foundations: one reverence for truth; the other regard for one's fellow-men.—Ordinarily these two motives coincide and re-enforce each other. The right of truth to be spoken, and the benefit to men from hearing it, are two sides of the same obligation. Only in the most rare and exceptional cases can these two motives conflict. To a healthy, right-minded man the knowledge of the truth is always a good.
Apparent exceptions to the duty of truthfulness.—We owe truth to all normal people, and under all normal circumstances. We do not necessarily owe it to the abnormal. In sickness, when the patient cannot bear the shock of distressing news; in insanity, when the maniac cannot give to facts their right interpretation; in criminal perversity, when knowledge would be used in furtherance of crime, the abnormal condition of the person with whom we have to deal may justify us in withholding from him facts which he would use to the injury of himself or others. These are very rare and extreme cases, and are apparent rather than real exceptions to the universal rule of absolute truthfulness in human speech. For in these cases it is not from a desire to deceive or mislead the person, that we withhold the truth. We feel sure that the sick person, when he recovers; the insane person when he is restored to reason; the criminal, if he is ever converted to uprightness, will appreciate the kindness of our motive, and thank us for our deed. To the person of sound body, sound mind, and sound moral intent, no conceivable combination of circumstances can ever excuse us from the strict requirement of absolute veracity, or make a lie anything but base, cowardly, and contemptible.
Society is founded on trust.—Without confidence in one another, we could not live in social relations a single day. We should relapse into barbarism, strife, and mutual destruction. Since society rests on confidence, and confidence rests on tried veracity, the rewards of veracity are all those mutual advantages which a civilized society confers upon its members.
The costliness of strict truthfulness.—Truth is not only hard to discover, but frequently it is costly to speak. Truth is often opposed to sacred traditions, inherited prejudices, popular beliefs, and vested interests. To proclaim truth in the face of these opponents in early times has cost many a man his life; and to-day it often exposes one to calumny and abuse. Hence comes the temptation to conceal our real opinions; to cover up what we know to be true under some phrase which we believe will be popular; to sacrifice our convictions to what we suppose to be our interests.
Especially when we have done wrong the temptation to cover it up with a lie is very great. Deception seems so easy; it promises to smooth over our difficulties so neatly; that it is one of the hardest temptations to resist. Little do we dream,
What a tangled web we weave When first we practice to deceive.
THE VICE OF DEFECT.
The forms of falsehood are numberless.—We may lie by our faces; by our general bearing; by our silence, as well as by our lips. There is "the glistening and softly spoken lie; the amiable fallacy; the patriotic lie of the historian; the provident lie of the politician; the zealous lie of the partisan; the merciful lie of the friend; the careless lie of each man to himself." The mind of man was made for truth: truth is the only atmosphere in which the mind of man can breathe without contamination. No passing benefit which I can secure for myself or others can compensate for the injury which a falsehood inflicts on the mind of him who tells it and on the mind of him to whom it is told. For benefits and advantages, however great and important, are what we have, and they perish with the using. The mind is what we are; and an insult to our intelligence, a scar upon ourselves, a blow at that human confidence which binds us all together, is irremediable.
THE VICE OF EXCESS.
The mischievousness of gossip and scandal.—We are not called upon to know everything that is going on; nor to tell everything that we cannot help knowing. Idle curiosity and mischievous gossip result from the direction of our thirst for knowledge toward trifling and unworthy objects. There is great virtue in minding one's own business. The tell-tale is abhorrent even to the least developed moral sensibility. The gossip, the busybody, the scandalmonger is the worst pest that infests the average town and village. These mischief-makers take a grain of circumstantial evidence, mix with it a bushel of fancies, suspicions, surmises, and inuendoes, and then go from house to house peddling the product for undoubted fact. The scandalmonger is the murderer of reputations, the destroyer of domestic peace, the insuperable obstacle to the mutual friendliness of neighborhoods. This "rejoicing in iniquity" is the besetting sin of idle people. The man or woman who delights in this gratuitous and uncalled-for criticism of neighbors thereby puts himself below the moral level of the ones whose faults he criticises. Martineau, in his scale of the springs of action, rightly ranks censoriousness, with vindictiveness and suspiciousness, at the very bottom of the list. Unless there is some positive good to be gained by bringing wrong to light and offenders to justice we should know as little as possible of the failings of our fellow-men, and keep that little strictly to ourselves.
