Copyright
Martha B Mosher.

Child culture in the home. A book for mothers online

. (page 6 of 13)
Online LibraryMartha B MosherChild culture in the home. A book for mothers → online text (page 6 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


The Value of Play 101

generate public taste. The drama can never
become the educational elevating amusement it
should be until it is subsidized by government
or private endownment. It should be lifted
above the pecuniary necessity of catering to
the uncultured, sensuous public, under whose
patronage it must continue to degenerate. All
who desire its reform and its great educational
possibilities should support only clean elevating
plays and encourage all effort to render it inde-
pendent financially.

There are many amusements harmless, even
beneficial in themselves, that are condemned
because of the abuse to which they are subject,
but it is much wiser to strike directly at the
wrong, and not let the abuse of a good thing
vitiate the right and legitimate use of it.

Paul Bourget says that America's greatest
social vice is her excessiveness ; this is a weak-
ness of new countries as well as of the new
rich ; they incline to overdo. It has its root in
social rivalry, struggle for prestige, and love of
display. Next to charity and self-sacrifice,
moderation is the greatest social virtue, and in-
dicates good taste, good sense, and refinement,
in all who practice it.



VIII

SELF-KELIANCE

ROUTINE is the method by which the child's
habits are established, but an excess of routine
kills spontaneity and renders him mechanical.
This was the serious defect of the old educa-
tional method ; routine, unmeaning words and
empty forms directed the child's mental and
moral life ; he was treated as a machine and no
account taken of his nature or individual needs.

The basis of modern education is the unfold-
ing of the child's powers in proportion to his
age, the measuring of his ability, the arousing
in him of the spirit of the pioneer and of the
discoverer rather than that of an imitator. It
looks toward the creation of an accountable be-
ing who understands rather than memorizes,
who knows things rather than their signs.

A well regulated liberty from the first should
be accorded him. That which he desires to do
and which is within reason, grant at the first
asking, without urging or entreaty on his part.
Consent with pleasure, and refuse unwillingly,
but if wisely, then also irrevocably. If his im-
portunities cause you to yield once, he will for-
ever after strive, by importuning, to weaken
102



Self-reliance 103

your decisions, and this conflict and wavering
between the child's and parent's will is the
worst possible training ; it were almost better
to let the child be master all the time than for
first one and then the other to assume the su-
premacy.

Both in thought and conduct the child should
depend upon himself as much as possible ; the
parents should guide his thoughts rather than
inflict their own on him ; they should, when
necessary to aid him, instruct rather than ac-
commodate him. Parents seem to enjoy the
child's dependence on them and to defer the
period of self-reliance as long as possible, think-
ing perhaps, that the child may, at a later age,
be spared the unpleasant consequences of inex-
perience ; but as he learns mainly by experi-
ence, and cannot altogether escape the rude
teacher, he in reality gains nothing by a longer
period of helplessness. His faculties grow by
self-activity alone, and neither his mother's
perception nor her experience can be a total sub-
stitute for his own.

The more perfect the child's knowledge of
the material world, the more he perceives, com-
pares, and discovers, the relations and uses of
the concrete, the greater will be his mental
power when he begins to judge and to compare
ideas. If he employs his own intelligence,
learns by his own efforts, is not ruled by the



104 Child Culture

opinion of others, but by his reason and insight,
he will attain a mental vigor and understanding
which is never possessed by those who receive
and depend on the authority of other people.
Be his knowledge ever so little, let it be so far
fundamental; let it be largely self-perceived
and free from prejudice. He should understand
and value at first those things that are most
useful to him and depend on himself for all that
is within his capabilities, for self-reliance is the
basis of strength and power. While books and
traditions contain valuable truth, they contain
no truth which is not discernible at its source,
and the child should glean his knowledge as
often as is possible by his perception of the first
truth whence the book was derived. He should
verify opinions and traditions by passing them
through the crucible of his own understanding
and judgment, he should let the light of his
own thought flash on the so-called truth he
would re -discover, else as Emerson says, " To-
morrow a stranger will say with masterly good
sense precisely what we have thought and felt
all the time, and we shall be forced to take with
shame our own opinion from another."

