Chapter One Human Life Like a Poem
I think that, from a biological standpoint, human life almost reads like a poem.
It has its own rhythm and beat, its internal cycles of growth and decay.
No one can say that a life with childhood, manhood and old age is not a beautiful arrangement;
the day has its morning, noon and sunset, and the year has its seasons, and it is good
that it is so. There is no good or bad in life, except what is good according to its own season.
And if we take this biological view of life and try to live according to the seasons, no one but a conceited fool or an impossible idealist can deny that human life can be lived like a poem.
We Are on a Journey
Wherever you are, and whoever you maybe, there is one thing in which you and I are just alike at this moment, and in all the moments of our existence. We are not at rest; we are on a journey, our life is a movement, a tendency, a steady, ceaseless progress towards an unseen goal. We are gaining something, or losing something, everyday. Even when our position and our character seem to remain precisely the same, they are changing. For the mere advance of time is a change. It is not the same thing to have a bare field in January and in July, the season makes the difference. The limitations that are childlike in the child are childish in the man.
Everything that we do is a step in one direction or another, even the failure to do something is in itself a deed. It sets us forward or backward. The action of the negative pole of a magnetic needle is just as real as the action of the positive pole. To decline is to accept – the other alternative.
Are you nearer to your port today than you were yesterday? Yes, — you must be a little nearer to some port or other; for since your ship was first lunched upon the sea of life, you have never been still for a single moment; the sea is too deep, you could not find an anchorage if you would. There can be no pause until you come into port.
The World as I See It
How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people—first of all for those upon whose smiles and well-being our own happiness is wholly dependent, and then for the many, unknown to us, to whose destinies we are bound by the ties of sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving. I am strongly drawn to a frugal life and am often oppressively aware that I am engrossing an undue amount of the labor of my fellowmen. I regard class distinctions as unjustified and, in the last resort, based on force. I also believe that a simple and unassuming life is good for everybody, physically and mentally.
Man’s youth is a wonderful thing: it is so full of anguish and of magic and he never comes to know it as it is, until it has gone from him forever. It is the thing he cannot bear to lose, it is the thing whose passing he watches with infinite sorrow and regret, it is the thing whose loss with a sad and secret joy, the thing he would never willingly relive again, could it be restored to him by any magic.
Why is this? The reason is that the strange and bitter miracle of life is nowhere else so evident as in our youth. And what is the essence of that strange and bitter miracle of life which we feel so poignant, so unutterable, with such a bitter pain and joy, when we are young? It is this: that being rich, we are so poor; that being mighty, we can yet have nothing; that seeing, breathing, smelling, tasting all around us the impossible wealth and glory of this earth, feeling with an intolerable certitude that the whole structure of the enchanted life – the most fortunate, wealthy, good, and happy life that any man has ever known – is ours – is ours at once, immediately and forever, the moment that we choose to take a step, or stretch a hand, or say a word- we yet know that we can really keep, hold, take, and possess forever- nothing. All passes; nothing lasts: the moment that we put our hand upon it , it melts away like smoke, is gone forever, and the snake is eating at our heart again; we see then what we are and what our lives must come to.