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Summer Rest
by [?]

The question has occurred to a good many, and has been more than once publicly asked, When do the people who frequent “Summer Schools” of philosophy, theology, and the like, which are now showing themselves at some of the watering-places, get their rest or vacation? At these schools both the lecturers or “paper” readers and the audience are engaged in the same or nearly the same work as during the rest of the year, and therefore in summer get no rest. We have been asked, for instance, whether a clergyman or professor who has a period of leisure allotted to him in summer, in order that he may “recruit,” as it is called, is not guilty of some sort of abuse of confidence, if, instead of amusing himself or lying fallow, he goes to a Summer School, and passes several weeks in discussions which, to be profitable either to himself or his hearers, must put some degree of strain on his faculties.

The answer undoubtedly is, that nobody goes to a Summer School who could get refreshment through sheer idleness. One of the greatest mistakes of the Middle Ages, and one which has come down to our own time in education, in theology, and in medicine, was that all men’s needs, both spiritual, mental, and physical, are the same; and it long made the world a dreadful place for the exceptional or peculiar. In most things we have given up the theory. It was soonest given up as regards food, because the evidence against it was there plainest and most overwhelming, in the severe suffering inflicted on some people by things “disagreeing with them,” as it was called, which others relished and profited by. It has only been surrendered with regard to children and youths, however, after a hard struggle. The idea of a young person being entitled to special treatment of any kind–that is, having in any respect a marked individuality–remains to this day odious to a great many of our theologians and teachers. It is, however, rapidly making its way, and has already obtained a secure footing in some of the colleges. It is the hotels, perhaps, which are now the strongholds of the old doctrine, and in which a person who wants what nobody else wants is considered most odious; partly, of course, because he gives extra trouble, but mainly because he is considered to be given up to a delusion about himself and his constitution. There is probably nothing which excites the anger and contempt of a summer-hotel clerk more than a request for something which is not supplied to everybody or which nobody else asks for. We remember once irritating a White Mountain hotel-keeper extremely by asking to be allowed to ride up Mount Washington alone, instead of in a party of forty. He not only refused our request, but he punished us for making it by selecting for our use the worst pony in his stable, and watching us mounting it with a diabolical sneer.

There is, however, still a good deal of intolerance about people’s mode of spending their vacation. Those who take it by simply sitting still or lounging with no particular occupation, are more or less worried by the people who take their rest actively and with much movement and bustle. So also the young man who goes off fishing and hunting, on the other hand, scorns the young man who hangs about the hotels and plays lawn-tennis, or goes to picnics with the girls–a rapidly diminishing class, let us add. A correspondent, who takes a low view of sermons, wrote to us the other day complaining of some mention which recently appeared in our columns of Mount Desert as a good place for “tired clergymen,” and wished to know what there was to tire them, seeing that they did nothing but produce two essays a week, which need not be very original. The truth is, however, that everybody’s occupation, including that of the young man who does nothing at all, does a great deal to tire him. What probably tires a minister most is not the sermons, but his parishioners; and we suspect that nine-tenths of the ministers, if they made a clean breast of it, would confess that rest to them meant getting away from their parishioners, and not in getting away from the sermons. Sermon-writing in our day, when the area over which a preacher may select his subject is so greatly widened, is probably to a reflective man a great help and relief, as furnishing what nearly every student needs to stimulate study–a means of expression. Sustained solitary thinking is something of which very few men are capable. To keep up what is called active-mindedness nearly everyone needs somebody to talk to. Conversation with a friend is enough for most, but those who have more to say find a sermon or a magazine article just the kind of intellectual stimulus they need. What probably most wears on a clergyman’s nerves are his pastoral duties, which do not consist simply in consoling people in great trials, but in listening to their fussy accounts of small ones. Nine-tenths of a minister’s patients, like a doctor’s, do not know what is the matter with them, and consult a physician largely because they take comfort in talking to anybody about themselves, and doctors and clergymen are the only persons who are bound to listen to them. A professor or teacher is somewhat similarly situated. His business is the most wearing of human occupations–that of putting knowledge into heads only half willing to receive it, and persuading a large number of people to do their duty to whom duty is odious.