The child's knowledge is not large enough,
his power of thought is not mature enough to
create perfect or final judgments or weighty
opinions, but if, during his years of training
and formation he acquire the habit of a blind



Self-reliance 105

acceptance of current views, he will never be-
come an original thinker, nor ever express his
own individuality in thought or deed. He must
in these crystallizing years be inspired with a
respect for his own convictions, admitting al-
ways the possibility of their fallibility and
granting due tolerance to the views of other
people. A man must be himself and take him-
self for better or for worse as his portion. The
issue will be safe and good if he puts his heart
into his work and faithfully lives his most en-
lightened convictions, for only by the expres-
sion of his best and highest self can peace or
power be his.

It has been the greatness of all great men
that they have perceived for themselves, trusted
themselves, felt the right in their hearts and
have expressed it in all their being. One need
not be aggressive, neither need one always be
conciliating. A boy who has not had the con-
ventional spirit pressed upon him, who has not
been cowed out of all original expression, is
naturally independent and individual in his
opinions. He tries and sentences people and
facts on their merits, his verdict is genuine and
independent, and even if it errs, or is silly, it
is at least his own and will improve in quality
with an enlarged vision. Emerson, who never
hesitates to speak truly and boldly, says : " So-
ciety everywhere is conspiring against the man-



lo6 Child Culture

hood of every one of its memhers. Society is
a joint stock company, in which the members
agree, for the better securing of his bread to
each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and
culture of the eater. The virtue in most re-
quest is conformity. Self-reliance is the aver-
sion. It loves not realities and creations but
names and customs."

It does not follow that because one has faith
in one's own convictions one need be always as-
serting or proclaiming them ; one can prac-
tice them in living, without intruding them on
others. The lives of the majority of men are
not emanations from within, but rather specta-
cles for the edification of neighbors and friends,
and this living on the circumference of life is
the dry-rot of the soul. Such persons never
come to themselves ; they have no knowledge
of their inherent tastes, opinions, or principles ;
they have accepted those they found floating
near them, and their lives and conduct have
conformed to this artificial light which they
have mistaken for the light of day.

4 Modern life finds itself cumbered with an
immense system of institutions, inherited tradi-
tions, established dogmas and customs, which
have come to it from the past. To this effete
system the moderns try at first to adjust them-
selves ; but they find themselves hampered by
it ; it does not correspond to the wants of actual



Self-reliance 107

life ; therefore they now endeavor to reconstruct
the system to fit modern needs. The want of
correspondence between the new wine of the
nineteenth century and the old bottles of for-
mer periods is now recognized, and a banish-
ment of the discord is being effected.'

Goethe, the great liberator of modern Euro-
pean ideas, tells us : " Through me the German
poets have become aware that as men must live
from within outward, so the artist must work
from within outward, seeing that, make what
contortions he will, he can only bring to light
his own individuality." '* Goethe," says Mat-
thew Arnold, " broke away from routine think-
ing, and was a profound, imperturbable natural-
ist ; he puts the standard once for all inside
every man, instead of outside him ; when he is
told such a thing must be so, there is immense
authority and custom for its being so, it has
been held to be so for a thousand years, he an-
swers with Olympian politeness, ' But is it so ?
Is it so to me ? ' "

A man must conceive his own duty, and ex-
ecute it in his own way, though there are many
persons who think they know another's duty
better than he knows it himself. Our great
philosopher has said : " It is easy in the world
to live after the world's opinion ; it is easy in
solitude to live after our own, but the great
man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps



jo8 Child Culture

with perfect sweetness the independence of
solitude."

A man's possessions should be rooted in him-
self to have real value, then no matter how
often he is dispossessed of them he can regain
them, and no robber can really rob him ; a man
has no real strength until he can dispense with
all foreign support and stand alone by his own
inherent abilities. The intellectual powers
grow by the study of master minds, but such
study should always be a means not an end ;
the final opinion should be a transformation
from the alien thought to the individual
thought and self-expression. An adopted
thought can be only half possessed ; that it
may nourish, it must become one's very own,
so that one can present no other.

