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As I Was Saying
by [?]


How small of all that human hearts endure
That part which laws or kings can cause or cure!
Still to ourselves in every place consigned,
Our own felicity we make or find.–Dr. Samuel Johnson.

There is something admirably rugged and encouragingly practical in the sentiments and philosophies of the older writers that acts on the mind as a potent tonic when wearied and weakened by the monotonous and anaemic outpourings of the so-called philanthropists of the present day. There is something energizing, thew-developing. This is the age of pulling literature, of crocodile tears, of simulated tenderness, of counterfeit sympathy, of cry and clamor and plaint and protest. In politics we call this practice calamity-howling, whether in tornado-swept Kansas, blizzard-bitten Iowa or boss-ridden New York. in literature it is mere charlatanry, mere scagliola, made for sale. Hamlin Garland makes imaginary journeys over “Traveled Roads” to tell us of the utter and intolerable miseries of the Western farmers who live in sod houses. Raising dollar wheat is not so bad, even in a sod house. George Cable and Albion Tourges write sentimental lies about the Southern negroes. Those at all familiar with the facts know that no people on earth are happier than the Southern negroes. Arthur Morrison writes about “The Child of the Jago” and draws tears from our eyes. Those who have seen the children of the Jago fight and play, romp and riot would probably be willing to trade health and peace of mind with any of them. The list is too long or it might be interesting to name others who write for the purpose of making people discontented, to inflame jealousy or arouse envy. It will be no trouble to recall a host of others. The politician seeks to “remove the inequalities of life by wise and salutary laws,” meaning that he wants office. The “literary feller” seeks “to educate the public mind and raise the public conscience to a higher plane,” meaning that he wants to do the educating, incidentally, and to sell his books, objectively. To complain that life is “often more than sad enough, with its inequalities confronting us, its gilded prizes and its squalors side by side, its burdens and its trivialties pressing in upon the soul,” as does Marguerite Merington in a late and otherwise excellent magazine article, is to strike a popular chord, but the note is false and scabrous, the philosophy less than commendable. Men are but children of a larger growth and, like children of a smaller growth, they like to be petted and pitied and told that the world is not treating them fairly. No man, rich or poor, is contented, and he enjoys being told that his failure to reach the goal of his ambitions and fill to the brim his cup of pleasure is because of the great impersonal world, or untoward and oppugning circumstances have prevented him. He enjoys this sort of thing so much that he will pay handsomely for it and the charlatan finds a market for his wares. He does not like the plain truth bluntly stated. No one does. We do not admire those who wrestle and strive with us. Nevertheless, they alone strengthen our muscles and, hence–

. . .

Verily I say: “Ye who listen with credulity to the whispers of fancy, and pursue with eagerness the phantom of hope–who expect that age will perform the promises of youth, and that the deficiencies of the present day will be supplied by the morrow,” need not attend to the history of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia, except for the passing pleasure of the reading, because the story can be told in fewer words, to wit: Happiness is a personal equation–“what is one man’s meat is another man’s poison.” Rasselas found the Happy Valley irksome and intolerable. There never has been a Happy Valley since that could furnish continuous content to any one. The nearest approach to happiness comes with juxtaposition to one’s tastes and aspirations. The simpler the tastes and the less discursive the aspirations, the nearer happiness comes and the longer it remains. Happiness does not come from conditions or surroundings, nor are these conditions or surroundings always understood. Actual conditions do not reveal themselves to perspicacity much less to casual observation. The multi-millionaire in his mansion or the king on his throne, surrounded by all the comforts and conveniences, all the marvelous treasures, all that is pleasing to the eye and to the senses, may not be happy–may be unhappy. The rustic who follows the plow through furrowed fields, unkempt, clownish, toil-stained, weary and overworked, may brawl raucous roundelay at even-tide and enjoy the fullness of earthly bliss. His neighbor similarly situated may suffer agonies because his tastes and ambitions are higher. