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THE BARRIERS TO COMFORT
THE ECONOMIC BARRIER
FIRST comes the economic barrier.
We must live. We must secure food, clothing,shelter--all the essentials of comfort to which the progress of mankind entitlesus. We must adopt methods of procuring the things which we desire as well as thethings we need. If we adopt an economic policy which provides us three things: security,satisfying work, independence--we procure not only what we need and desire, we providethe conditions for spiritual comfort as well. Without such a policy we may have allthe creature comforts of civilization and still be uncomfortable.
Today it is the convention to solve the problemof living by earning money, and to buy with the money what we need and desire. Sooverwhelming is the force of this convention that even those who inherit wealth inthis country feel compelled to devote their time largely to money-making--while thosewho do not inherit wealth seem unable to think of any other method than that of earningmoney with which to buy the means to live according to the standard to which theyaspire.
But for those of us who aspire to live the superiorlife, conformity to the convention that we must devote ourselves to the immediatematerial conquest of comfort, means an almost certain sacrifice of the ultimate spiritualconquest of comfort. Conformity to this convention of our factory-dominated civilizationseems incompatible with the security, the satisfying work, and the independence necessaryto real comfort.
For us, mere conformity to a scheme of existencewhich seems designed by the quantity-minded for the exploitation of the rest of mankindis no solution of the economic problem. Only the herd-minded can dispose of theirproblems by conformity to convention. Only those who are insensitive to the spiritualoutrage of a life of insecurity, of inexpressive work, and of subservience to modernbusiness can be comfortable through conformity to the earn-and-buy economy of today.For us, the alternatives of economic conformity or non-conformity represent a choicebetween frustration or deliberate adoption of an economic policy which makes it possibleto secure both the essentials of comfort and the wisdom necessary to their enjoyment.
Such an economic policy has been described insome detail in Part IV of this book. No doubt there are other policies which we mightadopt to attain the same ends. But whatever the policy we adopt, it should at leastequal the one which I recommend in providing security as to the essentials of existence;in providing opportunities for engaging in satisfying work, and in providing freedomto devote time to work and play which is expressive of our real aspirations. Allthree of these are essential to any conquest of comfort. The last, we must not forget,is most important to those who would live the superior life.
So we come to what seems to me the basic principleupon which we must devise a policy which will surmount the economic barrier to thecomfortable life. Economically we must be dependent upon no one but ourselvesand those of our own household. For to the degree in which we are dependent economicallyupon others, to that degree do we cease to be free to live as we would like to live.
In the feudal civilization of the past we hadto work for the nobility, and had therefore to be servants to the nobles and thekings.
In our present factory-dominated civilizationwe have to work for the factory in order to procure the essentials of life, and sowe are servants to the capitalists who own the factories.
In a socialistic civilization we would have towork for the state, and we would become servants to the men who govern the state,
No matter how radically civilization changes,for us dependence always means submission to the conventions, the disciplines, thecensorships, the cultural values of predatory, ruthless, acquisitive, quantity-mindedhuman beings who are more interested in the exploitation of their fellows than inthe question of how life should be lived.
A very homely story from the Old Testament makesit clear that when one man becomes dependent upon another, he may be forced to sacrificehis birthright of freedom and happiness. The story, somewhat freely quoted, is asfollows:
And Jacob had pottage.
And Esau came from the hunt, and he was faint.
And Esau said to Jacob: "Feed me, I pray thee, with that same pottage, for I am faint."
And Jacob said, "Sell me this day thy birthright."
And Esau said, "Behold, I am at the point to die, and what profit shall this birthright do me?"
And Jacob said, "Swear to me this day."
And Esau swore to him and he sold his birthright unto Jacob.
Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentils, and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way.
Thus Esau lost his birthright.
Quantity-minded Jacob; how well he knew how toget what he wanted! And Esau, mighty hunter though he was, was shorn of his birthrightsimply because he had neglected to provide for his elementary economic needs.
The legend of Jacob and Esau is an excellentillustration of the operation of one of the most important of all economic laws:the law that the terms upon which an exchange is made between two parties aredetermined by the relative extent to which each is free to refuse to make the exchange.If both are free to refuse, then the exchange will be made on equitable terms. HadEsau been free to refuse to buy, he would have paid Jacob only the reasonable, themarket, the competitive, the just price for the food he wanted. But he was not free.He was unable to refuse to buy while Jacob was able to refuse to sell. The one whowas "free" (to refuse to make the exchange), dictated the terms of thesale, and the one who was "not free" to refuse, had to pay whatever pricewas exacted from him.
So it is today. So it has always been and willprobably always be.
Certainly in this factory-dominated civilization,the quantity-minded, by concentrating upon the acquisition of wealth, naturally achievea higher degree of freedom to refuse to make exchanges than do we. For to the degreein which we become interested in the qualitative aspects of life, we tend to neglectthe acquisition of this freedom. Thus the quantity-minded, Who are nearly alwaysfree, determine how and when and where we should work, and what we, who are rarelyfree, should receive for our work. But let us make ourselves free to withhold ourservices, and we will determine not only the terms for which we work but also thenature and the quality of the work we do.
What is more, just as our services as a wholeare essential to the maintenance of civilization, so our services individually areimportant to the factories to which the quantity-minded today de. vote themselves.Once we are able to withhold our services, the quantity-minded would have to dealwith us upon the basis of dependence upon us instead of upon the basis of our dependenceupon them. With the reversal of the present relationships of dependents and independentswould come a reversal of the present division of the returns from common effort.For to the degree in which we become free to refuse to contribute our services tothe enterprises upon which the quantity-minded are engaged, to that degree we becomeable to dictate terms and to secure a premium price for what we choose to do or chooseto produce.
This is a policy which puts self before society,but only because it is the essence of wisdom to put first things first. Civilizationexists for man; not man for civilization. Those who contribute most to civilizationtake only what is theirs in common justice if they organize their lives so that theyare able to work as they think best.
Until we have secured the essentials of comfort;until we are able to devote ourselves to satisfying work; until we are free to refuseto work and to play as those with inferior values and with vulgar aspirations wouldforce us to, a less selfish economic policy is neither good for ourselves nor goodfor civilization.
Only by the deliberate adoption of a policy whichprovides those of us who aspire to the superior life with the freedom for the expressionof our own aspirations can we make civilization less ugly than it is today.
For if we free ourselves through such an economicpolicy as has been here outlined, the humiliating process of waiting years, generations,and centuries until the quantity-minded find it to their interest to adopt our ideaswould be ended. Newer ideas and higher values would much more directly enter intothe conventions of civilization. The great lag in time between the conception ofnew ideas and their acceptance by mankind would be shortened.
Civilization would become less ugly at the sametime that life for us would become more comfortable.
THE PHYSIOLOGICAL BARRIER
We come secondly to the consideration of thephysiological barrier to comfort.
We are animals with an insistent animalneed of nutrition and excretion, exercise and rest.
Today we submit to an incalculable amount ofphysical discomfort because we conform to the conventions as to how we should liveand as to what we should do when we are ill. We are the victims of an enormous bodyof misinformation concerning our bodily processes. Some of this is merely our traditionalheritage of ignorance but much of it is the result of deliberate propaganda by thosewho profit from the foolish habits of eating, drinking, clothing, sheltering andcaring for ourselves in which we unthinkingly acquiesce.
Yet an enormous body of knowledge concerningthe physiological processes has already been accumulated. Most of us, however, donot have the time to acquire this knowledge, and many of us, even if we were to acquaintourselves with it, would lack the courage to use it, For we find it difficult topractice what is preached by the men and women who have accumulated this knowledge--notalways recognized scientists--when our lives are organized for us, in utter disregardof our normal physiological needs as animals, by the factory-dominated civilizationby which and for which we live.
As long as we devote ourselves whole-heartedlyto the occupational specialties for which our factory-directed schools have trainedus and fill the rest of our lives with the routines which naturally accompany them,it is difficult to develop a conscious policy as to what we should eat and drinkand how we should work and rest.
Yet such a policy is essential to the real enjoymentof life.
For man is as artificial an animal as is thedog, the cow or the chicken. Unlike a wild animal, he cannot rely upon his instinctsin physiological matters because his instinctive reactions have atrophied duringthe long ages throughout which he has been domesticating himself. He must substituteintelligence for instinct, or accept the discomforts of contemporary physiologicallife.
Certainly few of us use our intelligence withregard to this aspect of our lives. We are not supposed to use our own intelligence.We are supposed to leave it to those who specially devote themselves to such matters.We leave it to advertisers to tell us what we should eat and drink; to offices andfactories to tell us how we should work, and to doctors and druggists to tell ushow we should care for ourselves when we are ill.
Naturally we accept the mental and physical ailmentswhich accompany such living as among the unavoidable ills of life.
Our factory-dominated civilization is makingus into an overfed, constipated, nerve-racked, physically inferior race. Hospitals,sanitariums, and asylums multiply endlessly. We seem to be sacrificing the aboundingvitality we need if we are to be comfortable, to the exigencies of surviving at allunder our factory regime.
Consider, for instance, the matter of food andeating.
We eat, not when we are hungry, but when theclock tells us to do so, and without normal outdoor work and play, we eat too oftenand too much.
We eat too fast. We breakfast too fast becausewe have to get to work on time; we lunch too fast in so-called "quick-lunches"much as horses eat in their stalls; we dine too fast so that we may the more quicklygo out to amuse ourselves.
We eat foods which the factory produces for usand to an ever increasing extent leave it to bakers, delicatessen and restaurantsto cook and serve them to us.
But since so much of what we eat consists offoods first devitalized by the factory, we have to turn more and more to doctors,dentists, osteopaths, chiropractors and physical culturists to repair the damagewhich our dietetic conventions inflict upon us.