It is by the exercise of self-trust that a man
ascertains his power ; it is by detaching himself
from slavish concurrence to form and anti-
quated opinion, that he learns his own resources
and his own talent.

It is only by independence of thought and
judgment that a man can cleave to the truth,
and why should not young as well as old be
permitted to construe an expressed view, to dis-
agree with it, or to dissent from it, provided
the difference of opinion be offered inoffensively
and without rudeness. But if a man is to be a
law unto himself, there is manifold necessity



Self-reliance 109

that his sight be clear, his will faithful, and his
heart inspired for the highest. If he choose for
himself, his choice should be a more exalted one
than that society has chosen for him. To be a
non-conformist, an eccentric, a bizarre personal-
ity is not the motive of true individuality, and
if one's apostasy contains no higher elements
than the doctrine or opinion one is deserting, if
the new principle leads to no greater purpose
than the old, then it probably contains false or
weak elements, which had better be revised.
Every man has a natural bent, which, if it does
not degrade him, he should follow; this new
direction, this differencing of one man's mind
from other men's minds constitutes a man's
bias ; it is his special constitution, his individ-
uality. "Every individual has a bias, which,
if he hopes to attain his legitimate power in the
world, he must obey. It is his magnetic needle,
which points always in one direction to his
proper path, with more or less variation from
another man's. He is never happy, nor strong
until he finds it, keeps it, learns to be at home
with himself, learns to watch the delicate tints
and insights that come to him, and to have the
entire assurance of his own mind. In morals
this is his conscience, in intellect his genius, in
practice, talent not to imitate or surpass a
particular man in His WAY, but to bring out
your own way."



no Child Culture

The number of men is comparatively small
who appreciate the necessity of resting on the
real, of speaking their own thoughts and living
their own lives. A man's surroundings and
furnishings should bespeak in every detail his
individuality, and if he be true to himself they
will; even his expenditure should be his own,
and for things which appertain to his own
thoughts, tastes and individuality. An artist
surrounds himself with works of art which
serve as studies and contemplations to him. It
is these on which his thoughts love to dwell.
A literary man's great delight is in his books,
and an ample library is his greatest satisfaction ;
the musician expends his means on opportuni-
ties for listening to good music. Every man's
purchases should represent the real proprietor,
else they are a sham and a delusion.

There are also men who misinterpret their
natures, who excuse every weakness and defect
by asserting " that they cannot help it, that it is
their nature." They mean their untrained in-
stinct ; it is their higher nature and not their
lower selves which they should nominate
"their nature." Man's higher nature is the
sum of his natural tendencies redeemed by his
best thought, and his best spiritual insight, and
when he practices these, it will not be in ex-
tenuation of uncontrolled weakness.

The new education gives much more atten-



Self-reliance 1 1 1

tion than did the old to the individual traits of
character, but still not enough. In conse-
quence of levelling educational systems, the
present generation is still cast too nearly in one
mental mould. Independent, individual thought
and action are not sufficiently encouraged.
We follow the fashion in everything ; the child
is not educated according to his individuality,
but according to a prescribed course, or because
other children are being educated on those
lines. But despite the levelling process of the
present educational system, every community
produces a few who rule their fellows because
of their superior powers. The control is made
easier for these leaders by the fact that the ma-
jority have suffered from the levelling of their
powers. So the strong minded, the strongly in-
dividualized men become the leaders of com-
munities, states and nations. Monopolies and
combinations, the great modern financial suc-
cesses are made easy under systems which sup-
press individuality. The large majority is ruled
by a small minority of master minds.

Who are the men who succeed in the finan-
cial world ? They are not always good men, nor
educated men, nor brilliant, nor even skilled
men. What then is the essential of all sus-
cess ? Is it not the force of individualism, of
certain elements of character ? It is therefore
clear that the greater number of strong, well



112 Child Culture

developed individuals there are in the world
the more widely will the wealth of the world
be dispensed, the more will that power, other-
wise centralized, be diffused among the many.
Education must therefore give each individual
an opportunity to develop all his latent power.
This is the trend of modern social ethics.
The mental and moral faculties and the physi-
cal powers must have an harmonious develop-
ment, 110 one being developed to excess, or at
the expense of the other. Inharmonious devel-
opment arises either from a false view of life,
or from lack of sympathy with one's environ-
ment. By training the perceptions to individ-
ual investigation of the world of nature, by
teaching the child to think for himself and to
live from within, by giving him all facility for
expressing his real, individual self, much is done
in the right direction. Some one has said the
essential of great financial achievement is to
combine a great caution with a great venture ;
so in the development of individuality, great
conservation of all that is good in existing con-
ditions should combine with a fearlessness to
cast off all that is found to be prejudice, empty
form, and inane tradition.



IX

CHARACTER

CHARACTER is the resultant of every force
from within or without which has operated on
a man since the first moment of his existence.
Nowhere in life is he called upon to bear testi-
mony when character is not a dominant force.

The basis of great character is love of truth
and its application, perfect justice. There have
been men, who, though nominated "great,"
possessed not this power, and " greatness " is
by no means synonymous with "great charac-
ter." Napoleon was intellectual and had a
penetrating insight; we admire him for his
enormous self-trust, but he was not just, and
lacked other elements of a great character.
Numberless heroes have won fame by sublime
daring and large adventures, possessing great
courage, one feature of strong character,
lacking some of its other essentials. The
morals and the intellect must combine to pro-
duce the true quality, and the great intellect is
less indispensable than the virtuous principles.
Goethe, Voltaire, Rousseau and Byron were
brilliant men, possessing in an eminent degree
the intellectual quality, but they were not
113



1 14 Child Culture

really great as men. The man of character is
always superior to his achievements, is himself
greater than anything he has said or done, for
his power is never exhausted. He has profound
convictions, faces the reality, and is persuaded
through his own perceptions. Character is the
moral order incorporate in the individual, and
truth and justice are the chief mediums of its
manifestation. It is difficult to enumerate the
merits of the man of character ; he is too great
to be measured, and no praise that is bestowed
seems sufficient to depict him.

The greatest intellectual gifts are denied to
a man after his birth, but anyone can, by force
of will and perseverance, improve the bias of
his character to a degree that almost consti-
tutes regeneration. He need only appreciate
the grandeur and beauty of this highest form
of nature, and his desire and determination to
achieve indicate his ability thereto. A man's
antagonisms create his power, and that which
he fights for and against reveals the quality of
his nature, and the degree of his development.
As long as his obstruction is material, just so
material is he ; as he refines, his checks become
finer ; as he rises in the spiritual scale, his an-
tagonisms take a spiritual form; his battles are
always in the line of his development, and the
great results of all his struggles are the addi-
tions they have made to his character. The



Character 115

antagonisms which overcome a man are appar-
ently evil, but are in reality good, and the les-
sons that make wisdom can come only by fric-
tion and striving. If there were nothing to
master, on what would character bite its teeth
through ? Struggle is the law of life, and when
a man ceases to battle he ceases to be of inter-
est to himself or his fellow-man. Man comes
to nothing without antagonisms, and precisely
in proportion as he turns evil into good, and
transforms antagonism into muscle and charac-
ter, he is admirable ; without labor his muscle
has no means of development. How often does
that which appeared a man's greatest curse,
his insurmountable obstruction, prove his great
blessing, the powerful momentum of his life !

Positive antagonism is essential to all great
achievement. What is virtue but victory?
What is purity but temptation resisted ? What
is sympathy but the power one's own suffering
gives one to feel for that of another? The
fruits of men's griefs are the harvests of their
lives. The carving of character is the work of
life ; it is begun before the child attains con-
sciousness; after that period it gradually de-
volves upon himself to learn the use of the
tools out of which this most beautiful and per-
fect work is to be hewn.

