WHAT ALL THE WORLD'S A-SEEKING
Or, The Vital Law of True Life, True Greatness Power and Happiness
RALPH WALDO TRINE
New York Dodge Publishing Company 220 East Twenty-Third Street
There are two reasons the author has for putting forth this little volume: he feels that the time is, as it always has been, ripe for it; and second, his soul has ever longed to express itself upon this endless theme. It therefore comes from the heart—the basis of his belief that it will reach the heart.
R.W.T. Boston, Massachusetts
PREFACE TO REVISED EDITION.
It is impossible for one in a single volume, or perhaps in a number of volumes, to reach the exact needs of every reader.
It is always a source of gratitude, as well as of inspiration for better and more earnest work in the future, for one to know that the truths that have been and that are so valuable and so vital to him he has succeeded in presenting in a manner such that they prove likewise of value to others. The author is most grateful for the good, kind words that have come so generously from so many hundreds of readers of this simple little volume from all parts of the world. He is also grateful to that large company of people who have been so good as to put the book into the hands of so many others.
And as the days have passed, he has not been unmindful of the fact that he might make it, when the time came, of still greater value to many. In addition to a general revision of the book, some four or five questions that seemed to be most frequently asked he has endeavored to point answer to in an added part of some thirty pages, under the general title, "Character-building Thought Power." The volume enters therefore upon its fifteenth thousand better able, possibly, to come a little more directly in touch with the every-day needs of those who will be sufficiently interested to read it.
R.W.T. Sunnybrae Farm Croton-on-the-Hudson New York
PART I. THE PRINCIPLE
PART II. THE APPLICATION
PART III. THE UNFOLDMENT
PART IV. THE AWAKENING
PART V. THE INCOMING
PART VI. CHARACTER-BUILDING THOUGHT POWER
WHAT ALL THE WORLD'S A-SEEKING.
Would you find that wonderful life supernal, That life so abounding, so rich, and so free? Seek then the laws of the Spirit Eternal, With them bring your life into harmony.
How can I make life yield its fullest and best? How can I know the true secret of power? How can I attain to a true and lasting greatness? How can I fill the whole of life with a happiness, a peace, a joy, a satisfaction that is ever rich and abiding, that ever increases, never diminishes, that imparts to it a sparkle that never loses its lustre, that ever fascinates, never wearies?
No questions, perhaps, in this form or in that have been asked oftener than these. Millions in the past have asked them. Millions are asking them to-day. They will be asked by millions yet unborn. Is there an answer, a true and safe one for the millions who are eagerly and longingly seeking for it in all parts of the world to-day, and for the millions yet unborn who will as eagerly strive to find it as the years come and go? Are you interested, my dear reader, in the answer? The fact that you have read even thus far in this little volume whose title has led you to take it up, indicates that you are,—that you are but one of the innumerable company already mentioned.
It is but another way of asking that great question that has come through all the ages—What is the summum bonum in life? and there have been countless numbers who gladly would have given all they possessed to have had the true and satisfactory answer. Can we then find this answer, true and satisfactory to ourselves, surely the brief time spent together must be counted as the most precious and valuable of life itself. There is an answer: follow closely, and that our findings may be the more conclusive, take issue with me at every step if you choose, but tell me finally if it is not true and satisfactory.
There is one great, one simple principle, which, if firmly laid hold of, and if made the great central principle in one's life, around which all others properly arrange and subordinate themselves, will make that life a grand success, truly great and genuinely happy, loved and blessed by all in just the degree in which it is laid hold upon,—a principle which, if universally made thus, would wonderfully change this old world in which we live,—ay, that would transform it almost in a night, and it is for its coming that the world has long been waiting; that in place of the gloom and despair in almost countless numbers of lives would bring light and hope and contentment, and no longer would it be said as so truly to-day, that "man's inhumanity to man, makes countless thousands mourn"; that would bring to the life of the fashionable society woman, now spending her days and her nights in seeking for nothing but her own pleasure, such a flood of true and genuine pleasure and happiness and satisfaction as would make the poor, weak something she calls by this name so pale before it, that she would quickly see that she hasn't known what true pleasure is, and that what she has been mistaking for the real, the genuine, is but as a baser metal compared to the purest of gold, as a bit of cut glass compared to the rarest of diamonds, and that would make this same woman who scarcely deigns to notice the poor woman who washes her front steps, but who, were the facts known, may be living a much grander life, and consequently of much more value to the world than she herself, see that this poor woman is after all her sister, because child of the same Father; and that would make the humble life of this same poor woman beautiful and happy and sweet in its humility; that would give us a nation of statesmen in place of, with now and then an exception, a nation of politicians, each one bent upon his own personal aggrandizement at the expense of the general good; that would go far, ay, very far toward solving our great and hard-pressing social problems with which we are already face to face; that, in short, would make each man a prince among men, and each woman a queen among women.
I have seen the supreme happiness in lives where this principle has been caught and laid hold of, some, lives that seemed not to have much in them before, but which under its wonderful influences have been so transformed and so beautified, that have been made so sweet and so strong, so useful and so precious, that each day seems to them all too short, the same time that before, when they could scarcely see what was in life to make it worth the living, dragged wearily along. So there are countless numbers of people in the world with lives that seem not to have much in them, among the wealthy classes and among the poorer, who might under the influence of this great, this simple principle, make them so precious, so rich, and so happy that time would seem only too short, and they would wonder why they have been so long running on the wrong track, for it is true that much the larger portion of the world to-day is on the wrong track in the pursuit of happiness; but almost all are there, let it be said, not through choice, but by reason of not knowing the right, the true one.
The fact that really great, true, and happy lives have been lived in the past and are being lived to-day gives us our starting-point. Time and again I have examined such lives in a most careful endeavor to find what has made them so, and have found that in each and every individual case this that we have now come to has been the great central principle upon which they have been built. I have also found that in numbers of lives where it has not been, but where almost every effort apart from it has been made to make them great, true, and happy, they have not been so; and also that no life built upon it in sufficient degree, other things being equal, has failed in being thus.
Let us then to the answer, examine it closely, see if it will stand every test, if it is the true one, and if so, rejoice that we have found it, lay hold of it, build upon it, tell others of it. The last four words have already entered us at the open door. The idea has prevailed in the past, and this idea has dominated the world, that self is the great concern,—that if one would find success, greatness, happiness, he must give all attention to self, and to self alone. This has been the great mistake, this the fatal error, this the direct opposite of the right, the true as set forth in the great immutable law that—we find our own lives in losing them in the service of others, in longer form—the more of our lives we give to others, the fuller and the richer, the greater and the grander, the more beautiful and the more happy our own lives become. It is as that great and sweet soul who when with us lived at Concord said,—that generous giving or losing of your life which saves it.
This is an expression of one of the greatest truths, of one of the greatest principles of practical ethics the world has thus far seen. In a single word, it is service,—not self but the other self. We shall soon see, however, that our love, our service, our helpfulness to others, invariably comes back to us, intensified sometimes a hundred or a thousand or a thousand thousand fold, and this by a great, immutable law.
The Master Teacher, he who so many years ago in that far-away Eastern land, now in the hill country, now in the lake country, as the people gathered round him, taught them those great, high-born, and tender truths of human life and destiny, the Christ Jesus, said identically this when he said and so continually repeated,—"He that is greatest among you shall be your servant"; and his whole life was but an embodiment of this principle or truth, with the result that the greatest name in the world to-day is his,—the name of him who as his life-work, healed the sick; clothed the naked; bound up the broken-hearted; sustained the weak, the faltering; befriended and aided the poor, the needy; condemned the proud, the vain, the selfish; and through it all taught the people to love justice and mercy and service, to live in their higher, their diviner selves,—in brief, to live his life, the Christ-life, and who has helped in making it possible for this greatest principle of practical ethics the world has thus far seen to be enunciated, to be laid hold of, to be lived by to-day. "He that is greatest among you shall be your servant," or, he who would be truly great and recognized as such must find it in the capacity of a servant.
And what, let us ask, is a servant? One who renders service. To himself? Never. To others? Alway. Freed of its associations and looked at in the light of its right and true meaning, than the word "servant" there is no greater in the language; and in this right use of the term, as we shall soon see, every life that has been really true, great, and happy has been that of a servant, and apart from this no such life ever has been or ever can be lived.