For the devitalizing of our foodstuffs seemsto be an inescapable accompaniment of our present system of divorcing productionfrom consumption. Producing food in one place and consuming it in another makes itnecessary to transport and store (and therefore embalm) foodstuffs which in theirnormal state decompose with great rapidity. All the skill of modern science and allthe ingenuity of modern business are therefore focused upon the development of processeswhich make it possible to transport foods thousands of miles and to preserve andstore them for months and years. Not palatability but salability is the objectiveof the processing of wheat, corn, sugar, rice and practically all our staple foodstuffs.Our conventional dietary of lean meat, white bread, cooked starches and plenty offats and sugars, no matter how abnormal physiologically, seems an inevitable consequence.
Is it any wonder that so many of us really dieat forty and then rely upon drugs and doctors to keep us existing during the restof our lives?
But when we turn the solution of any of the problemsof living over to those who pretend to be able to do what they manifestly are incapableof doing, we invite quackery. The conventional treatment of the commonest, and thereforethe most important of our ailments by our physicians, surgeons and dentists proceedswith a disregard of elementary physiological principles almost as complete as thatof shamans, voodoo men and other primitive medicine-men. Modern practitioners ofthe art of healing find it just as profitable as the quacks whom they have supplantedto be blind to the fact, (to which their victims seem equally oblivious), that thereal cure for our ills is not to be found in correct medication but in correct living.Their preoccupation with the pathological is really a subtle form of quackery fullyas dangerous to our comfort as are many of the recognized forms of quackery.
One of the great disservices rendered us by thisconventional medical emphasis on pathology is preoccupation with the germ theory.
In the pre-scientific past, it was difficultenough to see that disease was really caused by some deviation from normal living.As long as disease was ascribed to the instrumentality of demons and devils, mankinddevoted itself to propitiating the supernatural agencies which were believed to causeit. But it is almost as difficult for us today to appreciate the importance of normalliving now that all disease is believed to be caused by those minute invisible organisms,(popularly called germs), which mysteriously ignore some of us and equally mysteriouslyseize upon others for destruction. Now that disease is ascribed to the activitiesof germs, naturally we devote ourselves to the destruction of these malign creaturesinstead of learning how to maintain health through normal living.
For the amazing thing about our bodies is theremarkable extent to which they are self-protective and self-regulatory. Let us livea normal life; let our bodies function normally so far as nutrition and excretionare concerned; let us work and rest normally and a normal blood-stream is the inevitableresult. With a normal blood-stream we will have normal organs, normal muscles, normalbones and normal skins and membranes and these will make short shrift of germs whenthey do enter our bodies, as enter they will no matter how many antiseptic precautionswe may employ.
To live comfortably, we need normal exerciseand we need normal rest.
But the work which we do today and the rest whichwe are able to secure furnish us neither.
We spend most of our time indoors, and we herdin cities in which great crowds, tall buildings, factory smoke and automobile exhaustsvitiate the good fresh air and shut out the health-making sunshine. We either dowork which uses practically none of our muscles, as in office work, or perform thesame operations over and over again, and so use only a few of the many muscles weought to use. And the tempo of our work, instead of being set by some such rhythmas that of recurring seasons of the year, is set by clocks and machines. We moveat the pace which machines dictate or work with papers at a desk at a tension equallyabnormal. Business makes us write or dictate large numbers of letters; call and receivedozens of telephone messages; rush here and there in subways, street cars, taxis,autos, trains, and crowd as many human contacts into each of our days as the necessitiesof the gigantic mechanism of which we are cogs require.
As for our leisure, that too is keyed to a tempoover which we have relatively little control. We read newspapers daily, not one butseveral, because newspapers must get out edition after edition. We cat regularly--andrapidly--in restaurants in which we have to vacate our seats before the food servedus has hardly been ingested, and when we eat at home, rush through our breakfastsin order to catch trains and too often rush through our dinners in order to go tomovies, dance halls or clubs to amuse our tired selves. And after this sort of "play"we rush home to a fitful sleep, from which an alarm-clock wakens us to resume thefactorydominated rhythm from which there seems to be no escape.
Such a regime literally forces us into a physiologicallife which inevitably proves a barrier to comfort. And there is no hope of comfortuntil we discover that conformity to a regime evolved by men "who aren't inbusiness for their health," is a sin against the holy ghost.
There can be no real enjoyment of comfort untilwe discover that the most important thing for which we ought to be in business isour health.
Certainly those of us who aspire to live a superiorlife must devote more of our thinking to the problem of how to live and less to theproblem of how to earn a living.
THE SOCIAL BARRIER
Third comes the social barrier.
We are inescapably gregarious and to enjoythe society of our fellows are confronted with the demand that we conform to thesocial conventions amidst which we find ourselves. We are expected to sacrifice individualideas of social intercourse which seem good to us because society cherishes suchabsurdities as the belief that strange ideas are essentially bad while familiarideas are essentially good, and the belief that whatever is new is better than whatis old not because it is truer, better, or more beautiful, but just because it isnewer. To accept conventions which proceed from assumptions of this kind, (withoutregard to whether they increase or decrease our own enjoyment of living), is to surrenderour birthright of individuality. An unthinking acceptance of conventions which areconsidered valid not in proportion to their reasonableness, their kindliness, ortheir beauty, but merely in proportion to the effectiveness with which they imposethe ideals of society as a whole upon each individual, makes any real conquest ofcomfort impossible.
We cannot, of course, entirely ignore the socialconventions; we must provide for meeting our fellow human beings. We must work andtransact business with them; we must agree with them about political matters, andwhat is equally important, learn how to disagree with them; we must play with them;entertain and be entertained and give to our children the opportunity for meetingthose of the opposite sex so that they may not only mate but also experiment withlife; finally, we must be alternately participants and audiences in the play-aspectsof life--artists displaying what we have created for the appreciation of others,and audiences appraising what others have created. If we leave the whole of thisvast area of life to conventions evolved by the masses of mankind out of the imperfectlyunderstood ideas of qualityminded individuals, social life becomes a perpetual crucifixionof the beautiful life.
Social conventions we must therefore have, thoughnot necessarily those which prevail at present. We must have them, solely and simplybecause of their convenience. They make it unnecessary to provide by a sort of speciallegislation for each occasion upon which we come in contact with our fellow humanbeings. They save both time and tempers. They eliminate irritations which are inevitableunless human beings are in some kind of agreement as to how they will behave whenthey have to meet each other. Conventions of this kind are really nothing other thanforms of etiquette. They have no more justification for their being than that whichjustifies the manners of any polite society. They should be subject to revision,suspension, and revocation, whenever they no longer serve the purpose for which theywere originally devised or whenever special circumstances dictate the wisdom of achange in them. Each individual and each group must determine this for themselves,and the deviation and the deviator from these conventions must be judged solely fromthe standpoint of the purposes and consequences of his conduct.
The formulation of these conventions--the generalmould of social life--must therefore be taken from the churchmen, politicians andcaptains of industry, from the quantity-minded dominators of mankind and assumedby those to whom living is a test of art and of intelligence and not merely the gratificationof undisciplined appetite or unthinking acceptance of whatever is.
Unfortunately, few of us are really free to experimentin this sense with conventions. Instead of our social life being a deliberate experimentin creating conventions, it involves a repressive conformity to pre-existing patterns.
We stand in abject terror of what "they"will think about the way we live. The terror may be sub-conscious, and the degreeto which social pressure influences our actions may not be recognized. Yet it affectspractically every moment of our lives. Our treatment of each other, even in suchintimate relations as husband and wife and parent and child, is dictated by the conventionsof our class. We dress ourselves, we shelter ourselves, we feed ourselves and weentertain ourselves, not the way beauty and comfort dictate as to dress, as to housing,as to food and drink, as to work and play, but according to the conventions which"the crowd" accepts. And we dare not depart from the conventional socialform of life; it would mean, not only ostracism from society, but ostracism frombusiness. For conformity to convention is not merely a price exacted of us for acceptanceby society; it is a price which we have to pay today if we are to be permitted tosupport ourselves at all.
Plainly, we can indulge in no individual experimentingin social life until we can afford to ignore the conventions of society; until weare independent enough to dictate the terms upon which we will cooperate with theintegrated mechanism of business, and until we have provided against loneliness byplacing ourselves within a group such as the family in which our own position isso secure that we can dare to be ourselves.
THE BIOLOGICAL BARRIER
We come fourth to the barrier formed by our civilizedsex conventions.
We are biologically incomplete, male orfemale halves of personality subject to an imperious mandate that we mate and consummateour beings in the reproduction of our own kind. This effort at consummation constitutesour sex-life.
We cannot, even if we try, evade living a sex-life.For if we try to evade it by refusing to live a normal sex-life, we find ourselvesrewarded with a redoubled volume of sex of a perverse type.
St. Anthony immured in his solitary desert cavedid not escape living a sex-life. He did not conquer sex by repudiating it. He succeededonly in saturating his life with it.
In our factory-dominated civilization, matinghas to be postponed long after nature most strongly urges us to mate. Marriage isa luxury in which marriageable youth, if it is at all intelligent, hesitates to indulge.
As industrialization becomes more and more complete,and the integration of production makes more and more vocational specialization necessary,the spread between the time when it is easiest for us to adjust ourselves to a mateand the time when our income permits us to marry grows wider.
The more ambitious we are to wrest creature comfortsfrom our complex civilization, the greater becomes the spread. The higher the placewe strive to attain in the hierarchy of modern business, the longer is the apprenticeshipwe must serve at meagre pay, after spending years at school and college earning nothingat all. By postponing the time when earning can begin so long after adolescence,conventional education tends to pervert our entire life. Education, which ought tobe a course of instruction in the essentials of the good life, is thus warped intoan actual barrier to it.