Falsehood undermines the foundations of social order.—Universal falsehood would bring social chaos. The liar takes advantage of the opportunity which his position as a member of society gives him to strike a deadly blow at the heart of the social order on which he depends for his existence, and without whose aid his arm would be powerless to strike.
The liar likewise loses confidence in himself.—He cannot distinguish truth from falsehood, he has so frequently confounded them. He is caught in his own meshes. A good liar must have a long memory. Having no recognized standard to go by, he cannot remember whether he said one thing or another about a given fact; and so he hangs himself by the rope of his own contradictions. Worse than these outward consequences is the loss of confidence in his own integrity and manhood. In Kant's words, "A lie is the abandonment, or, as it were, the annihilation of the dignity of man."
Every act we do, every thought we think, every feeling we cherish exists in time. Our life is a succession of flying moments. Once gone, they can never be recalled. As they are employed, so our character becomes. To use time wisely is a good part of the art of living well, for "time is the stuff life is made of."
The duty of making life a consistent whole.—Life is not merely a succession of separate moments. It is an organic whole. The way in which we spend one moment affects the next, and all that follow; just as the condition of one part of the body affects the well-being of all the rest. As we have seen, dissipation to-day means disease to-morrow. Work to-day means property to-morrow. Wastefulness to-day means want to-morrow. Hence it should be our aim so to co-ordinate one period of time with another that our action will promote not merely the immediate interests of the passing moment, but the interests of the permanent self throughout the whole of life. What we pursue on one day must not clash with what we pursue the next; each must contribute its part to our comprehensive and permanent well-being.
Prudence is the habit of looking ahead, and seeing present conduct in its relation to future welfare.—Prudence is manly and virtuous because it controls present inclination, instead of being controlled by it. A burning appetite or passion springs up within us, and demands instant obedience to its demands. The weak man yields at once and lets the appetite or passion or inclination lead him whithersoever it listeth. Not so the strong, the prudent man. He says to the hot, impetuous passion: "Sit down, and be quiet. I will consider your request. If it seems best I will do as you wish. If it turns out that what you ask is not for my interest I shall not do it. You need not think that I am going to do everything you ask me to, whether it is for my interest to do it or not. You have fooled me a good many times, and hereafter I propose to look into the merits of your requests before I grant them." It takes strength and courage and determination to treat the impulses of our nature in this haughty and imperious manner. But the strength and resolution which it takes to do an act is the very essence of its manliness and virtue.
The life of the prudent man holds together, part plays into part, and the whole runs smoothly.—One period of life, one fraction of time, does not conflict with another. He looks on the past with satisfaction because he is enjoying the fruit of that past in present well-being. He looks to the future with confidence because the present contains the seeds of future well-being. Each step in life is adjusted to every other, and the result is a happy and harmonious whole.
Time tempts us to break up our lives into separate parts.—"Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die." "After us the deluge." These are the maxims of fools. The reckless seizure of the pleasures of the present hour, regardless of the days and years to come, is the characteristic mark of folly.
THE VICE OF DEFECT.
"Procrastination is the thief of time."—The particular impulse which most frequently leads us to put off the duty of the hour is indolence. But any appetite or passion which induces us to postpone a recognized duty for the sake of a present delight is an invitation to procrastination.
The fallacy of procrastination, the trick by which it deceives, is in making one believe that at a different time he will be a different person. The procrastinator admits, for instance, that a piece of work must be done. But he argues, "Just now I would rather play or loaf than do the work. By and by there will come a time when I shall rather do the work than play or loaf. Let's wait till that time comes." That time never comes. Our likes and dislikes do not change from one day to another. To-morrow finds us as lazy as to-day, and with the habit of procrastination strengthened by the indulgence of yesterday. Putting a duty off once does not make it easier: it makes it harder to do the next time.
Play or rest when we ought to be at work is weakening and demoralizing. Rest and play after work is bracing and invigorating. The sooner we face and conquer a difficulty, the less of a difficulty it is. The longer we put it off the greater it seems, and the less becomes our strength with which to overcome it.