O you who are seeking for power, for place, for happiness, for contentment in the ordinary way, tarry for a moment, see that you are on the wrong track, grasp this great eternal truth, lay hold of it, and you will see that your advance along this very line will be manifold times more rapid. Are you seeking, then, to make for yourself a name? Unless you grasp this mighty truth and make your life accordingly, as the great clock of time ticks on and all things come to their proper level according to their merits, as all invariably, inevitably do, you will indeed be somewhat surprised to find how low, how very low your level is. Your name and your memory will be forgotten long ere the minute-hand has passed even a single time across the great dial; while your fellow-man who has grasped this simple but this great and all-necessary truth, and who accordingly is forgetting himself in the service of others, who is making his life a part of a hundred or a thousand or a million lives, thus illimitably intensifying or multiplying his own, instead of living as you in what otherwise would be his own little, diminutive self, will find himself ascending higher and higher until he stands as one among the few, and will find a peace, a happiness, a satisfaction so rich and so beautiful, compared to which yours will be but a poor miserable something, and whose name and memory when his life here is finished, will live in the minds and hearts of his fellow-men and of mankind fixed and eternal as the stars.
A corollary of the great principle already enunciated might be formulated thus: there is no such thing as finding true happiness by searching for it directly. It must come, if it come at all, indirectly, or by the service, the love, and the happiness we give to others. So, there is no such thing as finding true greatness by searching for it directly. It always, without a single exception has come indirectly in this same way, and it is not at all probable that this great eternal law is going to be changed to suit any particular case or cases. Then recognize it, put your life into harmony with it, and reap the rewards of its observance, or fail to recognize it and pay the penalty accordingly; for the law itself will remain unchanged.
The men and women whose names we honor and celebrate are invariably those with lives founded primarily upon this great law. Note if you will, every truly great life in the world's history, among those living and among the so-called dead, and tell me if in every case that life is not a life spent in the service of others, either directly, or indirectly as when we say—he served his country. Whenever one seeks for reputation, for fame, for honor, for happiness directly and for his own sake, then that which is true and genuine never comes, at least to any degree worthy the name. It may seem to for a time, but a great law says that such an one gets so far and no farther. Sooner or later, generally sooner, there comes an end.
Human nature seems to run in this way, seems to be governed by a great paradoxical law which says, that whenever a man self-centred, thinking of, living for and in himself, is very desirous for place, for preferment, for honor, the very fact of his being thus is of itself a sufficient indicator that he is too small to have them, and mankind refuses to accord them. While the one who forgets self, and who, losing sight of these things, makes it his chief aim in life to help, to aid, and to serve others, by this very fact makes it known that he is large enough, is great enough to have them, and his fellow-men instinctively bestow them upon him. This is a great law which many would profit by to recognize. That it is true is attested by the fact that the praise of mankind instinctively and universally goes out to a hero; but who ever heard of a hero who became such by doing something for himself? Always something he has done for others. By the fact that monuments and statues are gratefully erected to the memory of those who have helped and served their fellow-men, not to those who have lived to themselves alone.
I have seen many monuments and statues erected to the memories of philanthropists, but I never yet have seen one erected to a miser; many to generous-hearted, noble-hearted men, but never yet to one whose whole life was that of a sharp bargain-driver, and who clung with a sort of semi-idiotic grasp to all that came thus into his temporary possession. I have seen many erected to statesmen,—statesmen,—but never one to mere politicians; many to true orators, but never to mere demagogues; many to soldiers and leaders, but never to men who were not willing, when necessary, to risk all in the service of their country. No, you will find that the world's monuments and statues have been erected and its praises and honors have gone out to those who were large and great enough to forget themselves in the service of others, who have been servants, true servants of mankind, who have been true to the great law that we find our own lives in losing them in the service of others. Not honor for themselves, but service for others. But notice the strange, wonderful, beautiful transformation as it returns upon itself,—honor for themselves, because of service to others.
It would be a matter of exceeding great interest to verify the truth of what has just been said by looking at a number of those who are regarded as the world's great sons and daughters,—those to whom its honors, its praises, its homage go out,—to see why it is, upon what their lives have been founded that they have become so great and are so honored. Of all this glorious company that would come up, we must be contented to look at but one or two.
There comes to my mind the name and figure of him the celebration of whose birthday I predict will soon be made a national holiday,—he than whom there is no greater, whose praises are sung and whose name and memory are honored and blessed by millions in all parts of the world to-day, and will be by millions yet unborn, our beloved and sainted Lincoln. And then I ask, Why is this? Why is this? One sentence of his tells us what to look to for the answer. During that famous series of public debates in Illinois with Stephen A. Douglas in 1858, speaking at Freeport, Mr. Douglas at one place said, "I care not whether slavery in the Territories be voted up or whether it be voted down, it makes not a particle of difference with me." Mr. Lincoln, speaking from the fulness of his great and royal heart, in reply said, with emotion, "I am sorry to perceive that my friend Judge Douglas is so constituted that he does not feel the lash the least bit when it is laid upon another man's back." Thoughts upon self? Not for a moment. Upon others? Always. He at once recognized in those black men four million brothers for whom he had a service to perform.
It would seem almost grotesque to use the word self-ish in connection with this great name. He very early, and when still in a very humble and lowly station in life, either consciously or unconsciously grasped this great truth, and in making the great underlying principle of his life to serve, to help his fellow-men, he adopted just that course that has made him one of the greatest of the sons of men, our royal-hearted elder brother. He never spent time in asking what he could do to attain to greatness, to popularity, to power, what to perpetuate his name and memory. He simply asked how he could help, how he could be of service to his fellow-men, and continually did all his hands found to do.
He simply put his life into harmony with this great principle; and in so doing he adopted the best means,—the only means to secure that which countless numbers seek and strive for directly, and every time so woefully fail in finding.
There comes to my mind in this same connection another princely soul, one who loved all the world, one whom all the world loves and delights to honor. There comes to mind also a little incident that will furnish an insight into the reason of it all. On an afternoon not long ago, Mrs. Henry Ward Beecher was telling me of some of the characteristics of Brooklyn's great preacher. While she was yet speaking of some of those along the very lines we are considering, an old gentleman, a neighbor, came into the room bearing in his hands something he had brought from Mr. Beecher's grave. It was the day next following Decoration Day. His story was this: As the great procession was moving into the cemetery with its bands of rich music, with its carriages laden with sweet and fragrant flowers, with its waving flags, beautiful in the sunlight, a poor and humble-looking woman with two companions, by her apparent nervousness attracted the attention of the gate-keeper. He kept her in view for a little while, and presently saw her as she gave something she had partially concealed to one of her companions, who, leaving the procession, went over to the grave of Mr. Beecher, and tenderly laid it there. Reverently she stood for a moment or two, and then, retracing her steps, joined her two companions, who with bowed heads were waiting by the wayside.
It was this that the old gentleman had brought,—a gold frame, and in it a poem cut from a volume, a singularly beautiful poem through which was breathed the spirit of love and service and self-devotion to the good and the needs of others. At one or two places where it fitted, the pen had been drawn across a word and Mr. Beecher's name inserted, which served to give it a still more real, vivid, and tender meaning. At the bottom this only was written, "From a poor Hebrew woman to the immortal friend of the Hebrews." There was no name, but this was sufficient to tell the whole story. Some poor, humble woman, but one out of a mighty number whom he had at some time befriended or helped or cheered, whose burden he had helped to carry, and soon perhaps had forgotten all about it. When we remember that this was his life, is it at all necessary to seek farther why all the world delights to honor this, another royal-hearted elder brother? and, as we think of this simple, beautiful, and touching incident, how true and living becomes the thought in the old, old lines!—
"Cast thy bread upon the waters, waft it on with praying breath, In some distant, doubtful moment it may save a soul from death. When you sleep in solemn silence, 'neath the morn and evening dew, Stranger hands which you have strengthened may strew lilies over you."
Our good friend, Henry Drummond, in one of his most beautiful and valuable little works says—and how admirably and how truly!—that "love is the greatest thing in the world." Have you this greatest thing? Yes. How, then, does it manifest itself? In kindliness, in helpfulness, in service, to those around you? If so, well and good, you have it. If not, then I suspect that what you have been calling love is something else; and you have indeed been greatly fooled. In fact, I am sure it is; for if it does not manifest itself in this way, it cannot be true love, for this is the one grand and never-failing test. Love is the statics, helpfulness and service the dynamics, the former necessary to the latter, but the latter the more powerful, as action is always more powerful than potentiality; and, were it not for the dynamics, the statics might as well not be. Helpfulness, kindliness, service, is but the expression of love. It is love in action; and unless love thus manifests itself in action, it is an indication that it is of that weak and sickly nature that needs exercise, growth, and development, that it may grow and become strong, healthy, vigorous, and true, instead of remaining a little, weak, indefinite, sentimental something or nothing.