But while industrialization can press us to postponemarriage, it cannot postpone sex-development. Here the church steps in with conventionswhich forbid all pre-marital sexual experiences. Marriage, says the church, is theonly thing that can sacerdotalize sex-life. Between the church with its categoriesof sin and the law with its categories of crime, the sex-starved followers of conventionare impaled either on the Scylla of frigidity or the Charybdis of prostitution.
True, the revolt of womankind, or rather theeconomic independence which the factory has conferred upon them has encouraged pre-maritalsex-experimentation. But while this experimentation does temper the evil of bothfrigidity and prostitution, it can contribute little to our happiness until the excessiveimportance which convention attaches to chastity is ended. Its claim that all sex-lifemust be suspended until we are ready to marry with benefit of clergy must be ridiculedout of existence.
For the church, with its idiotic cry of "unclean,"has made us associate the sex-act with a mystic carnality only to be exorcised throughsacraments of which the clergy are the dispensers. So pervasive is the associationof ideas with which the church has infected western civilization that even irreligiousnonconformists cannot entirely escape from the association of sex and evil. Becauseof its unearthly and unnatural idea that the sex-act is the original sin, the churchstrives with threats of hell to confine all sex-life within the marital state. Aslong as the idea prevails that marriage is a sacred and indissoluble union necessaryto sacerdotalize the sex-act and justifying the suppression of all extramarital experimentation,there is no hope that we shall be able to evolve more beautiful sex-conventions.Hypocrisy, jealousy, frigidity, prostitution, abortion--these fruits of our presentsex-conventions will remain to plague us. The rigors of the marital tie will notbe relaxed. Departures from sexual fidelity will continue to have an undue importancefor us. And marriage, instead of being a voluntary experiment in the consummationof being, will remain one of the most disappointing of all our institutions.
It is not the least of the discomforts we canattribute to this factory-dominated civilization that it has put a blight upon parenthood.
For there can be no true conquest of comfortwithout parenthood.
Parenthood is a great adventure. It offers usunlimited opportunities for self-expression, yet it is the greatest of all disciplines.Parenthood, through every stage conception, pre-natality, infancy, childhood, adolescence,mating, and finally the second cycle of life--is, potent with joys that can fullycompensate us for the pain and suffering which seem invariable accompaniments ofeverything worthwhile.
But to make parenthood enjoyable, it must befreed from the black curse under which it struggles and labors today. For childrentoday are economic catastrophes. We marry late and have few or no children, for adecent standard of living can be maintained only on condition that we sacrifice ournormal life as mates and parents and, for all practical purposes, sterilize ourselves.So we turn to contraception and even embrace abortion, with its risks, rather thanburden ourselves with the economic handicap of children.
Birth should certainly be controlled, and thecoming of children spaced so as to minimize the unavoidable physical and mental strainsupon the mother, but children should not be prevented from coming altogether. Contraceptionshould be used to regulate child-bearing, not to end it. Unfortunately, in this urbanizedand factory-dominated civilization, the invention of means for controlling birth,surely one of the greatest steps yet taken toward the realization of a really beautifulcivilization, is being used not to increase true comfort, but merely to make it possiblefor us to sustain life and to secure the things which our factories belch forth.
No really beautiful civilization can be builtas long as we merely increase population quantitatively. It is quality, not quantity,that is important. Cultural values can be high only when the proportion of individualsof high sensitivity, who are interested in qualities rather than magnitudes, is alsohigh.
It is ugliness and not beauty that is inevitablycoming from the present steady increases in the quantity of herd-minded human beings.This is the type of all types which should be encouraged to exterminate itself. Wherethis type increases rapidly, mobs, not individuals, are created. Politicians profitfrom the existence of mobs of herd-minded voters; imperialists, from the existenceof mobs of herd-minded "cannon-fodder"; churchmen from the existence ofmobs of herd-minded worshippers, and business men from the existence of mobs of herd-mindedworkers and customers.
A fecund population of this type is necessaryto a factory-dominated civilization with its constant proliferation of factories,first to consume its constantly increasing production of goods, and secondly to furnishit automatons who will contentedly produce and distribute them.
Against the family, that remarkable instrumentalityslowly evolved to meet the imperious biological mandate that we reproduce our kind,the factory wages a ruthless war of extermination. For the family is essentiallycentripetal. As long as it creates and produces it tends to be self-sufficient. Ittends to absorb itself in the task of making life endurable for its members. It isa conserva. tor of our independence. Industrialism seeks to root out individual devotionto the family and the homestead and to replace it with loyalty to the factory, justas religion seeks to transfer it to the church, and politics to the state and nation.The factory has pretty well succeeded in dissolving the family into its componentparts and in transforming the individuals thus produced into malleable mobs who produceand consume, work and play, live and die, all for its glory.
We may think the economic conventions of theday too strong; we may think the satisfaction of sex apart from parenthood more pleasant;we may think the development of our individual egos most important, and on thesegrounds seek for some novel instrumentality to take the place of the family. Butto the degree in which we aspire to the: superior life we must intelligently providefor the functions which the family can perform and which no other institution yetdevised seems better fitted to perform.
First, the family can provide for our economicfunctions. It can furnish us a superior instrumentality for securing most of theessentials and many of the luxuries of life.
Secondly, the family can provide for our biologicalfunctions. It can furnish us with desirable conditions under which to mate, reproduce,and rear our children.
Thirdly, the family can provide for our socialfunctions. It can furnish us a really satisfying field in which and through whichwe can entertain, educate and express ourselves.
Given these four factors: (1) ourselves, withaspirations different from our fellows; (2) the rest of mankind, incapable or unwillingto interest itself in our ideals; (3) the present political status and prevailingmoney-economy, and (4) the existing machines and methods, labor and resources forprocuring the essentials of living, and the family seems to me an institution whichcan perform these three functions far better than the best combination of factory-hotel-laboratory-clubwhich socialization offers.
The family is an institution potent for comfortto those of us who value above all else our individualities. Abandonment of the familyand the institutionalization of the economic, biological, and social functions thefamily can so well perform, seem desirable only to those to whom extreme independencehas become abhorrent, perhaps because our factory regimentation of life has habituatedthem to herd-living and inculcated in them a distaste for individual solutions ofthe problems of life.
That the average man should seek to solve hisproblems by turning to something exterior and in his opinion superior to himself,is natural. In the past, his problems were solved for him by the nobility and thechurch; in the present they are being solved for him by our factory-dominated conventions;in the future why should they not be solved for him by a benign and intelligent state?That the herd-minded individual should look to something exterior to himself is onlyto be expected. But when we look to something outside of ourselves, we abandon ourbirthrights; we sacrifice upon the altar of conformity the one quality which liftsus above the herd. We blunt our personal reactions to life in compromising with conventionsevolved for the exploitation of mobs of individuals, organized crowds, and the populaceof a whole nation.
The development of a family on a homestead ofits own is not only potent with comfort; it is potent with social progress. For thefamily on its own homestead is a social microcosm. It furnishes us the opportunityto deal with all the problems with which society as a whole has to cope. What ismost important, the problems of private property, land tenure, inheritance, rent,taxation, free trade, tariff, law, education as they develop in the life of the familymay be disposed of without sacrificing the unique interests of the individual tothe supposed interests of the indifferent masses.
Were we to accept the family and not the factoryas the true stage upon which to enact the drama of our lives, not only would we befree from the exactions of our factory-dominated civilization but the less independentrank and file of mankind would be tempted to imitate the sort of life that they wouldsee us live in order to win a similar freedom. By degrees their folkways would absorbour conceptions of how life should be lived. More of the ideas of those of us whoare interested in the qualitative aspects of life and fewer of the ideals of thosewho are interested in its quantitative aspects would be accepted by them. And thoseof us who believe that life is enriched by the degree in which we individually controlour environment would be able to nullify the activities of those who believe thatthe social environment--the factory, the church, the state should control all ofthe important activities of individuals.
Fear of the high cost of living, a barbaric desirefor sex gratification alone, or an overweening concentration upon our own egotisticambitions may lead us to reject the whole scheme of life for which the family stands.
We may, it is true, refuse to reproduce our kind.Or we may institutionalize the family, as some idealists believe is desirable, andconcentrate the actual procreation and education of our kind upon selected individuals.But if we do, each of us, who individually make the refusal, incur the penaltiesof self-frustration. If we reject parenthood, on the theory that frustration is thelesser evil, then we not only embrace the discomforts of frustration; we reject away of living which may be made, if we are wise enough, a positive contribution tothe enjoyment of life.
Surely it is the part of wisdom for us to takeup the family, which is already ours to develop and which requires no preliminarypolitical reform or social revolution, and with all the intelligence we can commandtransform its potential contribution to our comfort into a reality.
THE RELIGIOUS BARRIER
We come now to the consideration of the religiousbarrier to comfort.
We are fearful; fear is bred, and perhaps,born into us. It is an emotion which we share in common with all animals. We tendto be fearful for the same reason that all animals tend to be fearful; because itmakes us run, or strive to destroy, what is strange and therefore probably dangerousto us. We have scarcely ceased from running from unusual noises like thunder; fromunusual sights like lightning; above all from unusual ideas like atheism.
But fear is a protective device for us only aslong as it remains a device to insure caution. When we become fearful of nonexistentdangers; when we begin to fear ghosts, sex, gods, hell and their like, then we transformthe figments of our imagination into actual dangers. We make real dangers out ofwhat actually has no reality at all. And fear, which should be an instrumentalityfor our protection, becomes an agency for our destruction.
Religion* is a solace, a habit and an escape.It is a solace for the fearful; a habit which justifies those who do not think, andan escape for them from the hard facts of life.
(*Throughout this discussion, the term religion refers more particularly to the theology of the various churches rather than to the very often beautiful "way of life" which those with a flare for mysticism refer to as religion.)
Yet it is nearly all snare and delusion. It evadesthe problems with which it purports to deal. It does not settle them. On the contrary,its evasions create more problems than there are to be disposed of originally.
