William Rounseville Alger.

The solitudes of nature and of man; or, The loneliness of human life online

. (page 35 of 35)
Online LibraryWilliam Rounseville AlgerThe solitudes of nature and of man; or, The loneliness of human life → online text (page 35 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

ideas, all thoughts with better thoughts at strife, are there-
fore to be avoided or neutralized. Every thought that
chronically impoverishes or lowers consciousness, is a
waste-gate of life: every thought that chronically enriches
or heightens consciousness, is a supply-gate of life. A warm
and close communication must be kept open between the
heart and those vast masses of authoritative good de-
noted by the love of truth, the love of nature, the love of
men, the love of virtue, and the love of God. The great
standards of justice, beauty, perfection, eternity, divinity,
are ideal goods meant to serve as ideal supplements to
the actual goods of life ; they should uplift the actual
with their reinforcements, and not be allowed to degrade
it by hostile contrast. The mighty ideal bodies of good
signified by such words as wealth, rank, glory, fame,
society, duty, kosmos, Deity, are either invaluable allies
or fatal foes to the placidity and power of the soul : an-
tagonized by alienated sympathies, all their stimuli act to
exhaust our spiritual reservoirs ; appropriated by friendly
sympathies, their stimuli act to feed and replenish us.
This sub-conscious action of the individual soul in its re-
lations with the goods and authorities of the universe,
either keeping up a nutritious supply of force or a de-
pressing leakage of force, is of unspeakable importance
both to mental health and to bodily health. Grace is as
instinctive in the symmetrical as awkwardness in the un-
gainly ; the waddle of the duck is no more natural than
the sail of the swan. So happiness is as properly rooted
in an affectionate and assimilating habit of thought as
unhappiness is in the opposite habit.

He who collects for contemplation all dark enigmas,
discords, failures, crimes, and sorrows, if not already a
weeping philosopher is likely to become one ; while he
whose thoughts collect all clear knowledges, concords, tri-
umphs, virtues, and joys, may easily be a smiling philoso-
pher. Both classes of views are real ; it would be partial
to omit either. But which should give the gazer his dom-
inant bias ? On which should his prevailing thought go
out? On neither, in itself; but on the idea of the whole,
the eternal laws, the steady tendencies, whose historic.


increments will finally take up all exceptions and impedi-
ments in their accumulated swell and sweep. What
is the authoritative ideal of things ? What are the deepest
and slowly winning tendencies of society? It is either
disease or wilful perversity that denies these to be good.
It is our duty, then, as we pause apart and look out over
life, to see these, and let them pacify and bless us. Sit-
ting in this higher unity, which synthetises the contradic-
tions below, we may now dip with a smile towards Democ-
ritus, again with a tear towards Heraclitus, but we should
always end by overlooking them both in a complacent
surrender to the Universal Providence.

Make sure that thou shalt have no fault to find with thy-
self, and thou art inaccessible to unhappiness. Such is the
maxim of Fichte, which stirs us like a blast from the clarion
of an angel. It is- the half-truth, on the side of individuality,
recommending the cultivation of self-accord, self-respect,
self-sufficingness. But it needs to be complemented by
the other half-truth, on the side of society, recommending
the cultivation of self-renouncement at the voice of duty,
telling us to live, by the sympathy of love, in the blessings
of others, and not, by the contrast of envy, in their mis-
fortunes, nor, by the isolation of selfishness, in a frozen
indifference alike to their weal and their woe. Every
heart should entertain, in addition to its own affairs, the
great concerns of humanity at large ; as the little lake
among the highlands not only holds the subtances that
form its bed, and the rocks and shrubs that fringe its
borders, but also embraces in its transparent breast the
surrounding landscape of mountains, the endless exhibi-
tion of passing clouds, and the nightly pomp of stars.
Fuithermore, the generous believer who traces in the laws
of history the evolution of evil to good, and good to bet-
ter, may derive a comfort never known to morose plotters
or torpid earthlings, by forecasting the destinies of men
in the happier times to come, when tyranny shall be over-
thrown, and wisdom and love be general.

And a yet surer resource remains for a good man. He
may turn from the petty agitations about him to the sub-
lime peace of God. Why fret and rage ? Why sadden


and droop ? Enemies pass, and obstacles subside. Ac-
cept as your own the Eternal Will that must be done.
Let trust sink into peace beneath the struggling vex of
mortality, and vision soar into peace over it, as the sky
and the deep slumber above and below while tempest and
sea hold their terrible dialogue between.

Whoso follows these directions, however afflicted he
may be, will never be without great sources of consola-
tion at his command ; however warred on, will never be
conquered ; however solitary, will never be desolately
alone. With others, or by himself, the exacting man is
discontented, the abnegating man is satisfied. Which is
the easier, to cover the world with leather ? or to put
your foot in a shoe ? That is to secure happiness by pub-
lic conquest ; this is to secure it by private renunciation.

Heavenly blessings follow the creature that bears a
gentle mind. Solitude is the ravishment and the torture
of the soul : love can make it the former ; hate or indif-
ference can make it the latter. There are painful ex-
ternal relations of the soul, which act as rasping frictions
to wear away strength ; and there are painful internal
relations of the soul, which act as fretful corrosives to
devour peace. That welt-schmerz, or world-sorrow, and
this sdbst-schmerz, or self-sorrow, easily create each other,
are transmuted into each other, aggravate each other.
And it is the saddest of truths that the soul naturally
most high and affectionate is in greatest danger of suf-
fering these griefs. Hundreds of gifted men in every
generation, like the noble Borne, from mere lack of
deferential and loving treatment, become cynics, and die
in savage agony and despair. It is milk or wine that
sours ; water only putrefies.

Reconcile the various counter-claims of thought and
passion, adjust your desires to the inevitable conditions
of your lot, cultivate some genial occupation, cherish a
disinterested affection for your race, a sublime enthusiasm
in contemplation of the universe, and you shall find no
hour in life without a glad inspiration, no spot on earth
an unwelcome solitude.


Architecture & Urban Planning Library, 825-2747.
This book is DUE on the last date stamped below.



PSD 2339 9/77

University of California


405 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90024-1388

Return this material to the library

from which it was borrowed.

Online LibraryWilliam Rounseville AlgerThe solitudes of nature and of man; or, The loneliness of human life → online text (page 35 of 35)