It was but yesterday that I heard one of the world's greatest thinkers and speakers, one of our keenest observers of human affairs, state as his opinion that selfishness is the root of all evil. Now, if it is possible for any one thing to be the root of all evil, then I think there is a world of truth in the statement. But, leaving out of account for the present purpose whether it is true or not, it certainly is true that he who can't get beyond self robs his life of its chief charms, and more, defeats the very ends he has in view. It is a well-known law in the natural world about us that whatever hasn't use, that whatever serves no purpose, shrivels up. So it is a law of our own being that he who makes himself of no use, of no service to the great body of mankind, who is concerned only with his own small self, finds that self, small as it is, growing smaller and smaller, and those finer and better and grander qualities of his nature, those that give the chief charm and happiness to life, shrivelling up. Such an one lives, keeps constant company with his own diminutive and stunted self; while he who, forgetting self, makes the object of his life service, helpfulness, and kindliness to others, finds his whole nature growing and expanding, himself becoming large-hearted, magnanimous, kind, loving, sympathetic, joyous, and happy, his life becoming rich and beautiful. For instead of his own little life alone he has entered into and has part in a hundred, a thousand, ay, in countless numbers of other lives; and every success, every joy, every happiness coming to each of these comes as such to him, for he has a part in each and all. And thus it is that one becomes a prince among men, a queen among women.
Why, one of the very fundamental principles of life is, so much love, so much love in return; so much love, so much growth; so much love, so much power; so much love, so much life,—strong, healthy, rich, exulting, and abounding life. The world is beginning to realize the fact that love, instead of being a mere indefinite something, is a vital and living force, the same as electricity is a force, though perhaps of a different nature. The same great fact we are learning in regard to thought,—that thoughts are things, that thoughts are forces, the most vital and powerful in the universe, that they have form and substance and power, the quality of the power determined as it is by the quality of the life in whose organism the thoughts are engendered; and so, when a thought is given birth, it does not end there, but takes form, and as a force it goes out and has its effect upon other minds and lives, the effect being determined by its intensity and the quality of the prevailing emotions, and also by the emotions dominating the person at the time the thoughts are engendered and given form.
Science, while demonstrating the great facts it is to-day demonstrating in connection with the mind in its relations to and effects upon the body, is also finding from its very laboratory experiments that each particular kind of thought and emotion has its own peculiar qualities, and hence its own peculiar effects or influences; and these it is classifying with scientific accuracy. A very general classification in just a word would be—those of a higher and those of a lower nature.
Some of the chief ones among those of the lower nature are anger, hatred, jealousy, malice, rage. Their effect, especially when violent, is to emit a poisonous substance into the system, or rather, to set up a corroding influence which transforms the healthy and life-giving secretions of the body into the poisonous and the destructive. When one, for example, is dominated, even if for but a moment by a passion of anger or rage, there is set up in the system what might be justly termed a bodily thunder-storm, which has the effect of souring or corroding the normal and healthy secretions of the body and making them so that instead of life-giving they become poisonous. This, if indulged in to any extent, sooner or later induces the form of disease that this particular state of mind and emotion or passion gives birth to; and it in turn becomes chronic.
We shall ultimately find, as we are beginning to so rapidly to-day, that practically all disease has its origin in perverted mental states or emotions; that anger, hatred, fear, worry, jealousy, lust, as well as all milder forms of perverted mental states and emotions, has each its own peculiar poisoning effects and induces each its own peculiar form of disease, for all life is from within out.
Then some of the chief ones belonging to the other class—mental states and emotions of the higher nature—are love, sympathy, benevolence, kindliness, and good cheer. These are the natural and the normal; and their effect, when habitually entertained, is to stimulate a vital, healthy, bounding, purifying, and life-giving action, the exact opposite of the others; and these very forces, set into a bounding activity, will in time counteract and heal the disease-giving effects of their opposites. Their effects upon the countenance and features in inducing the highest beauty that can dwell there are also marked and all-powerful. So much, then, in regard to the effects of one's thought forces upon the self. A word more in regard to their effects upon others.
Our prevailing thought forces determine the mental atmosphere we create around us, and all who come within its influence are affected in one way or another, according to the quality of that atmosphere; and, though they may not always get the exact thoughts, they nevertheless get the effects of the emotions dominating the originator of the thoughts, and hence the creator of this particular mental atmosphere, and the more sensitively organized the person the more sensitive he or she is to this atmosphere, even at times to getting the exact and very thoughts. So even in this the prophecy is beginning to be fulfilled,—there is nothing hid that shall not be revealed.
If the thought forces sent out by any particular life are those of hatred or jealousy or malice or fault-finding or criticism or scorn, these same thought forces are aroused and sent back from others, so that one is affected not only by reason of the unpleasantness of having such thoughts from others, but they also in turn affect one's own mental states, and through these his own bodily conditions, so that, so far as even the welfare of self is concerned, the indulgence in thoughts and emotions of this nature are most expensive, most detrimental, most destructive.
If, on the other hand, the thought forces sent out be those of love, of sympathy, of kindliness, of cheer and good will, these same forces are aroused and sent back, so that their pleasant, ennobling, warming, and life-giving effects one feels and is influenced by; and so again, so far even as the welfare of self is concerned, there is nothing more desirable, more valuable and life-giving. There comes from others, then, exactly what one sends to and hence calls forth from them.
And would we have all the world love us, we must first then love all the world,—merely a great scientific fact. Why is it that all people instinctively dislike and shun the little, the mean, the self-centred, the selfish, while all the world instinctively, irresistibly, loves and longs for the company of the great-hearted, the tender-hearted, the loving, the magnanimous, the sympathetic, the brave? The mere answer—because—will not satisfy. There is a deep, scientific reason for it, either this or it is not true.
Much has been said, much written, in regard to what some have been pleased to call personal magnetism, but which, as is so commonly true in cases of this kind, is even to-day but little understood. But to my mind personal magnetism in its true sense, and as distinguished from what may be termed a purely animal magnetism, is nothing more nor less than the thought forces sent out by a great-hearted, tender-hearted, magnanimous, loving, sympathetic man or woman; for, let me ask, have you ever known of any great personal magnetism in the case of the little, the mean, the vindictive, the self-centred? Never, I venture to say, but always in the case of the other.
Why, there is nothing that can stand before this wonderful transmuting power of love. So far even as the enemy is concerned, I may not be to blame if I have an enemy; but I am to blame if I keep him as such, especially after I know of this wonderful transmuting power. Have I then an enemy, I will refuse, absolutely refuse, to recognize him as such; and instead of entertaining the thoughts of him that he entertains of me, instead of sending him like thought forces, I will send him only thoughts of love, of sympathy, of brotherly kindness, and magnanimity. But a short time it will be until he feels these, and is influenced by them. Then in addition I will watch my opportunity, and whenever I can, I will even go out of my way to do him some little kindnesses. Before these forces he cannot stand, and by and by I shall find that he who to-day is my bitterest enemy is my warmest friend and it may be my staunchest supporter. No, the wise man is he who by that wonderful alchemy of love transmutes the enemy into the friend,—transmutes the bitterest enemy into the warmest friend and supporter. Certainly this is what the Master meant when he said: "Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you and despitefully use you: thou shalt thereby be heaping coals of fire upon their heads." Ay, thou shalt melt them: before this force they cannot stand. Thou shalt melt them, and transmute them into friends.
"You never can tell what your thoughts will do In bringing you hate or love; For thoughts are things, and their airy wings Are swifter than carrier doves. They follow the law of the universe,— Each thing must create its kind; And they speed o'er the track to bring you back Whatever went out from your mind."
Yes, science to-day, at the close of this nineteenth century, in the laboratory is discovering and scientifically demonstrating the great, immutable laws upon which the inspired and illuminated ones of all ages have based all their teachings, those who by ordering their lives according to the higher laws of their being get in a moment of time, through the direct touch of inspiration, what it takes the physical investigator a whole lifetime or a series of investigators a series of lifetimes to discover and demonstrate.