Why is it not wiser to leave unanswerable questionsunanswered, than to accept pseudo-answers to them which rarely have much more thantheir antiquity to recommend them?
Until we utterly and completely exorcise allreligion from our being; until we drop all fears, superstitions, rituals, habitswhich spring from religion, no true spiritual comfort is possible; we are not properlyequipped to extract from every moment of life the uttermost of truth, goodness andbeauty.
Religion first of all invents a god or gods,or mystic powers over and outside of the tangible powers we know.
But whereas both common-sense and science beginwith premises and end with conclusions that are demonstrable and tend therefore todispose of the questions with which they deal, religion with its resort to god raisesmore questions than it answers. Nothing is gained by shifting the point of inquiryfrom nature which can be observed, measured and analyzed, to god who cannot be knownand concerning whom the lowest savage and the most highly civilized man can speakwith equal authority.
What profit is there in disposing of the questionof the nature of nature by substituting the question of the nature of god? Nothingis gained, and something very valuable is lost. What is lost in the process is ouracceptance of ignorance as a natural state. The superior man knows that he cannotknow very much. The more he knows, the more he discovers what he does not know. Forhim, education is a voyage of discovery which always reveals new and hitherto unknownareas of ignorance. The superior man goes through life with a host of questions towhich he has only provisional answers. He accepts his ignorance as he accepts anyother of the inescapable facts of life.
Only the truly inferior man is unconscious ofhis ignorance.
The more conventional, the more religious, themore ignorant a man is, the greater is his assurance of knowledge. He knows thereis a god. He knows what he must do to get into heaven and to keep out of hell. Heis a "vade mecum" of such "facts" and not the slightest doubtconcerning their verity ever ventures to obtrude upon his assurance.
As we begin to doubt, we begin to understand.The more we doubt and question, the more conscious we become of our ignorance. Toaccept god is simply to ignore the fact that we do not know the nature of nature.
The physicist who accepts god may be a good physicist.He may be able to restrict his dogmatism to that carefully circumscribed area ofhis mind which he calls his religious sense. The fact that he has failed to be provisionalin religion may not interfere with his being provisional in physics. But it tendspowerfully to warp the application of what he knows to the problem of living. Itcreates in a thousand different aspects of his thinking the habit of being dogmatic--ahabit from which we must protect ourselves, if we are to be comfortable, as we mustprotect ourselves from dependence and disease.
How can we avoid being both agnostic and atheistic?We must be agnostic in that we are willing to admit that we may be mistaken aboutany position we take. But we must be atheistic in that we must deny the existenceof any of the gods which man up to the present time has evoked.
"For I the Lord thy God am a Jealous God,"says the Bible. This seems to be true of most gods. Once we begin to believe in agod; once we begin to propitiate him; once we begin to resolve our problems by puttingthe issue and responsibility on god, weput more and more belief, and worship andresponsibility upon him. The Bible merely rationalizes the process when it says thatwe ought to do this because god jealously requires us to do it. The process itselfis an indubitable psychological fact; it is an easy way of dodging the need of thinkingabout life. Once we discover how apparently easy it is, we are tempted to dodge moreand more.
How can any intelligent man believe in the existenceof a jealous god? About a jealous Jehovah we must be atheists, just as we must beabout a triune god consisting of Father, Son and Holy Ghost; just as we must be aboutgods like Jove and Juno; just as we must be about gods like Kali and Siva or Isisand Osiris.
While we do not have to deny the existence ofwhat is called the supreme power, we very nearly must deny the existence of a supremepersonality, of a supreme intelligence, of a supreme goodness. Personality is thesum total of the flavor of a person--of a being that has brains, eyes, ears, nose,mouth, hands, legs; in short, of a man. Take from man all these things--not justsome of them--but all of them--above all take from him the limitations inherent inthem, and personality disappears. The personality of a painter is a product not merelyof his capacity for seeing but of the limitations of his sight. Let him be all-seeingand he would have no more personality than has a photographic camera. By every definitionof personality, no supreme being can possibly be endowed with it.
So it is with intelligence and goodness. By everypossible definition of the term intelligence, there is no intelligence in the universeas a whole. Intelligence is man's means for rationalizing his reactions to an apparentlyirrational environment. It is a survival mechanism. Without what he calls intelligence,he could not build and create and live as he does. Intelligence is a harmonizing,a designing, a rationalizing reaction to life. It is a reaction which is evoked insideeach individual man, and never quite alike in any two of them. And no matter howmuch he exerts himself to impress his intelligence upon nature as a whole, in theend the implacable, impersonal and irrational events that we call nature prevail.The music of the spheres is musical only to those who can hear music; to the untrainedear it is merely noise.
Nor can there be a supreme goodness in the universe,by any definition of goodness which is understandable to man. The good man does notbrutally, painfully, slowly, tortuously, remorselessly destroy those whom he loves.And certainly he does not do this with the deliberation which would have to be assumedas a part of the proceedings of an all-wise, all-powerful being. Yet this is preciselywhat god does, has always done, and will always continue to do, except as men's intelligencelessens momentarily the implacable, inexorable, inexpugnable processes of the worldgod is supposed to have created.
Out of our fear and our egotism, religion hasevolved immortality. And immortality, of all the ideas with which religion has cursedus, is one of the greatest barriers to the comfortable life. It makes life seem long,whereas life in reality is short--a brief candle, as the poet put it. Being so short,a moment between two eternities of nothingness, life has a sacredness of which religion,with its immortality, robs it.
The doctrine of immortality is a crime againstthe sacredness of this life.
By making us think of ourselves as immortal souls,religion makes what we do here and now shrink in importance, as the finite shrinkswhen compared to the infinite. As long as we accept our common mortality--as longas we live upon the theory that this life ends all; each year, each day, even eachhour we live has the importance which comes only from the unique and the irreplaceable.
Into this life, into this adventure, into thismoment we must therefore put the very best that is in us, and from it we must, bythe same token, extract the very uttermost that we can.
But of all the weird, horrible, unimaginativeinventions of religion, heaven and hell are the most outrageous.
Religion having invented a soul and then endowedit with immortality, some sort of celestial residence had to be devised for the immortalsoul. Heaven and hell are really postulates devised to make tenable the prior postulatesof religion.
Religion postulated god, and then found thatit had to explain why he created mortal man. It explained man by postulating eternityfor his immortal soul. But when it postulated an immortal soul, religion found thatit had to explain where that soul was destined to go. And so it explained by postulatingheaven and hell.
Now there is nothing in life, horrible as itis in many of its aspects, that is as horrible as hell, and there is nothing in life,monotonous as so much of it is, that is quite so inane as an eternity of heaven.Heaven does not attract nor hell terrify individuals of discriminating taste.
The doctrine that we are doomed to either heavenor hell has neither the internal validity which can make intelligent people embraceit nor the external value which would make them recommend it for the rest of mankind.There is little evidence that threats of hell or hopes of paradise have made themasses of mankind better, while there is unlimited evidence as to the untold miseryof religious warfare, persecution and bigotry for which the doctrine is responsible.
There is not a single good reason why those ofus who would be comfortable should give to ideas of this sort a moment's time beyondthat necessary for dismissing them.
The dictionary tells us what religion is. Itsays that religion involves the recognition of god as an object of worship, loveand obedience; that it is a system of faith or worship. But unfortunately the dictionarydoes not tell us what it is not. I say unfortunately because religious apologistsalways go much farther than the dictionary. Sooner or later they always claim thatit is also the basis of morality and good conduct.
But the self-same theory of revelation upon whichthe Christians base the validity of their moral law, makes valid the moral laws ofall religions. The same sort of prophetic intuitions that make Christian canons themoral law, make Mohammedan canons and Buddhist canons and Aztec canons moral law.If all these codes agreed with each other there would be some plausible argumentfor assuming that there is such a thing as moral law, and that the codes of eachof the religions were merely different statements of the same absolute ethic. Theydo not, however, agree with each other. Worse, they utterly contradict each other.So that we are driven to conclude that no religion speaks with authority upon morality,and that morality has nothing whatsoever to do with the basic fears with which religionitself deals.
We must get rid of religion among other reasons,because it is a hindrance to the formulation of a morality intelligent enough tomake possible the conquest of comfort.
There are certain questions which are of tremendousimportance. There are other questions which have a reputation for being important,but which are as a matter of fact of little or no real importance at all.
Take the question of foodstuffs and eating. Nowthere we have a really important question. In some way or other we must answer itdaily--not daily but several times each day. It acquires its importance from this,that we must eat or die.
So it is with all the really important questionsin life--nature puts them to us, and nature demands that we answer them in some wayor other under penalty of the natural consequences of our failure to do so. It isthis way with the food supply and eating; with the water supply and drinking; withthe shelter which we must erect against the inclemency of the weather.
But there are many questions of little real importancewhich convention makes loom large in our eyes. These are questions which seem tobe important, which have a reputation of being important, which have been made to,have a sort of artificial importance but which, in the fundamental sense outlinedabove, are of no importance at all. We may attempt to answer them or we may ignorethem; we may answer them affirmatively or negatively; we may build our whole livesaround them or we may treat them as unimportant incidents in life--and nature willexact no penalty for our attitude toward them as long as we do not let them affectour attitude toward the really important questions in life.
Religious questions are of this sort. They arequestions which have acquired a factitious importance. We make much of them, notbecause nature requires that we pay any attention to them, but because conventiontells us that we must concern ourselves about them because of the penalties whichgod is supposed to inflict upon the irreligious after they are dead, and becausesad experience tells us that we had better pretend to do so in order to avoid themore tangible penalties which society inflicts upon the irreligious while still alive.