A great step in the development is the rec-
ognition of the unity of life, the omnipresence



ii6 Child Culture

of law. When a man concurs in the divine
regulation, and sees that what is ought to be,
or is best, he becomes himself the law giver be-
cause he so fully coincides with the will of the
great Dictator. By his intellectual insight he
presides over every situation, and by his con-
senting spirit becomes one with the Designer.
The man of deepest thought will be the strong-
est character, for his thought and affection
have joined his will to the will of Divine
Providence. The strong character sees but
one way to go and goes that way unhesitat-
ingly. The forces that seem to retard and
block his path do not obstruct from his view
the unity which he has recognized, and on
which he relies. Other men believe in luck,
may in times of trial believe in an evil genius,
but this man believes in Providence and its in-
evitable laws.

He also believes in the law of cause and
effect " God's chancellors of justice "; he knows
that " relation and connection are not sometime
and somewhere, but always and everywhere " ;
he knows that his fate and success are not the
playthings of chance, but are emanations of
himself, the fruit of his thought and conduct,
and that all evil is a result and can be con-
verted into a benefit. ( Every misfortune con-
tains a suggestion which, if wisely apprehended,
terminates in profit and triumph. Persons



Character 1 1 7

make their circumstances more than their cir-
cumstances make them, and "The soul contains
the event that shall befall it ; " men are compli-
mented on their positions, but their merit un-
derlies the position and should receive the com-
pliment. There is no permanent good nor ill
fortune except of a man's own creation ; as
Emerson says " A man will see his character
emitted in the events that seem to meet him,
but which exude from and accompany him."
The defect that exists in a man's heart or head
will be manifest in his conduct; he cannot act
one thing and be another, for the reality is dis-
tilled in his most unconscious act and manner.
A man's strength must extend into the farthest
roots of his being, else the first adverse circum-
stance will tear it out ; he must be poised so
that no tempest can move him from his anchor-
age. By the force of his character and the
mastery of the evils which beset him, he should
make everything conduce to his strength and
become his ally. No man's highest endeavor is
ever futile ; he must simply know what he most
desires, and working toward that end with per-
severance and concentration he will attain
it. There must, however, be no dissipation of
desire or force ; he must not seek all things,
but the one thing on which he determines and
toward which he never relaxes his effort, he
may depend. As Goethe says "What we



ii8 Child Culture

wish for all our lives comes in heaps on us in
old age."

If a man desire and strive for many things,
he may attain the many in a less degree, but
his predominant wish will be best achieved.

An indispensable quality of great character
is sincerity and truthfulness ; falseness is in-
compatible with any form of greatness.
Children are pronounced by unthinking persons
to be natural falsifiers, and their early dispo-
sition to misstate is taken as proof of original
depravity. Children speak untruth only when
they have heard it spoken by others ; nothing is
more common than lying to children. When
they misbehave they are promised all sorts of
things to conciliate and persuade them to better
conduct, and no fulfilment of such promises is
ever attempted. If a child out shopping,
desires confections or tempting fruit and pleads
or cries for it, the mother or nurse always says,
" Yes, wait until we are outside," or " Wait until
we reach another stand, and I will buy some,"
but the promised purchase is not made. Why
can't parents say "no" when they mean no,
and raise no false expectations by soothing
promises and faithless pledges. The child must
meet with refusals and denials in life and learn
to submit to them ; then why should he not re-
ceive his lesson and begin his experience when
truth demands it. If parents promise, they



Character 1 1 9

should fulfil the promise at any cost of personal
inconvenience, that their child may not by their
example become a liar. Lying is a base thing;
while many practice it occasionally in some
form, every man is so offended at the imputa-
tion that to be called a liar is an affront difficult
to be wiped out. Many who would scorn to
tell a lie, do not decline to act one, to deceive,
to willingly create false impressions.


1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryMartha B MosherChild culture in the home. A book for mothers → online text (page 6 of 13)