Are you seeking for greatness, O brother of mine, As the full, fleeting seasons and years glide away? If seeking directly and for self alone, The true and abiding you never can stay. But all self forgetting, know well the law, It's the hero, and not the self-seeker, who's crowned. Then go lose your life in the service of others, And, lo! with rare greatness and glory 'twill abound.
Is it your ambition to become great in any particular field, to attain to fame and honor, and thereby to happiness and contentment? Is it your ambition, for example, to become a great orator, to move great masses of men, to receive their praise, their plaudits? Then remember that there never has been, there never will, in brief, there never can be a truly great orator without a great purpose, a great cause behind him. You may study in all the best schools in the country, the best universities and the best schools of oratory. You may study until you exhaust all these, and then seek the best in other lands. You may study thus until your hair is beginning to change its color, but this of itself will never make you a great orator. You may become a demagogue, and, if self-centred, you inevitably will; for this is exactly what a demagogue is,—a great demagogue, if you please, than which it is hard for one to call to mind a more contemptible animal, and the greater the more contemptible. But without laying hold of and building upon this great principle you never can become a great orator.
Call to mind the greatest in the world's history, from Demosthenes—Men of Athens, march against Philip, your country and your fellow-men will be in early bondage unless you give them your best service now—down to our own Phillips and Gough,—Wendell Phillips against the traffic in human blood, John B. Gough against a slavery among his fellow-men more hard and galling and abject than the one just spoken of; for by it the body merely is in bondage, the mind and soul are free, while in this, body, soul, and mind are enslaved. So you can easily discover the great purpose, the great cause for service, behind each and every one.
The man who can't get beyond himself, his own aggrandizement and interests, must of necessity be small, petty, personal, and at once marks his own limitations; while he whose life is a life of service and self-devotion has no limits, for he thus puts himself at once on the side of the Universal, and this more than all else combined gives a tremendous power in oratory. Such a one can mount as on the wings of an eagle, and Nature herself seems to come forth and give a great soul of this kind means and material whereby to accomplish his purposes, whereby the great universal truths go direct to the minds and hearts of his hearers to mould them, to move them; for the orator is he who moulds the minds and hearts of his hearers in the great moulds of universal and eternal truth, and then moves them along a definite line of action, not he who merely speaks pieces to them.
How thoroughly Webster recognized this great principle is admirably shown in that brief but powerful description of eloquence of his; let us pause to listen to a sentence or two: "True eloquence indeed does not consist in speech.... Words and phrases may be marshalled in every way, but they cannot compass it.... Affected passion, intense expression, the pomp of declamation, all may aspire to it; they cannot reach it.... The graces taught in the schools, the costly ornaments and studied contrivances of speech, shock and disgust men when their own lives and the fate of their wives and their children and their country hang on the decision of the hour. Then words have lost their power, rhetoric is vain, and all elaborate oratory contemptible. Even genius itself then feels rebuked and subdued, as in the presence of higher qualities. Then patriotism is eloquent, then self-devotion is eloquent. The clear conception, outrunning the deductions of logic, the high purpose, the firm resolve, the dauntless spirit speaking on the tongue, beaming from the eye, informing every feature and urging the whole man onward, right onward to his object,—this, this is eloquence." And note some of the chief words he has used,—self-devotion, patriotism, high purpose. The self-centred man can never know these, and much less can he make use of them.
True, things that one may learn, as the freeing of the bodily agents, the developing of the voice, and so on, that all may become the true reporters of the soul, instead of limiting or binding it down, as is so frequently the case in public speakers,—these are all valuable, ay, are very important and very necessary, unless one is content to live below his highest possibilities, and he is wise who recognizes this tact; but these in themselves are but as trifles when compared to those greater, more powerful, and all-essential qualities.
Is it your ambition to become a great states man? Note the very first thing, then, the word itself,—states-man, a man who gives his life to the service of the State. And do you not recognize the fact that, when one says—a man who gives his life to the service of the State, it is but another way of saying—a man who gives his life to the service of his fellow-men; for what, after all, is any country, any State, in the true sense of the term, but the aggregate, the great body of its individual citizenship. And he who lives for and unto himself, who puts the interests of his own small self before the interests of the thousands, can never become a states-man; for a statesman must be a larger man than this.
Call to your mind the greatest of the world, among those living and among the so-called dead, and you will quickly see that the life of each and every one has been built upon this great principle, and that all have been great and are held as such in just the degree in which it has been. Two of the greatest among Americans, both passed away, would to-day and even more as time goes on, be counted still greater, had they been a little larger in one aspect of their natures,—large enough to have recognized to its fullest extent the eternal truth and importance of this great principle, and had they given the time to the service of their fellow-men that was spent in desiring the Presidency and in all too plainly making it known. Having gained it could have made them no greater, and having so plainly shown their eager and childish desire for it has made them less great. Of the many thousands of men who have been in our American Congress since its beginning, and of the very, very small number comparatively that you are able to call to mind, possibly not over fifty, which would be about one out of every six hundred or more, you will find that you are able to call to mind each one of this very small number on account of his standing for some measure or principle that would to the highest degree increase the human welfare, thus truly fulfilling the great office of a statesman.
The one great trouble with our country to-day is that we have but few statesmen. We have a great swarm, a great hoard of politicians; but it is only now and then that we find a man who is large enough truly to deserve the name—statesman. The large majority in public life to-day are there not for the purpose of serving the best interests of those whom they are supposed to represent, but they are there purely for self, purely for self-aggrandizement in this form or in that, as the case may be.
Especially do we find this true in our municipalities. In some, the government instead of being in the hands of those who would make it such in truth, those who would make it serve the interests it is designed to serve, it is in the hands of those who are there purely for self, little whelps, those who will resort to any means to secure their ends, at times even to honorable means, should they seem to serve best the particular purpose in hand. We have but to look around us to see that this is true. The miserable, filthy, and deplorable condition of affairs the Lexow Committee in its investigations not so long ago laid bare to public gaze had its root in what? In the fact that the offices in that great municipality have been and are filled by men who are there to serve in the highest degree the public welfare or by men who are there purely for self-aggrandizement? But let us pass on. This degraded condition of affairs exists not only in this great city, but there are scarcely any that are free from it entirely. Matters are not always to continue thus, however. The American people will learn by and by what they ought fully to realize to-day—that the moment the honest people, the citizens, in distinction from the barnacles, mass themselves and stay massed, the notorious, filthy political rings cannot stand before them for a period of even twenty-four hours. The right, the good, the true, is all-powerful, and will inevitably conquer sooner or later when brought to the front. Such is the history of civilization.
Let our public offices—municipal, state, and federal—be filled with men who are in love with the human kind, large men, men whose lives are founded upon this great law of service, and we will then have them filled with statesmen. Never let this glorious word be disgraced, degraded, by applying it to the little, self-centred whelps who are unable to get beyond the politician stage. Then enter public life; but enter it as a man, not as a barnacle: enter it as a statesman, not as a politician.
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Is it your ambition to become a great preacher, or better yet, with the same meaning, a great teacher? Then remember that the greatest of the world have been those who have given themselves in thorough self-devotion and service to their fellow-men, who have given themselves so thoroughly to all they have come in contact with that there has been no room for self. They have not been seekers after fame, or men who have thought so much of their own particular dogmatic ways of thinking as to spend the greater part of their time in discussing dogma, creed, theology, in order, as is so generally true in cases of this kind, to prove that the ego you see before you is right in his particular ways of thinking, and that his chief ambition is to have this fact clearly understood,—an abomination, I verily believe, in the sight of God himself, whose children in the mean time are starving, are dying for the bread of life, and an abomination I am sure, in the sight of the great majority of mankind. Let us be thankful, however, for mankind is finding less use for such year by year, and the time will soon come when they will scarcely be tolerated at all.
It is to a very great extent on account of men of this kind, especially in the early history, that the true spirit of religion, of Christianity, has been lost sight of in the mere form. The basket in which it has been deemed necessary to carry it has been held as of greater import than the rare and divinely beautiful fruit itself. The true spirit, that that quickeneth and giveth life and power, has had its place taken by the mere letter, that that alone blighteth and killeth. Instead of running after these finely spun, man-made theories, this stuff,—for stuff is the word,—this that we outgrow once every few years in our march onward and upward, and then stand and laugh as we look back to think that such ideas have ever been held, instead of this, thinking that thus you will gain power, act the part of the wise man, and go each day into the silence, there commune with the Infinite, there dwell for a season with the Infinite Spirit of all life, of all power; for you can get true power in no other way.