The question of god, for instance, is consideredan important question. Most of us are born to believe that there is a god, and neverreally have occasion to ask ourselves the question because our parents or our churcheshave answered it for us. All that we have to do is to accept it. Some of us, likeCotton Mather, have wrestled with the question in pain and sorrow and acquired abelief in god, while a few of us after similar considerations of the question havefinally come to the conclusion that there is no god. Society has said, believe ingod or suffer ostracism. The church has said, believe in god or suffer excommunication.Sometimes the state has said, believe in god or suffer prosecution.
Nature, however, has said nothing. The sun shinesand the rain falls precisely the same upon believer and upon unbeliever. The foodstuffsthey eat will nourish the two precisely alike; the water refresh them alike; thecoal and wood warm them alike.
So that in the truest sense this question isan unimportant question, and would deserve nothing at our bands, but for the importancewhich the masses of men are made to attach to it. If we are to avoid the discomfortof having to conform to their opinions with respect to religion; of being silentabout our beliefs; of perhaps having to render obeisance to the church; and worstof all, of contributing to the support of the church and of the institutions whichpropagate religious ideas, we will have to be economically independent of those whobelieve in them and of those who use the belief in them to buttress institutions--suchas the state--which they control.
Only then will the religious barrier to our comfortreally disappear.
If we must have the psychic release of genuinereligious experience; if we must aspire to something above our individual selvesand worthy of our worship, let us devise a new worship of the lares and penates--ofthe spirit of the home, the family and the fireside. These at least are worthy ofconsecration at our hands, because they are capable of responding to the best thatwe may give to them.
If we must have a religion, let it be this religionwhich conduces to our comfort rather than erects barriers to it.
THE POLITICAL BARRIER
We come next to the political barrier to thecomfortable life.
We are born into a political status.
We have no choice about the matter. We are subject,or citizen, or comrade by virtue of the fact that we are born under the dominionof politicians who have constituted themselves into a monarchy, a republic, or acommune. We can change our political status by emigrating from the subjection underwhich we are born to some other which we may think more desirable, but we cannotfree ourselves from subjection to government altogether. In this respect we havesomewhat less freedom today than even with regard to religion. We can avoid tithes,in many states, but none of us can avoid taxes. Public opinion has progressed tothe point where it recognizes that abandonment of the church is not in itself anevil however sinful it may be from the standpoint of the clergy. But it has not yetarrived at a point where it recognizes that the abandonment of the state is equallyfree from evil. Indeed, the process of turning one's back upon the government, especiallyduring times of crisis, is stigmatized as treason, and the unpatriotic individualwho dares to do so is fortunate if he escapes the jailer's and executioner's attentionsfor his temerity.
But while we may have to consent to a politicalstatus and to contribute to the support of the government, we do not need to over-estimatethe extent to which politicians and the political state contribute to our comfort.
For government is, at best, a necessary evil.It does not become less evil because it seems necessary.
There are three needs of mankind, and thereforethree functions, which seem to justify the existence of governments. The first isthe protection of society as a whole, and of the law-abiding members of it, fromthe illegal, and sometimes anti-social activities of individuals. The performanceof this function has brought into existence the police powers of the government:law, law enforcement and the courts of law.
The second function is the protection of thegovernment itself from the attacks of other governments, and by virtue of what ispresumably the corollary of self-defense, the function of attacking other governmentswhich may for some reason--good, bad or indifferent--interfere with the activitiesof the attacking government. The performance of this function has brought into existencethe war powers of the government: armies and navies, international law, and diplomacy.
The third function is that of rendering varioussocial and economic services which seem, like our schools, too important to entrustto private initiative, or which seem, like the issue of money, too dangerous to entrustto private monopoly. The performance of these functions has brought into existencethe social activities of the government: public schools, postal service, streetsand roads, fire protection, water supply and a myriad of similar municipal and nationalactivities.
If we admit, for the moment, that these functionsare essential to mankind's well-being, it does not necessarily follow that the onlyway in which they can be provided is through the agency of political government.History, which is one long record of the imbecilities and the injustices of governments,furnishes us good grounds for seeking some alternative solution for them. And thecomfort which we as individuals seek makes it very desirable that the alternativeshould be controlled as far as possible by us personally and not by the communityas a whole.
We develop government because it is an agencywhich generates social control, when we should develop institutions like the familywhich are agencies for generating self-control.
What we call a government is after all nothingbut a group of individuals, who, by a variety of sanctions, have acquired the powerto govern their fellows. The sanctions range from the fraud of divine right to thatof sheer conquest; from the imbecility of hereditary privilege to the irrationalityof counting voters. In most cases the extent to which these sanctions produce capablelegislators, judges and administrators, will not bear critical examination.
Nominally, government exists and functions forthe public. Actually it exists and functions for the benefit of those who have inone of these absurd ways acquired power to govern. It is accepted mainly becauseof the sheer inertia of great masses of people. Ostensibly, of course, it is acceptedbecause it confers a sufficiency of visible benefits upon society to make the officialswho operate it tolerated in spite of the selfish and idiotic exercise of the powersconferred upon them.
Unfortunately for quality-minded individualsabove all others, government furnishes for quantity-minded individuals the opportunityto sate to the full their greed for wealth and power. Power, for its own sake, israrely attractive to the quality-minded individual. It is too ineradicably quantitative.The really superior man, just because he is intelligent enough to know the limitationsof his knowledge and the fallibility of his judgments, has no taste for the ruthlessnesswhich is essential to the exercise of power.
For government officials must, first of all,maintain power. Only by maintaining power can they have the opportunity to exerciseit. Their preoccupation with the arts which lead to power and which enable them tomaintain it after they have secured it is inescapable. The ambitions which shouldanimate them and the purposes for which their power should be used have to be subordinatedto "practical politics."
Rarely does the true quality-minded individualattain to power. When he does, he is almost compelled to sacrifice the ideals towhich he may originally have been genuinely devoted in order to maintain power. Heis almost certain to sacrifice them unless his tenure of power is accompanied bya social convulsion which carries his ideals into force almost in spite of what hehimself may do. Ordinarily the task of maintaining himself, and his party, in officeis so great that the inclination to make wise use of whatever power he secures rarelysurvives the ordeal.
Generally, the quality-minded man functions inpolitics only to the degree that politicians find it necessary to use his abilities,and though he sometimes imposes his ideas upon the politicians the process of emasculationto which they are subjected by legislative, judicial and administrative officialsso alters them that they defeat the purposes for which they were originally conceived.
A life-long study of politicians, of all quantity-mindedmen perhaps the most odious, made Henry Adams use these biting words to describepolitical office, the struggle to acquire it, maintain it and administer it:
Office was poison; it killed--body and soul--physically and socially. Office was more poisonous than priesteraft or pedagogy in proportion as it held more power, but the poison he complained of was not ambition; he shared none of Cardinal Wolsey's belated penitence for that healthy stimulant, as he had shared none of the fruits; his poison was that of the will--the distortion of sight--the warping of mind--the degradation of tissue--the coarsening of taste--the narrowing of sympathy to the emotions of a caged rat. 48
Incompetent and imbecile, with a saving traceof grandeur--this describes government as it is and not as idealists, aristocratic,democratic or socialistic, would have it.
How are we to permit such an institution, (withwhich we must come to terms) to function in the directions in which it ministersto our comfort and yet reduce the annoyances it can cause us to the minimum? Shortof escape to a desert island, how can we live the good life in spite of it?
Economic independence cannot, unfortunately,completely free us from government. But it can enormously reduce the field of activityfor government as a whole.
(1) Dependence upon the public services furnishedby the government itself or by quasi-governmental institutions operated upon franchises,can be materially lessened. We can furnish our own water supply; our own seweragesystem; our own fire protection; our own schooling. Some of these things for whichwe now turn to the public services we can do completely for ourselves. Others wecan do only in part. To the extent to which we enable ourselves to do them, we avoidthe annoyance and escape the incompetence of having them performed by the state.
(2) Support of the government through the taxeswe pay we cannot avoid, nor can we entirely escape from such forms of governmentsupport as military service and jury duty. But in accordance with the illustriousprecedents recorded on every page of the histories of government, judicious flatteryand bribery of officials can enable us either to eliminate entirely or in large partreduce taxes and similar demands upon us. Fortunately, we have progressed to sucha point that it is possible to yield to these various forms of duress without toogreat suffering. Perhaps philosophy can reconcile us to paying the taxes imposedupon us, even though we see every day how the taxpayers' money is wasted by thosewho hold political office.
(3) Voluntary contributions to the work of government,such as voting, party work, office-holding, and agitating, educating and organizingref orm movements--these can be reduced to almost nothing. An occasional effort inthis direction may be justified, but earnest devotion to these contributions to governmentis almost certain to disillusion and disappoint us.
But if we thus abandon hope of achieving muchimprovement through the agencies of government, is there any field of effort whichwe can cultivate in order to impose upon society a superior conception of how lifeshould be lived? For the more sensitive we are to the stupidities, the injusticesand the ugliness of civilization, the more important it becomes that we give, expressionto our feelings in some activity designed to correct them.
Such fields of effort do exist, and unlike thefield of government, we are temperamentally fitted to engage in cultivating them.Let us make the arts, the amusements, and the educational institutions of societyour own, and we will have: first, a channel into which we can pour our own creativeinstincts, and secondly, a powerful instrumentality for the improvement of mankind.Let these three fields be kept free from malformation by the greedy, the fanaticand the ignorant, and ideas, now neglected, misinterpreted or falsified for the sakeof securing and holding wealth and power, will be developed, dramatized and publicized.Let the fine arts end their present status of sufferance at the bands of dealersin antiquities; let the stage, the concert hall, and the arena be taken from thosewho cater to the vulgar; let newspapers and magazines declare their independenceof the advertising industry, and schools and universities refuse to continue themanufacture of mere specialists for our factory-dominated civilization--let thesebecome the fields of expression of living artists; of those to whom music, dramaand the dance are first of all expressions of the creative spirit; of those to whomjournalism, literature, art, science, philosophy are fundamentally means to the goodlife, and we will find that we can safely surrender politics and government entirelyto the politicians because we will be able to impose upon them ideas immeasurablysuperior to those which they now promote.