THE VICE OF EXCESS.
Anxiety defeats itself.—Anxiety sacrifices the present to the future. When this becomes a habit it defeats its own end. For the future is nothing but a succession of moments, which, when they are realized, are present moments. And the man who sacrifices all the present moments to his conception of a future, sacrifices the very substance out of which the real future is composed. For when he reaches the time to which he has been looking forward, and for the sake of which he has sacrificed all his early days, the habit of anxiety stays by him and compels him to sacrifice that future, now become present, to another future, still farther ahead; and so on forever. Thus life becomes an endless round of fret and worry, full of imaginary ills, destitute of all real and present satisfaction. It is a good rule never to cross a bridge until we come to it. Prudence demands that we make reasonable preparation for crossing it in advance. But when these preparations are made prudence has done its work, and waits calmly until the time comes to put its plans into operation. Anxiety fills all the intervening time with forebodings of all the possible obstacles that may arise when the time for action comes.
Procrastination, anxiety, and prudence.—Procrastination sacrifices the future to the present. Anxiety sacrifices the present to the future. Prudence co-ordinates present and future in a consistent whole, in which both present and future have their proper place and due consideration.
Imperfect co-ordination, whether by procrastination or by worry, brings discord. The parts of life are at variance with each other. The procrastinator looks on past indulgence with remorse and disgust; for that past indulgence is now loading him down with present disabilities and pains. He looks on the future with apprehension, for he knows that his present pleasures are purchased at the cost of misery and degradation in years to come.
The man in whom worry and anxiety have become habitual likewise lives a discordant life. He looks out of a joyless present, back on a past devoid of interest, and forward into a future full of fears.
As all thoughts and actions take place in time, so all material things exist in space. Everything we have must be in some place. To give things their right relations in space is one of the important aspects of conduct.
A place for everything, and everything in its place.—Things that belong together should be kept together. Dishes belong in the cupboard; clothes in the closet; boxes on the shelves; loose papers in the waste basket; tools in the tool-chest; wood in the wood-shed. And it is our duty to keep them in their proper place, when not in actual use. In business it is of the utmost importance to have a precise place for everything connected with it. The carpenter or machinist must have a place for each tool, and always put it there when he is through using it. The merchant must have a definite book and page or drawer or pigeon-hole for every item which he records. The scholar must have a set of cards or envelopes or drawers or pockets alphabetically arranged in which he keeps each class of facts where he can turn to it instantly. This keeping things of a kind together, each kind in a place by itself, is system. Without system nothing can be managed well, and no great enterprise can be carried on at all.
Orderliness is manly and virtuous because it keeps things under our own control, and makes them the expression of our will.—The orderly and systematic man can manage a thousand details with more ease and power than a man without order and system can manage a dozen. It is not power to do more work than other men, but power to do the same amount of work in such an orderly and systematic way that it accomplishes a hundred times as much as other men's work, which marks the difference between the statesman who manages the affairs of a nation or the merchant prince who handles millions of dollars, and the man of merely ordinary administrative and business ability.
The orderly man has his resources at his disposal at a moment's notice.—He can go directly to the thing he wants and be sure of finding it in its place. When a business is thoroughly systematized it is as easy to find one thing out of ten thousand as it is to find one thing out of ten. Hence there is scarcely any limit to the expansion of business of which the systematic man is capable. A business thus reduced to system will almost run itself. Thus the heads of great concerns are able to accept public office, or to spend a year in Europe, in absolute confidence that the business will be well conducted in their absence, and that they can take it up when they return just as they left it. For they know that each man has his part of the work for which he is responsible; each process has its precise method by which it is to be performed; each account has its exact place where it is to be kept. Order and system are the keys to business success. Orderliness keeps things under our control, and the convenience and efficiency with which things serve us is the direct and necessary consequence of having them under control.
System takes more labor to begin with, but in the long run system is the greatest labor-saving device in the world.—It takes ten times as long to hunt up a thing which we have left lying around the next time we want it, as it does to put it where it belongs at first. Yet, well as we know this fact, present and temporary ease seems of more consequence at the time of action than future and permanent convenience. Until by repeated exercise and painful discipline we make orderliness and system habitual and almost instinctive, the temptation to make the quickest and handiest disposition of things for which we have no immediate use will continue to beset our minds and betray our wills.
