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yourself for this result.

As a boy, your desires have been limited by your opportunities. You have
had certain kinds of recreation provided for you which you have enjoyed.
Your expenditure of money has been limited by your purse, which will have
been small if your parents were wise; and your expenditure of time will
have been limited by the hours you have been unable to take from study,
which will also have been small.

At college your opportunities will have broadened, and you begin to have
something similar to the elective system. You can choose more freely how
to spend your time. Your development to this point, I have already said,
may be called the rounding of the handle; and your education will be
normal if you have average application, intelligence, and memory. During
college your future course will begin to shape itself, but before you fix
upon your definite object there is likely to be a period at which you can
be tempted into the greatest dissipation. By dissipation I do not mean the
accepted term, but the scientific use of the word; namely, the useless
expenditure of energy in futile pursuits. It is the opposite of
concentration, which means directing energy upon your object. To make
myself clearer, I will define energy as also meaning, in addition to your
labor, your money, as money is the accumulated energy of your ancestors,
just as coal is the accumulated energy of sunshine.

You must remember also that there is a certain amount of allowance to be
made for some rather indefinite objects, which are none the less
important, and which, for want of a better name, I shall call the Discard.
Among these can be named the education of the imagination, having a good
time generally, foolishness, mysticism, good fellowship, æsthetics,
humanity, and humanities in general. The fact that many a man has thrown
himself away by putting all his time into these things, and lived solely
for good fellowship, for foolishness, or for imagination without
attainment, is no reason why you should not partake in a small measure of
these qualities, which is like the wheel grease on the axle or the clown
in the circus. It is apt to be even more important yet, as it may prove to
be the road to friendship, societies, society, and love. Moreover, you
should not forget that, in the pursuit of your object, you must provide a
material recreation for yourself, - literature, music, art, billiards,
anything; something that will give you (and others, if possible) pleasure
and diversion, and render your happiness independent of your work, if for
any reason you are prevented from devoting your life to it.

We are now prepared to go over some of your pursuits with our touchstone,
and see which ones we can recommend and which we cannot, which of the
desires with which you are confronted or may be confronted are worth while
or worth the expenditure of energy.


FOOD?

You should make no stipulation about your food, except that it be
wholesome. The pleasantness of its taste in your mouth should have little
weight with you. If you confine yourself to just that food which you like,
and get so that your comfort depends on it, you will deliver over your
freedom just as though you delivered yourself to be bound hand and foot in
a dungeon. When the time comes that you must cut down your expenditure and
live less "well," you become unhappy, as you have taught yourself to look
upon all food with the idea that it should give you pleasure rather than
sustenance.


YACHTING?

By all means. It gives judgment, coolness, and readiness to face and
overcome danger, muscle, ozone, handiness of hands, steadiness of eye,
experience, and a sense of the depth and expanse of the ocean. By all
means, yachting, but not for the purpose of show, as giving orders before
other people, of taking dilatory trips in fair weather only, and lounging
in an easy-chair on the deck of some yacht while others take the
responsibility and do the work. While going to the expense of keeping a
boat, you should so mould your life as to use it constantly. If you keep a
boat on the off chance of wanting it every other week or just for the
sense of having it ready, you will make it an annoyance to yourself rather
than a pleasure. But here caution is recommended; and you should only keep
a yacht if you can do so well within your means, and thoroughly
understanding that some day you may have to give it up, and that you must
not think that a hardship.


CLOTHES?

Yes, but within bounds. You can always afford to pay more for clothes than
they are worth, and pay more attention to them also than they are worth;
but here again temperance is recommended.


HORSES?

Yes; that is, enough to learn to ride, to master your horse, develop your
muscle and _abandon_ and poise, but not enough to watch jockeys carrying
your colors or your coachman before you carrying your reins. Learn to
ride, learn to drive; but that does not mean necessarily that you had
better bring a pony back with you.


THEATRES?

Use theatres sparingly. They are perfect gluttons for time, and use up
money. But of these the more important is time, and they make desperate
inroads into the next day. So be temperate in theatres. Put part in for
education and part for the discard.


BOOKS?

By all means. Spare no money on them. Be a spendthrift for books. We can
always afford them; but pay for the printed matter, and not for the
covers. If you choose books wisely and know what is in them and where to
get at them when you want them, you can for a very small expense have a
mine of information and recreation at your elbow, which could make you the
best educated of men.


CLUBS?

Freely. It mostly goes to the discard; but you can afford that, provided
you are careful not to have too great a waste of time. There are more
opportunities lost inside of club walls than are gained.


CARDS?

There is no gain in gambling beyond the opportunity of watching the human
character, and, incidentally to develop it; but it is time lost, and
unworthily lost. The end does not justify the means. You had better play
and read and sleep rather than gamble.


WINE?