But to take possession of these fields of activity,we must make ourselves economically free to boycott the quantity-minded individualswho now control them. Once we make ourselves free to engage in or to refuse to engagein work for which we have prepared ourselves and for which we have developed unusualskills, the artistic, amusement and educational institutions will become ours bysheer force of their dependence upon us. With these in our hands, public opinioncould be made a civilizing instead of a vulgarizing influence. And the politicians,with their fear of their constituents, would prove just as responsive to an enlightenedpublic opinion as they now do to a vulgarized public opinion. For politicians liveby anticipating the direction in which public opinion turns; they do not actuallydirect its movement.
With these three instruments we could lessen.the veneration which gives to the government its present sacred character in theopinion of mankind; we could persuade the public to deny to politicians their ever-increasingtendency to interfere with the rights of the individual, and we could end by so reducingthe need of social control as to gradually reduce government and the politicianswho operate it to a state of innocuous desuetude.
Having failed throughout all history, over andover again, in competition with the quantity-minded for the control of government,it is the part of wisdom to reconcile ourselves to the fact that government is oneof the institutions which we cannot directly use to make civilization more beautiful.Above all, we must guard against over-valuing the cultural potentialities of governmentand of under-valuing institutions like the press, the stage, and the class-room whichare so much more adaptable to intellectual, moral, and artistic idealism. By over-estimatingthe importance of legislative, judicial, administrative, and military activities,we tend to ignore the evil of the prostitution of what might be called our primaryfields of activity to the selfish interests of the quantity-minded and forget howmany of us are forced to prostitute ourselves to the industrial behemoth which theyhave brought into being, by designing, writing, acting, and teaching what we do notbelieve to be good or true or beautiful.
As long as we are content to be chained to behemoth,we shall lack both the freedom and the time to make our ideas dominant in the fieldsof activity where they would contribute most to the individual improvement of mankindand we shall continue unable to refuse to do work which outrages our highest aspirations.But with freedom from the constraints which behemoth imposes upon us as long as weare dependent upon it, we would be enabled to develop the techniques and the disciplinesneeded to secure control of the institutions which are the most efficient vehiclesfor projecting ideas into society.
In a society in which the press, the stage, andthe class-room were controlled by the quality-minded, leviathan would be reducedto normal dimensions. Control of the irreducible minimum of government remainingwould become of little importance because the ideas of the quality-minded, ratherthan the interests of the quantity-minded, would become of paramount interest togovernment officialdom.
Government derives its potency mainly from twothings: ideas and force.
Ideas tend to impose themselves upon those whoactually wield the forces of government. It is the fact that ideas possess this powerthat makes progress possible at all. Whatever we are able to accomplish toward themaking of a more beautiful civilization comes from the innate strength and persuasivenessof the ideas which we launch.
What is for us, therefore, supremely importantis that we shall be free to experiment with our ideas--all the ideas which occurto us. We must put ourselves into a position where the ideas which interest us canhave real opportunity to function.
In a civilization in which the arts, the amusements,and the educational institutions were the forums of its superior individuals, governmentwould shrink in stature and importance, and beauty would develop in myriads of directionsin which it is today cramped, cribbed and confined.
To free ourselves so that we can devote ourselvesto the work we like, would mean that we would be able to develop, to dramatize andto publicize our ideas.
The facile assumption of sovereign power, soflattering to the herd-minded voter, we would lose through recognition of our impotencein directly wielding the forces of government. But we would be compensated for thisloss by the real enjoyment we would secure from conscious devotion to what we likebest to do.
And because of the indirect influence we wouldthus exert upon government we would not only be adding to our own comfort but tothat of all mankind.
THE MORAL BARRIER
We come now to the moral barrier.
We are creatures which have to be moralbecause we cannot live without affecting our fellows.
We act. Our actions affect our fellows. But thejudgments of society upon our acts, and our efforts to adjust ourselves to thesesocial judgments, make the conquest of comfort impossible for us as long as we areconventionally dependent upon conventional society.
For until we can deliberately discipline ourselvesto a self-consciousness which enables us to utilize moral values of our own devising,we act as conventional morality would have us act; we think of our own actions asconventional morality would have us think, and we judge the actions of others asconventional morality would have us judge them.
If our own actions and our judgment of the actionsof others are in conformity with the conventional codes and creeds of society, weare considered moral and we think of ourselves as good. Moral conduct may not makeus comfortable--conventionally good people seldom are--but we can at least consoleourselves with the conviction of our innocence.
If, however, our actions and our judgments uponthe actions of others are not in conformity with the accepted patterns of conduct;if, on the contrary, they violate the accepted standards, then society adjudges ussinful and criminal, and we tend to think of ourselves as bad. Immorality may notmake us comfortable--conventionally immoral people seldom are--but in addition wesuffer the discomfort of living under a conviction of guilt.
No progress over the moral barrier is possibleuntil we have the time and the freedom for two things: the devising of moral valuesof our own and the development of a self-consciousness which enables us to utilizeour own values. Progress over the barrier can then begin because we are ready toabandon the sacerdotalism upon which conventional morality relies to validate itsright to speak with authority.
For morality is not absolute. It is relative.The current morality furnishes us no intrinsic evidence of its validity. Tested byits own canons, it is self-contradictory. And the extrinsic evidence is equally disappointing.The will of nature, so far as morality is concerned, is as inscrutable as the willof god is uncertain. Neither sacred scriptures nor pure sciences furnish any evidenceof absolute moral authority.
The sense of sin and the conviction of innocenceare therefore mistakes. The voice of conscience furnishes no rational guidance uponmoral questions. Because our acts are in themselves neither abstractly good nor abstractlybad, conscience must be replaced by values which we ourselves decide are most conduciveto comfort.
Every act of ours is a unique event.
It is the essence of conventional morality toignore this uniqueness; to classify our acts and upon the basis of the classificationto reward or punish. Whereas in truth we merely act, and it is the consequences ofthe act upon all involved which are important.
Acts which our conventional code calls immoraloften have consequences which are good, and acts which are called strictly moraloften have consequences which are bad.
The masses of fools stick to morality when everymandate of wisdom cries out that intelligence should be substituted for it.
The ten commandments constitute a code that appliesto childhood, youth, maturity and old age; to the married as well as the unmarried;to parents and those not parents; to both men and women; to the strong and the weak;the rich and the poor; the stupid and the intelligent. *
(*In this respect the ten commandments are inferior to much of the law with its distinctions between minors and adults, masters and servants, competents and incompetents. Unfortunately the onward sweep of democracy is emphasising more and more the assumption of the equality of all persons before the law. That is why in this "democratic" country people like to say that ours is a government of laws not men.)
It is a code which assumes not only that we areall alike but" that we are alike throughout all our life. Yet the assumptionis false in both respects. Just as we are, each of us, not alike but, different fromeach other, so individually we are not one unchanging individual, but a successionof different individuals. If we are to develop intelligent principles of conductfor ourselves we must provide for these differences between ourselves and other personsand for the changes in ourselves at successive ages in our lives.
Only a relative morality meets these requirements.
What may be moral in one person, may not be inanother; what may be moral at one age, may not be at another.
Moral and therefore wise conduct in a scientistmay be the greatest immorality in a farm hand.
A wise and moral act in a child may be a foolishand immoral act in an adult.
There are at least six readily distinguishableages of man for which a rational morality must provide: (1) The age of infancy, whichends when we achieve complete physical mobility and freedom; (2) the age of childhood,which ends with our adolescence; (3) the age of youth, which ends with our marriage;(4) the age of parenthood which ends when our children leave us; (5) the age of wisdom,which ends when we begin to lose our memory, and (6) the age of decline, which endswith our death. We must adopt a philosophy of morality which is adaptable to eachof these ages. Conventional morality does not recognize this necessity, though commonsense seems to do so in the distinction it makes between thrashing a child and thrashingan adult. The one act is excused on the ground that it is a measure of discipline;the other is punished on the ground that it constitutes an assault.
Similarly, there are at least six readily distinguishablerelationships with our fellows which we must likewise take into account: (1) Therelation with those superior to us quantitatively; (2) the relationship with thoseequal to us quantitatively; (3) the relationship with those inferior to us quantitatively;(4) the relationship with those superior to us qualitatively; (5) the relationshipwith those equal to us qualitatively; (6) the relationship with those inferior tous qualitatively.
Our dealings with minors, with the ignorant,with dependents, must be different from those with adults, with the intelligent,and with the powerful.
No philosophy of conduct is fit for our considerationwhich does not make provision for these infinite variations in. relationships.
Today we dispose of the problem of regulatingour conduct by conformity to conventional morality. And this morality we are toldis validated by the supreme ethical and moral value of duty. Duty to god; duty tohumanity; duty to the nation; duty to family; duty to self--these are the supremevalues of our present moral philosophy. Yet if comfort is the great good to be sought,duty becomes a manifestly inadequate value by which to guide ourselves. For dutyis not an arbitrable ideal. It plunges us into arbitrary decisions concerning mutuallyirreconcilable alternatives. It validates all moral conduct on the one ground ofduty, yet no statement of our duties but contains mutually inconsistent provisions.
It is our duty to live and to support our families.
Yet in time of war, it is our duty to the nationto die.
With such conflicts of duty we torture ourselvesendlessly.