Instead of running about here and there to have your cup filled at these little stagnant pools, dried up as they generally are by the continual rays of a constantly shining egoistic sun, go direct to the great fountain-head, and there drink of the water of life that is poured out freely to every one if he will but go there for it. One can't, however, send and have it brought by another.
Go, then, into the silence, even if it be but for a short period,—a period of not more than a quarter or a half-hour a day,—and there come into contact with the Great Source of all life, of all power. Send out your earnest desires for whatsoever you will; and whatsoever you will, if continually watered by expectation, will sooner or later come to you. All knowledge, all truth, all power, all wisdom, all things whatsoever, are yours, if you will but go in this way for them. It has been tried times without number, and has never yet once failed where the motives have been high, where the knowledge of the results beforehand has been sufficiently great. Within a fortnight you can know the truth of this for yourself if you will but go in the right way.
All the truly great teachers in the world's history have gotten their powers in this way. You remember the great soul who left us not long ago, he who ministered so faithfully at Trinity, the great preacher of such wonderful powers, the one so truly inspired. It was but an evening or two since, when in conversation with a member of his congregation, we were talking in regard to Phillips Brooks. She was telling of his beautiful and powerful spirit and said that they were all continually conscious of the fact that he had a power they hadn't, but that all longed for; that he seemed to have a great secret of power they hadn't, but that they often tried to find. She continued, and in the very next sentence went on to tell of a fact,—one that I knew full well,—the fact that during a certain period of each day he took himself alone into a little, silent room, he fastened the door behind him, and during this period under no circumstances could he be seen by any one. The dear lady knew these two things, she knew and was influenced by his great soul power, she also knew of his going thus into the silence each day; but, bless her heart, it had never once occurred to her to put the two together.
It is in this way that great soul power is grown; and the men of this great power are the men who move the world, the men who do the great work in the world along all lines, and against whom no man, no power, can stand. Call to mind a number of the world's greatest preachers, or, using again the better term, teachers, and bear in mind I do not mean creed, dogma, form, but religious teachers,—and the one class differs from the other even as the night from the day,—and you will find two great facts in the life of each and all,—great soul power, grown chiefly by much time spent in the silence, and the fact that the life of each has been built upon this one great and all-powerful principle of love, service, and helpfulness for all mankind.
Is it your ambition to become a great writer? Very good. But remember that unless you have something to give to the world, something you feel mankind must have, something that will aid them in their march upward and onward, unless you have some service of this kind to render, then you had better be wise, and not take up the pen; for, if your object in writing is merely fame or money, the number of your readers may be exceedingly small, possibly a few score or even a few dozen may be a large estimate.
What an author writes is, after all, the sum total of his life, his habits, his characteristics, his experiences, his purposes. He never can write more than he himself is. He can never pass beyond his limitations; and unless he have a purpose higher than writing merely for fame or self-aggrandizement, he thereby marks his own limitations, and what he seeks will never come. While he who writes for the world, because he feels he has something that it needs and that will be a help to mankind, if it is something it needs, other things being equal, that which the other man seeks for directly, and so never finds, will come to him in all its fulness. This is the way it comes, and this way only. Mankind cares nothing for you until you have shown that you care for mankind.
Note this statement from the letter of a now well-known writer, one whose very first book met with instant success, and that has been followed by others all similarly received. She says, "I never thought of writing until two years and a half ago, when, in order to disburden my mind of certain thoughts that clamored for utterance, I produced," etc. In the light of this we cannot wonder at the remarkable success of her very first and all succeeding books. She had something she felt the world needed and must have; and, with no thought of self, of fame, or of money, she gave it. The world agreed with her; and, as she was large enough to seek for neither, it has given her both.
Note this also: "I write for the love of writing, not for money or reputation. The former I have without exertion, the latter is not worth a pin's point in the general economy of the vast universe. Work done for the love of working brings its own reward far more quickly and surely than work done for mere payment." This is but the formulated statement of what all the world's greatest writers and authors have said or would say,—at least so far as I have come in contact with their opinions in regard to it.
So, unless you are large enough to forget self for the good, for the service of mankind, thus putting yourself on the side of the universal and making it possible for you to give something that will in turn of itself bring fame, you had better be wise, and not lift the pen at all; for what you write will not be taken up, or, if it is, will soon be let fall again.
One of our most charming and most noted American authors says in regard to her writing, "I press my soul upon the white paper"; and let me tell you the reason it in turn makes its impression upon so many thousands of other souls is because hers is so large, so tender, so sympathetic, so loving, that others cannot resist the impression, living as she does not for self, but for the service of others, her own life thus having a part in countless numbers of other lives.
It is only that that comes from the heart that can reach the heart. Take from their shelves the most noted, the greatest works in any library, and you will find that their authors have made them what they are not by a study of the rules and principles of rhetoric, for this of itself never has made and never can make a great writer. They are what they are because the author's very soul has been fired by some great truth or fact that the world has needed, that has been a help to mankind. Large souls they have been, souls in love with all the human kind.
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Is it your ambition to become a great actor? Then remember that if you make it the object of your life to play to influence the hearts, the lives, and so the destinies of men, this same great law of nature that operates in the case of the orator will come to your assistance, will aid you in your growth and development, and will enable you to attain to heights you could never attain to or even dream of, in case you play for the little ego you otherwise would stand for. In the latter case you may succeed in making a third or a fourth rate actor, possibly a second rate; but you can never become one of the world's greatest, and the chances are you may succeed in making not even a livelihood, and thus have your wonderment satisfied why so many who try fail.
In the other case, other things being equal, the height you may attain to is unbounded, depending upon the degree you are able to forget yourself in influencing the minds and the souls, and thus the lives and the destinies of men.
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Is it your ambition to become a great singer? Then remember that if your thought is only of self, you may never sing at all, unless, indeed, you enjoy singing to yourself,—this, or you will be continually anxious as to the size of your audience. If, on the other hand, you choose this field of work because here you can be of the greatest service to mankind, if your ambition is to sing to the hearts and the lives of men, then this same great law of nature will come to assist you in your growth and development and efforts, and other things being equal, instead of singing to yourself or being anxious as to the size of your audience, you will seldom find time for the first, and your anxiety will be as to whether the place has an audience-chamber large enough to accommodate even a small portion of the people who will seek admittance. You remember Jenny Lind.
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Is it your ambition to become a fashionable society woman, this and nothing more, intent only upon your own pleasure and satisfaction? Then stop and meditate, if only for a moment; for if this is the case, you never will, ay, you never can find the true and the genuine, for you fail to recognize the great law that there is no such thing as finding true happiness by searching for it directly, and the farther on you go the more flimsy and shallow and unsatisfying that imitation you are willing to accept for the genuine will become. You will thereby rob life of its chief charms, defeat the very purpose you have in view. And, while you are at this moment meditating, oh grasp the truth of the great law that you will find your own life only in losing it in the service of others,—that the more of your life you so give, the fuller and the richer, the greater and the grander, the more beautiful and the more happy your own life will become.
And with your abundant means and opportunities build your life upon this great law of service, and experience the pleasure of growing into that full, rich, ever increasing and satisfying life that will result, and that will make you better known, more honored and blessed, than the life of any mere society woman can be, or any life, for that matter; for you are thus living a life the highest this world can know. And you will thus hasten the day when, standing and looking back and seeing the emptiness and the littleness of the other life as compared with this, you will bless the time that your better judgment prevailed and saved you from it. Or, if you chance to be in it already, delay not, but commence now to build upon this true foundation.
Instead of discharging your footman, as did a woman of whom I chance to know, because he finally refused to stand in the rain by the side of her carriage, with his arms folded just so, standing immovable like a mummy (I had almost said like a fool), daring to look neither to one side nor the other, but all the time in the direction of her so-called ladyship, while she spent an hour or two in doing fifteen or twenty minutes' shopping in her desire to make it known that this is Mrs. Q.'s carriage, and this is the footman that goes with it,—instead of doing this, give him an umbrella if necessary, and take him to aid you as you go on your errands of mercy and cheer and service and loving kindness to the innumerable ones all about you who so stand in need of them.