Yes and no. Always in moderation. Do not acquire the habit of drinking. It
is useless; and, after all that is said in favor of it by our mutual
friend, Omar, and others, I can never see that a man is worse off for
never having been drunk, and I am even Puritanical enough to think that he
is better off, and, moreover, he has more self-respect, to say nothing of
the respect of others. Nobody ever loses caste by refusing to drink. It is
a difficult thing to do sometimes; but you know the old adage, that any
man can lead a horse to water, but a hundred cannot make him drink. It is
a pity that men should be inferior to horses in that respect. You will
think that this is becoming a temperance lecture. Perhaps it is; but never
mind, it does not call for total abstinence.


TOBACCO?

I can see no advantage to be gained by tobacco; and you will find that it
administers to your comfort, and that is the only advantage that it has.
This in itself is a very damaging kind of an advantage, as, without
advancing your object, it endangers your freedom, as all comforts do.


ATHLETIC PROWESS?

By all means cultivate this and in every form possible, but even here have
an eye to moderation. Do not develop your heart and lungs to such an
extent that, when you have taken up a more sedentary life later, they will
suffer a reaction. Almost all the great athletes suffer a few years'
discomfort while adjusting themselves to a less athletic existence than
was theirs in college. Therefore, be moderate and specialize in this, so
that in after life you may do what you are best fitted for, and in the
attainment of athletic success make a test case of your proficiency of
attainment. Do not fear to be prodigal of energy concentrated on the right
thing.


FURNITURE?

In fixing up your room, your house, or personal surroundings, have good,
comfortable furniture for rest and for work, but not for show. Be simple,
even to the extent of being severe. The fewer things you have, the better
off you are. Shun all other possessions as the devil would holy water.
Have nothing that is not for a definite purpose and that you do not
actually use. The criterion to be applied to these is not what you can
find use for, but what you cannot get along without. A traveller who knows
his business can travel on very slender baggage, and be perfectly
comfortable and clean. Consider yourself a traveller through this world,
and study to cut down your baggage. Thus you will avoid dissipation, and
keep your freedom.


PICTURES?

Yes. Do not be afraid to cultivate the artistic. It is a card thrown to
the discard, but one which you cannot regret. Do not have too many. A
jumble of pictures is not what you want, but a few good ones. Only beware
lest a craze for expensive pictures overtake you, which would interfere
with your more definite object. If, however, your career lies in the line
of the artistic, the purchase and collection of fine pictures come well
within the golden things passed by our touchstone. Many men get a craze
after the futile, - a hobby it is usually called; and they will dissipate
great amounts of energy in collecting such things as postage-stamps,
post-marks, or some other object of little use, and at great expense of
time and money.

If you allow such things to distract your attention from your object, you
may lose it entirely, just as you lose sight of something in the hands of
a conjurer who has succeeded in directing your attention to something of
momentary interest. In this connection it is well to say that the habit of
spending must be avoided. Let a large expenditure be a circumstance. You
can afford, however, to spend money on charities even to the point of
dissipation. It is a cultivation of the heart. It might prove a career;
and so, before your object is chosen, you approach it, as a possibility,
afterward, as a card for the discard, in either case creditable.

There are other classes of desires which appeal to the sensuous and
sensual nature of man. Among these can be reckoned a taste for opium or
morphine, a taste for women, or for those kinds of literature and drama
which appeal to the sensuous nature. All these desires are like
drunkenness, in that no one is the better off for gratifying them.
Arguments of all sorts will be brought forward by men who have yielded to
these desires; but, while convincing the one who is eager to be convinced,
they are all of the negative sort, - they try to prove there is no reason
why they should not. Our touchstone will not pass any such arguments:
there must be positive reason why you should do a thing, otherwise do not
do it.

This may seem Puritanical, but let's be Puritans to a certain extent. Play
no games that are not distinctly winning games. There is a winning game to
be played. Why, then, play a game which is neither a winning nor a losing
game? It never gave me any pleasure to gamble with a machine or with
cards, because I know these to be losing games. The plan of the game is
always laid out so that the balance of chance is slightly against the
player, sometimes considerably against the player, else why should the
game be started?

We are left better off in no respect after all these desires are
gratified. We are poorer in money, in pocket, in self-respect, and often
in virtue.

We could go on so indefinitely through the list of all sorts of desires,
but I have only touched upon a few of the more crucial ones to show how
the touchstone should be applied; and even then results are crude, and
would be of little help to you in fixing on a low scale of expenditure.
They may, however, give you some ideas which will seem to guide you when
you come to meet the problems for yourself.

And now we come back to the original question, whether you really want a
pony. There are several really good ones in the stable that you can use.
You are to be away a large part of the year, and you have never made half
the use which you might have of your opportunities to ride.

I am, nevertheless, enclosing a check for the amount necessary to
purchase your pony, because at your age I took a trip through the Rocky
Mountains, which awakened in me a new desire for riding. It has proved my
greatest ally in the severe strains to which the pursuit of my object has
subjected me to, and because your ancestors have always kept their iron
constitutions into extreme old age by almost daily rides, and because the
sense of ownership of a horse may awaken in you the love and knowledge of
the animal, and may accomplish a similar happy result.

Yours very truly,
UNCLE JOSH.


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