Our moral philosophy ought to deliver us fromthis kind of conflict. It should furnish us a technique for compromising betweenimmediate desire and ultimate interest; between direct contacts with our fellowsand remote contacts with them. It should aim at reasoned compromises between whatwe decide will yield us the maximum of immediate satisfactions and what we believewill insure the maximum satisfaction in the future. It must produce comfort bothin time and in space: in time by providing comfort now and in the future, and inspace by providing comfort in our contacts as we meet our fellow humans.
The moral judgment, which precedes action, shouldfollow not upon instinctive but upon conscious decision; not upon deliberate effortto act in conformity with the conventional code but upon deliberate effort to determinethe immediate and the remote consequences of the acts which we are contemplating.Our acts may seem inconsistent with each other from time to time and from place toplace, yet :they may be thoroughly consistent from the standpoint of this principle.And if we proceed intelligently, we shall inflict less discomfort both upon ourselvesand others than if we try to act in accordance with the prevailing morality. Whatis more, we shall avoid not only the folly but the hypocrisy of pretending to beunselfish.
We will discover that the most intelligentlyfarsighted conduct will make us as considerate of others as it is of universal interestthat we should be.
If we are intelligently true to ourselves,we will be as just to all whom our acts affect as we can be.
Obviously we can devise no such philosophy ofmorals as long as we permit our conduct to consist of habitual conventional reactionsto the circumstances of life. For such a morality implies intellectual self-approvalof ourselves and what we are doing. To attain this self-approval we must conditionourselves, as the behaviorists would say, so that our habitual reactions become intelligentrather than conventional; to temper our actions by "sick-lying them o'er withthe pale cast of thought."
Such conduct may not invariably, it is true,furnish us full gratification. It is utterly opposed to the idea that happiness isonly to be found in self-satisfaction. It involves enlightened choices between conflictingdesires--neither a full yielding to instinctive impulses nor yet a stifling of allimpulse by too great consideration of remote satisfactions. It merely tempers thedesire for immediate satisfaction by consideration for the future. It takes intoaccount the fact that we are not only confronted by the necessity of compromisingbetween the present and the future. We are also confronted by the necessity of choosingamong hosts of mutually exclusive immediate desires. No matter how our choices aredetermined--whether we let conventional morality dictate our choices for us or wesubstitute a personal morality according to which we make our choices--the actualchoices in specific instances can be only one of the many conflicting desires withwhich we are on each occasion confronted.
But choose we must. And if we substitute intelligencefor convention, the choice will mean conduct which consciously relates each of ouracts to the sequences of life as a whole. To each moral judgment we apply all ourwisdom in an effort to extract the utmost gratification both from the particularevent and from the sequences of life in its entirety.
We escape the inhibitions which convention imposeseven though we deny ourselves the emotional releases of satisfying unrestrained desire.What we lose, however, in superficial satisfaction because of the restraints we imposeupon ourselves, we more than gain by the depth of our understanding of all that wedo permit ourselves to experience.
Such a morality is manifestly impossible as longas we permit ourselves to be intimidated by what religion, what society, what lawprescribes with regard to human conduct. We must feel free to act upon our own judgments.Our conventionally-conditioned consciences must be dismissed as guides to conduct.
The sins, the vices, and the crimes, on one side,and the virtues on the other, which have been evolved because of our conventionalizationof our survival habits must be replaced with conscious, voluntary, intelligent compromisesdesigned to make life richer, more beautiful, more satisfying both in the presentand the future.
For there are no supreme ends which can justifyour inflexible adherence to what convention calls duty. The ends which are supposedto justify this adhesion are never noble enough. Conventional morality is for usunder a constant obligation to prove that the ends at which it aims are worth theprice which conformity exacts of us. It is the greatest of all crimes to sacrificewhat makes us happy immediately merely in order to attain an end which our intelligencetells us does not merit the sacrifice, just as it is the greatest of all virtuesjoyously to sacrifice an immediate desire when we are convinced that the ultimateend fully justifies it.
The full application of such a principle to conductno doubt has shocking implications to the conventional soul. For it implies thatnot all lying is bad; not all stealing is bad; not all killing is had; they becomegood or bad by virtue of their consequences. Moral conduct ceases to be behaviorin accordance with the accepted creeds and codes. It becomes a test of our abilityto apply intelligence to action--of understanding the immediate and foreseeing theremote consequences of our behavior.
As long as we are afraid of the law, as longas we are afraid of society, as long as we are afraid of conscience, we cannot substitutemoral values devised for our comfort for the morality which the quantity-minded minorityfinds so well adapted to the exploitation of mankind.
But if we are free enough to disregard the opinionsof society, clever enough to elude the clumsy activities of the law, and courageousenough to rid ourselves of all fear of that part of our sub-conscious memory whichwe now venerate under the name of conscience, we can make the court of intelligenceand not the code of morality the supreme arbiter of our conduct.
THE PSYCHOLOGICAL BARRIER
We come now to the psychological barrier to comfort.
We are emotional beings. Unfortunatelywe are seldom very desirable emotional beings. Our minds, just as our bodies, areso far from any well designed norm that our psychological equipment for life probablyconstitutes one of the greatest barriers to the conquest of comfort.
For civilization tends to make us into emotionalilliterates.
By the time we have arrived at the age of discrimination,most of us are emotional ruins--our minds are habituated to react ruinously in situationswhere above all others they should help us to act with real wisdom.
To become psychologically normal we need frominfancy contact at first hand with those aspects of life that most powerfully touchthe emotions. This contact with reality is the prime essential for a normal emotionaleducation.
But our factory-dominated civilization seemsdetermined to rob us more and more of such an education.
It deprives us almost entirely of all directcontact with birth and death. These crucial events in life are hidden behind theawesome walls of our modern hospitals. Thus we are deprived of the prophylactic influenceof naturally accustoming ourselves to them. Birth and dying are the "business"of a professional caste of physicians and nurses. Neither are a part of the normallives of ordinary men, women and children.
And while the physicians and nurses are callousedby over-exposure to them, we are emotionally atrophied because we never experiencenormal contact with them at all.
This divorce between real life and what we experienceof life makes our emotions, which ought to be cushions which relieve us of the joltsand shocks of life, the very sources of the neuroses by which most of us today areplagued.
We have been made emotionally abnormal by deprivationswhich have dried up our affections; starved our sympathies; made as indifferent tomisfortune, and paralyzed our understanding.
What the hospitals and modern medicine do tous with regard to birth and death is typical of what is being done to us in regardto other aspects of living equally important to the development of a normal emotionalsystem.
Take work for instance. Let us be deprived ofall useful work, and the result is emotionally disastrous. But it is almost equallyharmful to our emotional development if we are deprived of certain kinds of work--ifwe do no manual work; no creative work; no artistic work; no outdoor work; no so-calledunpleasant or dirty work. Without experiencing all these kinds of work, it is almostimpossible to understand the work of the world, much less to plan intelligently asto how we should ourselves work.
What is true of work is also true of love andsex; of marriage and parenthood; of singing and music; of acting and dancing, andof every phase of life which we can enjoy only if we have been emotionally preparedfor it by first-hand experience with it. Normal psychological development is impossiblefor us if the contact with reality which doing these things represents is taken fromus and from our homes, and transferred to specialists and professionalists and tothe institutions in which they devote themselves exclusively to perform them forus.
We cannot equip ourselves psychologically forlife if we secure our knowledge of it vicariously from books, plays and pictures.No school, no pedagogic system nor textbook can take the place of seeing, hearing,touching, tasting, smelling and feeling for ourselves. Vicarious experience may illuminatepersonal experience, but it cannot act as a substitute for it. Only by a sufficientamount of personal experience can we acquire the psychological mastery of ourselvesand the emotional training which is essential for the conquest of comfort.
If we run from the crassness and the crudityof real life, or if we are shielded from it by institutions which presumably serveus, we become psychological cripples.
Here self-sufficiency can serve us supremelywell. It not only releases. us from servitude to the factory-dominated civilizationwhich today aborts our psychological development, but it furnishes us in place ofit a whole life of emotional education through contact with reality.
And in thus reducing our emotional maladjustmentto life and stimulating our emotional adaptation to it, we tend to overcome the psychologicalbarrier to comfort.
THE EDUCATIONAL BARRIER
We come now to the educational barrier to comfort.
We think and therefore education becomesimportant. Our, thinking is often of a very low order, and the premises upon whichwe base it generally abound in error. Yet think we do, and amazing fact is not thata few reason so well, but the fact that even the lowest and most ignorant of menthink at all.
It is the possession of this faculty of thinkingwith its limitless capacity for enriching life which gives to education its greatimportance.
It is the convention today to consider work thebusiness of adults; education the business of children. Because, of this we tendto feel that education should be laid aside with other childish things when we growup. We think of education as a process of equipping ourselves in childhood for ourwork as adults.
But since our conception of work in this factory-dominatedcivilization is confined to activities which enable us to earn money, conventionaleducation warps our entire framework of thought in a most unholy fashion. It implantsa set of values in us during childhood in which acquisition is exalted and sensitivityblunted. We emerge from our schooling fully convinced that the problem of how tolive and what to think about life is nothing more nor less than the problem of becomingsuccessful--of wresting enough things from nature or our fellow men to gratify ourneeds and desires.
Our education makes us begin life toughened intoa quantity. mindedness that is in most cases certain to disappoint us because sofew of us have the ruthlessness necessary to attain the levels of acquisition towhich convention dictates that we should all aspire.
As the factory system grows into every nook andcranny of life, the demand for specialization becomes more and more insistent. Educationbecomes vocational to an ever-increasing extent. It becomes hardly much more thanpreparation for a specific kind of employment in a civilization which has use onlyfor specifically trained individuals.
True, education has always been to some degreevocational. It was a preparation for a military, a legal, a clerical or a politicalcareer not so long ago. But modern education is dominated as never before by thedriving need of equipping us for a career of money-making. The matter of equippingus for living beautifully is relegated to a subordinate place when it is not entirelyforgotten by our educational institutions.
