Socrates was once asked by a pupil, this question: “What kind of people shall we be when we reach Elysium?”
And the answer was this: “We shall be the same kind of people that we were here.”
If there is a life after this, we are preparing for it now, just as I am to-day preparing for my life to-morrow.
What kind of a man shall I be to-morrow? Oh, about the same kind of a man that I am now. The kind of a man that I shall be next month depends upon the kind of a man that I have been this month.
If I am miserable to-day, it is not within the round of probabilities that I shall be supremely happy to-morrow. Heaven is a habit. And if we are going to Heaven we would better be getting used to it.
Life is a preparation for the future; and the best preparation for the future is to live as if there were none.
We are preparing all the time for old age. The two things that make old age beautiful are resignation and a just consideration for the rights of others.
In the play of Ivan the Terrible, the interest centers around one man, the Czar Ivan. If anybody but Richard Mansfield played the part, there would be nothing in it. We simply get a glimpse into the life of a tyrant who has run the full gamut of goosedom, grumpiness, selfishness and grouch. Incidentally this man had the power to put other men to death, and this he does and has done as his whim and temper might dictate. He has been vindictive, cruel, quarrelsome, tyrannical and terrible. Now that he feels the approach of death, he would make his peace with God. But he has delayed that matter too long. He didn’t realize in youth and middle life that he was then preparing for old age.
Man is the result of cause and effect, and the causes are to a degree in our hands. Life is a fluid, and well has it been called the stream of life–we are going, flowing somewhere. Strip Ivan of his robes and crown, and he might be an old farmer and live in Ebenezer. Every town and village has its Ivan. To be an Ivan, just turn your temper loose and practise cruelty on any person or thing within your reach, and the result will be a sure preparation for a querulous, quarrelsome, pickety, snipity, fussy and foolish old age, accented with many outbursts of wrath that are terrible in their futility and ineffectiveness.
Babyhood has no monopoly on the tantrum. The characters of King Lear and Ivan the Terrible have much in common. One might almost believe that the writer of Ivan had felt the incompleteness of Lear, and had seen the absurdity of making a melodramatic bid for sympathy in behalf of this old man thrust out by his daughters.
Lear, the troublesome, Lear to whose limber tongue there was constantly leaping words unprintable and names of tar, deserves no soft pity at our hands. All his life he had been training his three daughters for exactly the treatment he was to receive. All his life Lear had been lubricating the chute that was to give him a quick ride out into that black midnight storm.
“Oh, how sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child,” he cries.
There is something quite as bad as a thankless child, and that is a thankless parent–an irate, irascible parent who possesses an underground vocabulary and a disposition to use it.
The false note in Lear lies in giving to him a daughter like Cordelia. Tolstoy and Mansfield ring true, and Ivan the Terrible is what he is without apology, excuse or explanation. Take it or leave it–if you do not like plays of this kind, go to see Vaudeville.