Is there any comparison between the appellation "Lady Bountiful" and "a proud, selfish, pleasure-seeking woman"? And, much more, do you think there is any comparison whatever between the real pleasure and happiness and satisfaction in the lives of the two?
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Is it the ambition of your life to accumulate great wealth, and thus to acquire a great name, and along with it happiness and satisfaction? Then remember that whether these will come to you will depend entirely upon the use and disposition you make of your wealth. If you regard it as a private trust to be used for the highest good of mankind, then well and good, these will come to you. If your object, however, is to pile it up, to hoard it, then neither will come; and you will find it a life as unsatisfactory as one can live.
There is, there can be, no greatness in things, in material things, of themselves. The greatness is determined entirely by the use and disposition made of them. The greatest greatness and the only true greatness in the world is unselfish love and service and self-devotion to one's fellow-men.
Look at the matter carefully, and tell me candidly if there can be anything more foolish than a man's spending all the days of his life piling up and hoarding money, too mean and too stingy to use any but what is absolutely necessary, accumulating many times more than he can possibly ever use, always eager for more, growing still more eager and grasping the nearer he comes to life's end, then lying down, dying, and leaving it. It seems to me about as sensible for a man to have as the great aim and ambition of life the piling up of an immense pile of old iron in the middle of a large field, and sitting on it day after day because he is so wedded to it that it has become a part of his life and lest a fragment disappear, denying himself and those around him many of the things that go to make life valuable and pleasant, and finally dying there, himself, the soul, so dwarfed and so stunted that he has really a hard time to make his way out of the miserable old body. There is not such a great difference, if you will think of it carefully,—one a pile of old iron, the other a pile of gold or silver, but all belonging to the same general class.
It is a great law of our being that we become like those things we contemplate. If we contemplate those that are true and noble and elevating, we grow in the likeness of these. If we contemplate merely material things, as gold or silver or copper or iron, our souls, our natures, and even our faces become like them, hard and flinty, robbed of their finer and better and grander qualities. Call to mind the person or picture of the miser, and you will quickly see that this is true. Merely nature's great law. He thought he was going to be a master: he finds himself the slave. Instead of possessing his wealth, his wealth possesses him. How often have I seen persons of nearly or quite this kind! Some can be found almost anywhere. You can call to mind a few, perhaps many.
During the past two or three years two well-known millionaires in the United States, millionaires many times over, have died. The one started into life with the idea of acquiring a great name by accumulating great wealth. These two things he had in mind,—self and great wealth. And, as he went on, he gradually became so that he could see nothing but these. The greed for gain soon made him more and more the slave; and he, knowing nothing other than obedience to his master, piled and accumulated and hoarded, and after spending all his days thus, he then lay down and died, taking not so much as one poor little penny with him, only a soul dwarfed compared to what it otherwise might have been. For it might have been the soul of a royal master instead of that of an abject slave.
The papers noted his death with seldom even a single word of praise. It was regretted by few, and he was mourned by still fewer. And even at his death he was spoken of by thousands in words far from complimentary, all uniting in saying what he might have been and done, what a tremendous power for good, how he might have been loved and honored during his life, and at death mourned and blessed by the entire nation, the entire world. A pitiable sight, indeed, to see a human mind, a human soul, thus voluntarily enslave itself for a few temporary pieces of metal.
The other started into life with the principle that a man's success is to be measured by his direct usefulness to his fellow-men, to the world in which he lives, and by this alone; that private wealth is merely a private trust to be used for the highest good of mankind. Under the benign influences of this mighty principle of service, we see him great, influential, wealthy; his whole nature expanding, himself growing large-hearted, generous, magnanimous, serving his State, his country, his fellow-men, writing his name on the hearts of all he comes in contact with, so that his name is never thought of by them without feelings of gratitude and praise.
Then as the chief service to his fellow-men, next to his own personal influence and example, he uses his vast fortune, this vast private trust, for the founding and endowing of a great institution of learning, using his splendid business capacities in its organization, having uppermost in mind in its building that young men and young women may there have every advantage at the least possible expense to fit themselves in turn for the greatest direct usefulness to their fellow-men while they live in the world.
In the midst of these activities the news comes of his death. Many hearts now are sad. The true, large-hearted, sympathizing friend, the servant of rich and poor alike, has gone away. Countless numbers whom he has befriended, encouraged, helped, and served, bless his name, and give thanks that such a life has been lived. His own great State rises up as his pall-bearers, while the entire nation acts as honorary pall-bearers. Who can estimate the influence of a life such as this? But it cannot be estimated; for it will flow from the ones personally influenced to others, and through them to others throughout eternity. He alone who in His righteous balance weighs each human act can estimate it. And his final munificent gift to mankind will make his name remembered and honored and blessed long after the accumulations of mere plutocrats are scattered and mankind forgets that they have ever lived.
Then have as your object the accumulation of great wealth if you choose; but bear in mind that, unless you are able to get beyond self, it will make you not great, but small, and you will rob life of the finer and better things in it. If, on the other hand, you are guided by the principle that private wealth is but a private trust, and that direct usefulness or service to mankind is the only real measure of true greatness, and bring your life into harmony with it, then you will become and will be counted great; and with it will come that rich joy and happiness and satisfaction that always accompanies a life of true service, and therefore the best and truest life.
One can never afford to forget that personality, life, and character, that there may be the greatest service, are the chief things, and wealth merely the incident. Nor can one afford to be among those who are too mean, too small, or too stingy to invest in anything that will grow and increase these.
If you'd have a rare growth and unfoldment supreme, And make life one long joy and contentment complete, Then with kindliness, love, and good will let it teem, And with service for all make it fully replete.
If you'd have all the world and all heaven to love you, And that love with its power would you fully convince, Then love all the world; and men royal and true, Will make cry as you pass—"God bless him, the prince!"
One beautiful feature of this principle of love and service is that this phase of one's personality, or nature, can be grown. I have heard it asked, If one hasn't it to any marked degree naturally, what is to be done? In reply let it be said, Forget self, get out of it for a little while, and, as it comes in your way, do something for some one, some kind service, some loving favor, it makes no difference how small it may appear. But a kind look or word to one weary with care, from whose life all worth living for seems to have gone out; a helping hand or little lift to one almost discouraged,—it may be that this is just the critical moment, a helping hand just now may change a life or a destiny. Show yourself a friend to one who thinks he or she is friendless.
Oh, there are a thousand opportunities each day right where you are,—not the great things far away, but the little things right at hand. With a heart full of love do something: experience the rich returns that will come to you, and it will be unnecessary to urge a repetition or a continuance. The next time it will be easier and more natural, and the next. You know of that wonderful reflex-nerve system you have in your body,—that which says that whenever you do a certain thing in a certain way, it is easier to do the same thing the next time, and the next, and the next, until presently it is done with scarcely any effort on your part at all, it has become your second nature. And thus we have what? Habit. This is the way that all habit is, the way that all habit must be formed. And have you ever fully realized that life is, after all, merely a series of habits, and that it lies entirely within one's own power to determine just what that series shall be?
I have seen this great principle made the foundation principle in an institution of learning. It is made not a theory merely as I have seen it here and there, but a vital, living truth. And I wish I had time to tell of its wonderful and beautiful influences upon the life and work of that institution, and upon the lives and the work of those who go out from it. A joy indeed to be there. One can't enter within its walls even for a few moments without feeling its benign influences. One can't go out without taking them with him. I have seen purposes and lives almost or quite transformed; and life so rich, so beautiful, and so valuable opened up, such as the persons never dreamed could be, by being but a single year under these beautiful and life-giving influences.
I have also seen it made the foundation principle of a great summer congress, one that has already done an unprecedented work, one that has a far greater work yet before it, and chiefly by reason of this all-powerful foundation upon which it is built,—conceived and put into operation as it was by a rare and highly illumined soul, one thoroughly filled with the love of service for all the human kind. There are no thoughts of money returns, for everything it has to give is as free as the beautiful atmosphere that pervades it. The result is that there is drawn together, by way of its magnificent corps of lectures as well as those in attendance, a company of people of the rarest type, so that everywhere there is a manifestation of that spirit of love, helpfulness, and kindliness, that permeates the entire atmosphere with a deep feeling of peace, that makes every moment of life a joy.
