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Life A Treadmill
by [?]

WHO says that life is a treadmill?

You, merchant, when, after a weary day of measuring cotton-cloth or numbering flower barrels, bowing to customers or taking account of stock, you stumble homeward, thinking to yourself that the moon is a tolerable substitute for gas light, to prevent people from running against the posts–and then, by chance, recall the time when, a school-boy, you read about “chaste Dian” in your Latin books, and discovered a striking resemblance to moonbeams in certain blue eyes that beamed upon you from the opposite side of the school-room.

Ah! those were the days when brick side-walks were as elastic as India rubber beneath your feet; shop windows were an exhibition of transparencies to amuse children and young people, and the world in prospect was one long pleasure excursion. Then you drank the bright effervescence in your glass of soda-water, and now you must swallow the cold, flat settlings, or not get your money’s worth. Long ago you found out that the moon is the origin of moonshine, that blue eyes are not quite as fascinating under gray hair and behind spectacles, and that “money answereth all things.”

You say so, clerk or bank-teller, when you look up from your books at the new-fallen snow glistening in the morning light, and feel something like the prancing of horses’ hoofs in the soles of your boots, and hear the jingling of sleigh bells in your mind’s ear, long after the sound of them has passed from your veritable auriculars.

You say so, teacher, while going through the daily drill of your A B C regiments, your multiplication table platoons, and your chirographical battalions.

You say so, factory girl, passing backward and forward from the noise and whirl of wheels in the mills, to the whirl and noise of wheels in your dreams.

You say so, milliner’s apprentice, as you sit down to sew gay ribbons on gay bonnets, and stand up to try gay bonnets on gay heads.

You say so, housemaid or housekeeper, when the song of the early bird reminds you of crying children, whose faces are to be washed; when the rustling of fallen leaves in the wind makes you wonder how the new broom is going to sweep; when the aroma of roses suggests the inquiry whether the box of burnt coffee is empty; and when the rising sun, encircled by vapoury clouds, brings up the similitude of a huge fire-proof platter, and the smoke of hot potatoes.

There is a principle in human nature which rebels against repetitions. Who likes to fall asleep, thinking that to-morrow morning he must get up and do exactly the same things that he did to-day, the next day ditto, and so forth, until the chapter of earthly existence is finished!

It is very irksome for these soaring thoughts winged to “wander through eternity,” to come down and work out the terms of a tedious apprenticeship to the senses. And yet, what were thoughts unlocalized and unembodied? Mere comets or vague nebulosities in the firmament, without a form, and without a home.

All things have their orbit, and are held in it by the power of two great opposing forces.

Outward circumstances form the centripetal force, which keeps us in ours. Let the eccentric will fly off at ever so wide a tangent for a time, back it must come to a regular diurnal path, or wander away into the “blackness of darkness.” And if these daily duties and cares come to us robed in the shining livery of Law, should we not accept them as bearers of a sublime mission?

“What?” you say, “anything sublime in yardstick tactics or ledger columns? Anything sublime in washing dishes or trimming bonnets? The idea is simply ridiculous!”

No, not ridiculous; only a simple idea, and great in its simplicity. For the manner of performing even menial duties, gives you the gauge and dimensions of the doer’s inward strength. The power of the soul asserts itself, not so much in shaping favourable circumstances to desired ends, as in resisting the pressure of crushing circumstances, and triumphing over them.