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Day By Day
by [?]

Pilate’s question, “What is Truth?” sets the whole world by the ears. The question of right and wrong is another thing. Such questions refer to action and the conduct of our lives. In religion, in politics, in economics, in sociology, what is truth to one man may be error to another. We may adopt a course of action because it seems the more expedient. Debatable questions have two sides to them. In the moral realm that is true which is agreeable to the largest number of competent judges. A mind that could see further and deeper might reverse all our verdicts. To be right on any question in the moral realm is to be in accord with that which makes for the greatest good to the greatest number. In our Civil War the South believed itself right in seceding from the Union; the North, in fighting to preserve the Union. Both sections now see that the North had the larger right. The South was sectional, the North national. Each of the great political parties thinks it has a monopoly of the truth, but the truth usually lies midway between them. Questions of right and wrong do not necessarily mean questions of true and false. “There is nothing either good or bad,” says Hamlet, “but thinking makes it so.” This may be good Christian Science doctrine, but it is doubtful philosophy.

* * * * *

Yesterday, as I stood on the hill above Slabsides and looked over the landscape dotted with farms just greening in the April sun, the thought struck me afresh that all this soil, all the fertile fields, all these leagues on leagues of sloping valleys and rolling hills came from the decay of the rocks, and that the chief agent in bringing about this decay and degradation was the gentle rain from heaven–that without the rain through the past geologic ages, the scene I looked upon would have been only one wild welter of broken or crumpled rocky strata, not a green thing, not a living thing, should I have seen.

In the Hawaiian Islands one may have proof of this before his eyes. On one end of the island of Maui, the rainfall is very great, and its deep valleys and high sharp ridges are clothed with tropical verdure, while on the other end, barely ten miles away, rain never falls, and the barren, rocky desolation which the scene presents I can never forget. No rain, no soil; no soil, no life.

We are, therefore, children of the rocks; the rocks are our mother, and the rains our father.

* * * * *

When the stream of life, through some favoring condition, breaks through its natural checks and bounds, and inundates and destroys whole provinces of other forms, as when the locusts, the forest-worms, the boll-weevil, the currant-worm, the potato beetle, unduly multiply and devastate fields and forests and the farmer’s crops, what do we witness but Nature’s sheer excess and intemperance? Life as we usually see it is the result of a complex system of checks and counter-checks. The carnivorous animals are a check on the herbivorous; the hawks and owls are a check on the birds and fowls; the cats and weasels are a check on the small rodents, which are very prolific. The different species of plants and trees are a check upon one another.

* * * * *

I think the main reason of the abundance of wealth in the country is that every man, equipped as he is with so many modern scientific appliances and tools, is multiplied four or five times. He is equal to that number of men in his capacity to do things as compared with the men of fifty or seventy years ago. The farmer, with his mowing-machine, his horse-rake, his automobile, his tractor engine and gang ploughs or his sulky ploughs, his hay-loader, his corn-planter, and so on, does the work of many men. Machinery takes the place of men. Gasolene and kerosene oil give man a great advantage. Dynamite, too,–what a giant that is in his service! The higher cost of living does not offset this advantage.