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The Measure Of Joy In Life
by [?]

She. Yet, how short it will be! How awful to have the days and weeks and
months slip by, and know that at the best there is only a reprieve of a
few years. I think from this night I shall have my shadow of death. I
shall always be doing things for the last time; a sad life that! And
perhaps we change; as you say, we may become dead in life, prepared for a
different state; and in that change we may find a new joy–a longing for
perfection and peace.

He. That would be an acknowledgment of defeat, indeed, and that is the
sad result of so much living. The world has been too hard, we cry–there
is so much heartbreaking, so much misery, so few arrive! We look to
another world where all that will be made right, and where we shall suffer
no more.

Let the others have their opiate. You, at least, I think, are too brave
for that kind of comfort. Does it not seem a little grasping to ask for
eternity, because we have fifty years of action? And an eternity of
passivity, because we have not done well with action? No, the world has
had too much of that coddling, that kind of shuffle through, as if it were
a way station where we must spend the night and make the best of sorry
accommodations. Our benevolence, our warmheartedness, goes overmuch to
making the beds a bit better, especially for the feeble and the sick and
old, and those who come badly fitted out. We help the unfortunate to slide
through: I think it would be more sensible to make it worth their while to
stay. The great philanthropists are those who ennoble life, and make it a
valuable possession. It would be well to poison the forlorn, hurry them
post haste to some other world where they may find the conditions better
suited. Then give their lot of misery and opportunity to another who can
find joy in his burden.

She. A world without mercy would be hard–it would be full of a strident
clamor like a city street.

He. Mercy for all; no favoritism for a few. Whoever could find a new
joy, a lasting activity; whoever could keep his body and mind in full
health and could show what a tremendous reality it is to live–would be
the merciful man. There would be less of that leprosy, death in life, and
the last problem of death itself would not be insurmountable.

So I think the common men who know things, concrete things,–the price of
grain, if you will; the men of affairs who have their minds on the
struggle; the artists who in paint or words explore new possibilities–all
these are the merciful men, the true comforters whom we should honor. They
make life precious–aside from its physical value.

You know the keen movement that runs through your whole being when you
come face to face with some great Rembrandt portrait. How much the man
knew who made it, who saw it unmade! Or that Bellini’s Pope we used to
watch, whose penetrating smile taught us about life. And the greater
Titian, the man with a glove, that looks at you like a live soul, one whom
a man created to live for the joy of other men. In another form, I feel
the same gift of life in a new enterprise: a railroad carried through; a
corrupt government cleaned for the day. And, again, that Giorgione at
Paris, where the men and women are doing nothing in particular, but living
in the sunlight, a joyful, pagan band.