So enchanting does this spirit make the place that very frequently the single day of some who have come for this length of time has lengthened itself into a week, and the week in turn into a month; and the single week of others has frequently lengthened itself, first into a month, then into the entire summer. There is nothing at all strange in this fact, however; for wherever one finds sweet humanity, he there finds a spot where all people love to dwell.
Making this the fundamental principle of one's life, around which all others properly arrange and subordinate themselves, is not, as a casual observer might think, and as he sometimes suggests, an argument against one's own growth and development, against the highest possible unfoldment of his entire personality and powers. Rather, on the other hand, is it one of the greatest reasons, one of the greatest arguments, in its favor; for, the stronger the personality and the greater the powers, the greater the influence in the service of mankind. If, then, life be thus founded, can there possibly be any greater incentive to that self-development that brings one up to his highest possibilities? A development merely for self alone can never have behind it an incentive, a power so great; and after all, there is nothing in the world so great, so effective in the service of mankind, as a strong, noble, and beautiful manhood or womanhood. It is this that in the ultimate determines the influence of every man upon his fellow-men. Life, character, is the greatest power in the world, and character it is that gives the power; for in all true power, along whatever line it may be, it is after all, living the life that tells. This is a great law that but few who would have great power and influence seem to recognize, or, at least, that but few seem to act upon.
Are you a writer? You can never write more than you yourself are. Would you write more? Then broaden, deepen, enrich the life. Are you a minister? You can never raise men higher than you have raised yourself. Your words will have exactly the sound of the life whence they come. Hollow the life? Hollow-sounding and empty will be the words, weak, ineffective, false. Would you have them go with greater power, and thus be more effective? Live the life, the power will come. Are you an orator? The power and effectiveness of your words in influencing and moving masses of men depends entirely upon the altitude from which they are spoken. Would you have them more effective, each one filled with a living power? Then elevate the life, the power will come. Are you in the walks of private life? Then, wherever you move, there goes from you, even if there be no word spoken, a silent but effective influence of an elevating or a degrading nature. Is the life high, beautiful? Then the influences are inspiring, life-giving. Is it low, devoid of beauty? The influences then, are disease laden, death-dealing. The tones of your voice, the attitude of your body, the character of your face, all are determined by the life you live, all in turn influence for better or for worse all who come within your radius. And if, as one of earth's great souls has said, the only way truly to help a man is to make him better, then the tremendous power of merely the life itself.
Why, I know personally a young man of splendid qualities and gifts, who was rapidly on the way of ruin, as the term goes, gradually losing control of himself day after day, self-respect almost gone,—already the thought of taking his own life had entered his mind,—who was so inspired with the mere presence and bearing of a royal-hearted young man, one who had complete mastery of himself, and therefore a young man of power, that the very sight of him as he went to and fro in his daily work was a power that called his better self to the front again, awakened the God nature within him, so that he again set his face in the direction of the right, the true, the manly; and to-day there is no grander, stronger, more beautiful soul in all the wide country than he. Yes, there is a powerful influence that resolves itself into a service for all in each individual strong, pure, and noble life.
And have the wonderful possibilities of what may be termed an inner or soul development ever come strongly to your notice? Perhaps not, for as yet only a few have begun to recognize under this name a certain great power that has always existed,—a power that has never as yet been fully understood, and so has been called by this term and by that. It is possible so to develop this soul power that, as we stand merely and talk with a person, there goes out from us a silent influence that the person cannot see or hear, but that he feels, and the influences of which he cannot escape; that, as we merely go into a room in which several persons are sitting, there goes out from us a power, a silent influence that all will feel and will be influenced by, even though not a word be spoken. This has been the power of every man, of every woman, of great and lasting influence in the world's history.
It is just beginning to come to us through a few highly illumined souls that this power can be grown, that it rests upon great natural law that the Author of our being has instituted within us and about us. It is during the next few years that we are to see many wonderful developments along this line; for in this, as in many others, the light is just beginning to break. A few, who are far up on the heights of human development, are just beginning to catch the first few faint flushes of the dawn. Then live to your highest. This of itself will make you of great service to mankind, but without this you never can be. Naught is the difference how hard you may try; and know, even so far as your own highest interests are concerned, that the true joy of existence comes from living to one's highest.
This life, and this alone, will bring that which I believe to be one of the greatest characteristics of a truly great man,—humility; and when one says humility, he necessarily implies simplicity; for the two always go hand in hand. The one is born of the other. The proud, the vain, the haughty, those striving for effect, are never counted among the world's greatest personages. The very fact of one's striving for effect of itself indicates that there is not enough in him to make him really great; while he who really is so needs never concern himself about it, nor does he ever. I can think of no better way for one to attain to humility and simplicity than for him to have his mind off of self in the service of others. Vanity, that most dangerous quality, and especially for young people, is the outcome of one's always regarding self.
Mrs. Henry Ward Beecher once said that, when they lived in the part of Brooklyn known as the Heights, they could always tell when Mr. Beecher was coming in the evening from the voices and the joyous laughter of the children. All the street urchins, as well as the more well-to-do children in the vicinity, knew him, and would often wait for his coming. When they saw him in the distance, they would run and gather around him, get hold of his hands, into those large overcoat pockets for the nuts and the good things he so often filled them with before starting for home, knowing as he did full well what was coming, tug at him to keep him with them as long as they could, he all the time laughing or running as if to get away, never too great—ay, rather let us say, great enough—to join with them in their sports.
That mysterious dignity of a man less great, therefore with less of humility and simplicity, with mind always intent upon self and his own standing, would have told him that possibly this might not be just the "proper thing" to do. But even the children, street urchins as well as those well-to-do, found in this great loving soul a friend. Recall similar incidents in the almost daily life of Lincoln and in the lives of all truly great men. All have that beautiful and ever-powerful characteristic, that simple, childlike nature.
Another most beautiful and valuable feature of this life is its effect upon one's own growth and development. There is a law which says that one can't do a kind act or a loving service for another without its bringing rich returns to his own life and growth. This is an invariable law. Can I then, do a kind act or a loving service for a brother or a sister,—and all indeed are such because children of the same Father,—why, I should be glad—ay, doubly glad of the opportunity. If I do it thus out of love, forgetful of self, for aught I know it may do me more good than the one I do it for, in its influence upon the growing of that rich, beautiful, and happy life it is mine to grow; though the joy and satisfaction resulting from it, the highest, the sweetest, the keenest this life can know, are of themselves abundant rewards.
In addition to all this it scarcely ever fails that those who are thus aided by some loving service may be in a position somehow, some-when, somewhere, either directly or indirectly, and at a time when it may be most needed or most highly appreciated, to do in turn a kind service for him who, with never a thought of any possible return, has dealt kindly with them. So
"Cast your bread upon the waters, far and wide your treasures strew, Scatter it with willing fingers, shout for joy to see it go! You may think it lost forever; but, as sure as God is true, In this life and in the other it will yet return to you."
Have you sorrows or trials that seem very heavy to bear? Then let me tell you that one of the best ways in the world to lighten and sweeten them is to lose yourself in the service of others, in helping to bear and lighten those of a fellow-being whose, perchance, are much more grievous than your own. It is a great law of your being which says you can do this. Try it, and experience the truth for yourself, and know that, when turned in this way, sorrow is the most beautiful soul-refiner of which the world knows, and hence not to be shunned, but to be welcomed and rightly turned.
There comes to my mind a poor widow woman whose life would seem to have nothing in it to make it happy, but, on the other hand, cheerless and tiresome, and whose work would have been very hard, had it not been for a little crippled child she dearly loved and cared for, and who was all the more precious to her on account of its helplessness. Losing herself and forgetting her own hard lot in the care of the little cripple, her whole life was made cheerful and happy, and her work not hard, but easy, because lightened by love and service for another. And this is but one of innumerable cases of this kind.
So you may turn your sorrows, you may lighten your burdens, by helping bear the burdens, if not of a crippled child, then of a brother or a sister who in another sense may be crippled, or who may become so but for your timely service. You can find them all about you: never pass one by.
By building upon this principle, the poor may thus live as grandly and as happily as the rich, those in humble and lowly walks of life as grandly and as happily as those in what seem to be more exalted stations. Recognizing the truth, as we certainly must by this time, that one is truly great only in so far as this is made the fundamental principle of his life, it becomes evident that that longing for greatness for its and for one's own sake falls away, and none but a diseased mind cares for it; for no sooner is it grasped than, as a bubble, it bursts, because it is not the true, the permanent, but the false, the transient. On the other hand, he who forgetting self and this kind of greatness, falsely so called, in the service of his fellow-men, by this very fact puts himself on the right track, the only track for the true, the genuine; and in what degree it will come to him depends entirely upon his adherence to the law.