THE VICE OF DEFECT.
The careless man lets things run over him.—They mock him, and make fun of him; getting in his way and tripping him up at one time; hiding from him and making him hunt after them at another. Carelessness is a confession of a weak will that cannot keep things under control. And weakness is ever the mark of vice.
THE VICE OF EXCESS.
The end and aim of system is to expedite business. Red tape is the idolatry of system. It is system for the sake of system.—Every rule admits exceptions. To make exceptions before a habit is fully formed is dangerous; and while we are learning the habit of orderliness and system we should put ourselves to very great inconvenience rather than admit an exception to our systematic and orderly way of doing things. When, however, the habit has become fixed, it is wise and right to sacrifice order and system, when some "short cut" will attain our end more quickly and effectively than the regular and more round-about way of orderly procedure. The strong and successful business man is he who has his system so thoroughly under his control that he can use it or dispense with it on a given occasion; according as it will further or hinder the end he has in view.
The careless man is always bothered by things he does not want getting in his way; and by things that he does want keeping out of his way.—Half his time is spent in clearing away accumulated obstructions and hunting after the things he needs. Where everything is in a heap it is necessary to haul over a dozen things in order to find the one you are after. Carelessness suffers things to get the mastery over us; and the consequence is that we and our business are ever at their mercy. And as things held in control are faithful and efficient servants, so things permitted to domineer over us and do as they please become cruel and arbitrary masters. They waste our time, try our patience, destroy our business, and scatter our fortunes.
Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as fortune, chance, or accident. All things are held together by invariable laws. Every event takes place in accordance with law. Uniformity of law is the condition and presupposition of all our thinking. The very idea of an event that has no cause is a contradiction in terms to which no reality can correspond, like the notion of two mountains without a valley between; or a yard stick with only one end.
Relatively to us, and in consequence of the limitation of our knowledge, an event is a result of chance or fortune when the cause which produced it lies beyond the range of our knowledge. What we cannot anticipate beforehand and what we cannot account for afterward, we group together into a class and ascribe to the fictitious goddess Fortune; as children attribute gifts at Christmas which come from unknown sources to Santa Claus. In reality these unexplained and unanticipated events come from heredity, environment, social institutions, the forces of nature, and ultimately from God.
These things which project themselves without warning into our lives, often have most momentous influence for good or evil over us; and the proper attitude to take toward this class of objects is worthy of consideration by itself.
The secret of superiority to fortune.—Some things are under our control; others are not. It is the part of wisdom to concentrate our thought and feeling on the former; working with utmost diligence to make the best use of those things which are committed to us in the regular line of daily duty, and treating with comparative indifference those things which affect us from without. What we are; what we do; what we strive for;—these are the really important matters; and these are always in our power. What money comes to us; what people say about us; what positions we are called to fill; to what parties we are invited; to what offices we are elected, are matters which concern to some extent our happiness. We should welcome these good things when they come. But they affect the accidents rather than the substance of our lives. We should not be too much bound up in them when they come; and we should not grieve too deeply when they go. We should never stake our well-being and our peace of mind on their presence or their absence. We should remember that "The aids to noble life are all within."
This lesson of superiority to fortune, by regarding the things she has to give as comparatively indifferent, is the great lesson of Stoicism. Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and Seneca are the masters of this school. Their lesson is one we all need to learn thoroughly. It is the secret of strength to endure the ills of life with serenity and fortitude. And yet it is by no means a complete account of our duty toward these outward things. It is closely akin to pride and self-sufficiency. It gives strength but not sweetness to life. One must be able to do without the good things of fortune if need be. The really strong man, however, is he who can use and enjoy them without being made dependent on them or being enslaved by them. The real mastery of fortune consists not in doing without the things she brings for fear they will corrupt and enslave us; but in compelling her to give us all the things we can, and then refusing to bow down to her in hope of getting more. This just appreciation of fortune's gifts is doubtless hard to combine with perfect independence. The Stoic solution of the problem is easier. The really strong man, however, is he who