As long as we think of education as pre-eminentlypreparation for money-making, we will never adequately prepare ourselves to livethe comfortable life.
Conventional education with its bias toward money-makingis, to those of us potentially capable of the good life, a dangerous barrier to,the conquest of comfort. For. conventional education inoculates us so strongly againstnon-conformity that nothing which we may subsequently experience can furnish itsa better set of values than those which now satisfy the masses of mankind.
Conventional schooling makes education, whichshould be the principal instrument in our warfare upon ignorance, the principal agencyin keeping us ignorant.
Instead of education furnishing us keys withwhich to the doors to ever higher planes of values, it locks them irrevocably againstus.
Education ceases to be a barrier to comfort onlyif we can afford to make the whole of life a two-fold process--a process of acquiringfacts about living, and of acquiring understanding of their significance. The twoprocesses must continue unremittingly throughout life.
A lifetime devoted to such education may not,it is true, make us perfectly wise, but it should at least make us wise enough toescape from the false values to which the masses of mankind un thinkingly dedicatetheir existence.
THE INDIVIDUAL BARRIER
And thus we come to what seems to me the finalbarrier to the conquest of comfort.
We are individuals, with needs and desiresof our own, the satisfaction of which is opposed to and in conflict with much thatis necessary if we are to be successful mates, parents and social beings. And thegreater our individual endowment, the greater is this antithesis with which lifeconfronts us. We crave the joy which we can secure from doing creative work; we cravethe fame it may bring us, the wealth it may secure us and the immortality it maywin for as.
And so we are torn between the desire to sacrificeeverything and everybody to express ourselves in our personal activities, and theoverwhelming instinct to mate and to live the social life which makes normal reproductionpossible.
If we are to conquer this final barrier to comfort,we must resolve the conflict between our individual desires and cravings for a personalfulfillment, and the demands and limitations which marriage and home and societyplace upon us. We must end the antithesis between our own ego and the other egoswith which it is necessary for us to come to terms.
Here it is that friendship can make its greatcontribution to comfort. For friendship offers us the only satisfying synthesis betweenourselves and our fellow human beings.
Friendship is a mutual feeling. It presupposesa friend--one who feels as friendly to us as we feel to him. To function satisfactorily,it, must be reciprocal. When we feel friendship for someone who does not reciprocateit, or for large crowds which cannot reciprocate it, friendship ceases to be a normalexpression of being. It becomes pathological. The statesman who thrusts his sentimentsupon indifferent multitudes; the philanthropist who thrusts his goodness upon indifferentbeneficiaries; the lover who thrusts his love upon an indifferent inamorata, areall made a little absurd because of this lack of reciprocity.
Perhaps with intelligence to assist us in ourcontact with our fellows, we can confine our friendships to those who can feel friendshipwith us and so permit frendship to really contribute to the resolution of this finaldifficulty.
To make this contribution to comfort by friendshipspossible, a family circle, which is a small group, rather than the nation, whichis a large group, deserves to become the chief object of our devotion.
Today we are told to devote ourselves to thewell-being of humanity--in the name of love.
We are told to devote ourselves to the prosperityof the nation to which we belong-lin the name of patriotism.
We are told to devote ourselves to the successof the institution for which we work-lin the name of business.
But we are not told to what we should devoteourselves in the name of friendship.
For friendship becomes infinitely diffused whenwe devote ourselves to the institutions to which we are. supposed to consecrate ourselvestoday. In schools it is diffused among hundreds and thousands of pupils; in storesamong great crowds of employees and greater crowds of customers; in factories amongarmies of workers, armies of officials, and armies of distributors. It is dissipatedinto nothingness among the hundreds of contacts which working in such institutionscrowds into our lives, and the conditions which make us think that we have hundredsof friends, destroy the possibilities of any friendships at all.
Friendship develops out of communion with ourfellows; and time, the one thing which we cannot spare from our busy lives for sonon-productive an activity as getting acquainted with one another, is necessary tothe process. In the hurry and bustle; the restlessness and moving from place to place;the intensity of competition and the overwhelming group consciousness of today, wehave time only to cultivate crowds. The more efficiently we complicate our lives,the more certainly do we destroy the conditions. under which we can really come toknow each other. More, and more we live in crowded cities, sleep in crowded apartmentsand hotels, eat in crowded restaurants, work in crowded factories and offices, playin crowded clubs and theatres. And we overlook fact that we can be in the midst ofthese crowds--and still be quite alone--tragically alone. To be alone in this senseis the true misery which life can inflict upon us. For the pains of life--the physicalills, the disappointments, the shattering of illusions, the failures-- cease to bequite so poignant when we can share them with our friends. Just as the joys of lifeare doubled and redoubled, when we can share them, and live them over and over, withour friends.
For the cultivation of friends we need aboveall time for conversation and freedom to be ourselves--neither of which factory-dominatedcivilization dares to accord us.
And in preventing us from developing these aspectsof life it destroys the very grounds upon which we, as individuals, can most surelyenter into communion with other human beings.
If we devote ourselves exclusively to our careers--ifwe specialize as civilization is pressing us to specialize today--we will find thatachievement alone is not sufficient to avoid the frustration. We shall probably endlife with the melancholy discovery that success, fame and achievement are not merelyvanity but that they have gratified nothing much more than vanity. We become consciousof the fact that irreplaceable hours have gone, and that however much we may haveachieved we have failed to extract from it that which can only come from the understandingof our friends. This is the great frustration--and consciousness of this failurebecomes the final tragedy of the super-conscious individual.
If we, however, sacrifice personal achievementfor the sake of family and society, again we find frustration. We end with the equallymelancholy discovery that even the happiest of families and the greatest successessin society cannot compensate us for the sacrifice of the dignity of living whichfollows upon the suppression of the artist within us.
Civilization becomes beautiful in the degreeto which those who are capable of contributing beauty are free to express themselves.To some degree all have something beautiful to contribte.
Even the most ordinary of mortals can createbeauty through the home while functioning as providers and parents, if given theopportunity and furnished the proper leadership. But those who have something exceptionalto contribute; those whom nature has, endowed with greater powers than conferredupon average men and women, must be free to express themselves fully, not only fortheir own sake, but for the sake of mankind.
It is here that the constraint which this factory-dominatedcivililization imposes upon the exceptional types of men inflicts the greatest ofinjuries upon not only the individual of talent but upon civilization itself.
For the individual is made to produce not whatproduce but that which a factory civilization can be is either prevented from expressinghimself altogether, or his contributon is perverted so that it neither satisfieshimself nor lessens the ugliness of civilization. The teacher is made to teach whathe knows is not worth teaching; the scientist to discover what he knows is not worthdiscovering; the artist to paint what he knows is not beautiful; the sculptor toadorn what he knows:, is not worth ornamenting; the writer to write what he knowsis not worth saying.
Beauty, which should be the natural consequenceof efforts to capture the significance of what we see or hear or learn within whatevermedium we like to use, is sacrificed to the monetary needs of our factory economy.The artistic shams which we are forced to substitute for it may continue to be calledbeautiful but they are none the less innately ugly for from them has been excludedall of our truest selves.
In the effort to resolve the conflict betweenthe aspirations of our individual egos and the social needs with which we are confronted,we have our choice of three alternative procedures: (1) devote ourselves to the cultivationof self-expression; (2) we can devote ourselves to the cultivation of the needs ofsocial life; or (3) we can devote ourselves to some sort of compromise which providesfor both.
We reject the first if we sacrifice the developmentof our capacity beauty in devoting ourselves wholly to the social activies of civilization.
We reject the second if we sacrifice the responsibilities,the disciplines, and the possibilities of friendship in our devotion to a whollyindividualized career.
We reject neither entirely if we resolve theantithesis between them by creating conditions under which it is possible to devoteourselves to both alternately. Plainly if such conditions can be created, it is thepart of wisdom to devote ourselves to establishing them.
We wish to express ourselves and we wish to live.But to live we must mate, reproduce and rear our kind just as we must eat, sleepand clothe ourselves. Both the personal and the social aspects of life must, if theyare to he made endurable, be infused with our genius. Certainly, if we aspire tobe superior beings, that superiority should be used to ennoble every task in lifeand not our special talents only.
But today conditions over which we have littlecontrol make it exceedingly difficult to ennoble the ordinary activities of life.
We no longer control our lives sufficiently toenable us to infuse our personalities into every aspect of it. Neither in our factory-dominatedwork nor in our non-creative modern home-making, do we find scope for ennobling life.
The conflict exists today because we permit thequantity-minded wielders of power to impose upon us the conventions of a civilizationwhich sacrifices normal life to the satisfaction of their craving for acquisition.
All our work is therefore turned into channelswhich yield the business world quantitative returns in terms of money. Activitieswhich should be the expression of our noblest ideals become our means for earningbread-and-butter.
From this, one way of escape is for us to becomeeconomically. secure as to the essentials of comfort.
Let us attain this security and we will discoverthat it is possible to do what we like on terms which we set forth; to indulge inthe luxury of friendship, and to work and play without sacrificing real comfort onthe altars of the conventions of civilization.
Some such survey of what I have called the barriersto comfort and some sort of an outline of policies which might enable us to surmountthem, (unsatisfactory as this one no doubt is and dogmatic as it must appear compressedinto so brief a compass), is essential to the conquest of material and spiritualcomfort. For the family and home life here, advocated can contribute to freedom,self-expression and comfort only if we avoid all those conventions which have upto the present prevented the home from becoming the means to the noblest triumphover life which man is permitted to achieve by the essential comedy and tragedy oflife itself.
Confucius said: "Only two classes of mennever change: the wisest of the wise and the dullest of the dull."
The only convention to which we who aspire tothe superior life can freely commit ourselves is the convention of perpetually revaluingall the customs, traditions, and ideas which we adopt.
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