And do you know the influence of this life in the moulding of the features, that it gives the highest beauty that can dwell there, the beauty that comes from within,—the soul beauty, so often found in the paintings of the old masters. True beauty must come, must be grown, from, within. That outward veneering, which is so prevalent, can never be even a poor imitation of this type of the true, the genuine. To appreciate fully the truth of this, it is but necessary to look for a moment at that beautiful picture by Sant, the "Soul's Awakening," a face that grows more beautiful each time one looks at it, and that one never tires of looking at, and compare with it the fractional parts of apothecary shops we see now and then—or so often, to speak more truly—on the streets. A face of this higher type carries with it a benediction wherever it goes.
A beautiful little incident came to my notice not long ago. It was a very hot and dusty day. The passengers on the train were weary and tired. The time seemed long and the journey cheerless. A lady with a face that carries a benediction to all who see her entered the car with a little girl, also of that type of beauty that comes from within, and with a voice musical, sweet, and sparkling, such as also comes from this source.
The child, when they were seated, had no sooner spoken a few words before she began to enlist the attention of her fellow-passengers. She began playing peek-a-boo with a staid and dignified old gentleman in the seat behind her. He at first looked at her over his spectacles, then lowered his paper a little, then a little more, and a little more. Finally, he dropped it altogether, and, apparently forgetting himself and his surroundings, became oblivious to everything in the fascinating pleasure he was having with the little girl. The other passengers soon found themselves following his example. All papers and books were dropped. The younger folks gave way to joyous laughter, and all seemed to vie with each other in having the honor of receiving a word or a smile from the little one.
The dust, the heat, the tired, cheerless feelings were all forgotten; and when these two left the car, the little girl waving them good-by, instinctively, as one person, all the passengers waved it to her in return, and two otherwise dignified gentlemen, leaving their seats, passed over to the other side, and looked out of the window to see her as long as they could. Something as an electrical spark seemed to have passed through the car. All were light-hearted and happy now; and the conditions in the car, compared to what they were before these two entered, would rival the work of the stereopticon, so far as completeness of change is concerned. You have seen such faces and have heard such voices. They result from a life the kind we are considering. They are but its outward manifestations, spontaneous as the water from the earth as it bursts forth a natural fountain.
We must not fail also to notice the effect of this life upon one's manners and bearing. True politeness comes from a life founded upon this great principle, and from this alone. This gives the true gentleman,—gentle-man,—a man gentle, kind, loving, courteous from nature. Such a one can't have anything but true politeness, can't be anything but a gentle-man; for one can't truly be anything but himself. So the one always intent upon and thinking of self cannot be the true gentleman, notwithstanding the artful contrivances and studied efforts to appear so, but which so generally reveal his own shallowness and artificiality, and disgust all with whom he comes in contact.
I sometimes meet a person who, when introduced, will go through a series of stiff, cold, and angular movements, the knee at such a bend, the foot at such an angle, the back with such a bend or hump,—much less pleasant to see than that of a camel or a dromedary, for with these it is natural,—so that I have found myself almost thinking, Poor fellow, I wonder what the trouble is, whether he will get over it all right. It is so very evident that he all the time has his mind upon himself, wondering whether or not he is getting everything just right. What a relief to turn from such a one to one who, instead of thinking always of self, has continually in mind the ease and comfort and pleasure he can give to others, who, in other words, is the true gentle-man, and with whom true politeness is natural; for one's every act is born of his thoughts.
It is said that there was no truer gentleman in all Scotland than Robert Burns. And yet he was a farmer all his life, and had never been away from his native little rural village into a city until near the close of his life, when, taking the manuscripts that for some time had been accumulating in the drawer of his writing-table up to Edinburgh, he captivated the hearts of all in the capital. Without studied contrivances, he was the true gentleman, and true politeness was his, because his life was founded upon the principle that continually brought from his pen lines such as:—
"It's coming yet, for a' that, That man to man, the warld o'er, Shall brothers be for a' that!"
And under the influence of this principle, he was a gentleman by nature, and one of nature's noblemen, without ever thinking whether he was or not, as he who is truly such never needs to and never does.
And then recall the large-hearted Ben Franklin, when sent to the French court. In his plain gray clothes, unassuming and entirely forgetful of himself, how he captured the hearts of all, of even the giddy society ladies, and how he became and remained while there the centre of attraction in that gay capital! His politeness, his manners, all the result of that great, kind, loving, and helpful nature which made others feel that it was they he was devoting himself to and not himself.
This little extract from a letter written by Franklin to George Whitefield will show how he regarded the great principle we are considering: "As to the kindness you mention, I wish it could have been of more service to you. But, if it had, the only thanks I should desire is that you would always be equally ready to serve any other person that may need your assistance; and so let good offices go around, for mankind are all of a family. For my own part, when I am employed in serving others, I do not look upon myself as conferring favors, but as paying debts. In my travels, and since my settlement, I have received much kindness from men to whom I shall never have any opportunity of making any direct return, and numberless mercies from God, who is infinitely above being benefited by our services. These kindnesses from men I can, therefore, only return on their fellow-men; and I can only show my gratitude for these mercies from God by a readiness to help his other children and my brethren."
No, true gentlemanliness and politeness always comes from within, and is born of a life of love, kindliness, and service. This is the universal language, known and understood everywhere, even when our words are not. There is, you know, a beautiful old proverb which says, "He who is kind and courteous to strangers thereby shows himself a citizen of the world." And there is nothing so remembered, and that so endears one to all mankind, as this universal language. Even dumb animals understand it and are affected by it. How quickly the dog, for example, knows and makes it known when he is spoken to and treated kindly or the reverse! And here shall not a word be spoken in connection with that great body of our fellow-creatures whom, because we do not understand their language, we are accustomed to call dumb? The attitude we have assumed toward these fellow-creatures, and the treatment they have been subjected to in the past, is something almost appalling.
There are a number of reasons why this has been true. Has not one been on account of a belief in a future life for man, but not for the animal? A few years ago a gentleman left by will some fifty thousand dollars for the work of Henry Bergh's New York Society. His relatives contested the will on the ground of insanity,—on the ground of insanity because he believed in a future life for animals. The judge, in giving his decision sustaining the will, stated that after a very careful investigation, he found that fully half the world shared the same belief. Agassiz thoroughly believed it. An English writer has recently compiled a list of over one hundred and seventy English authors who have so thoroughly believed it as to write upon the subject. The same belief has been shared by many of the greatest thinkers in all parts of the world, and it is a belief that is constantly gaining ground.
Another and perhaps the chief cause has been on account of a supposed inferior degree of intelligence on the part of animals, which in another form would mean, that they are less able to care for and protect themselves. Should this, however, be a reason why they should be neglected and cruelly treated? Nay, on the other hand, should this not be the greatest reason why we should all the more zealously care for, protect, and kindly treat them?
You or I may have a brother or a sister who is not normally endowed as to brain power, who, perchance, may be idiotic or insane, or who, through sickness or mishap, is weakminded; but do we make this an excuse for neglecting, cruelly treating, or failing to love such a one? On the contrary, the very fact that he or she is not so able to plan for, care for, and protect him or her self, is all the greater reason for all the more careful exercise of these functions on our part. But, certainly, there are many animals around us with far more intelligence, at least manifested intelligence, than this brother or sister. The parallel holds, but the absurd falsity of the position we assume is most apparent. No truer nobility of character can anywhere manifest itself than is shown in one's attitude toward and treatment of those weaker or the so-called inferior, and so with less power to care for and protect themselves. Moreover, I think we shall find that we are many times mistaken in regard to our beliefs in connection with the inferior intelligence of at least many animals. If, instead of using them simply to serve our own selfish ends without a just recompense, without a thought further than as to what we can get out of them, and then many times casting them off when broken or of no further service, and many times looking down upon, neglecting, or even abusing them,—if, instead of this, we would deal equitably with them, love them, train and educate them the same as we do our children, we would be somewhat surprised at the remarkable degree of intelligence the "dumb brutes" possess, and also the remarkable degree of training they are capable of. What, however, can be expected of them when we take the attitude we at present hold toward them?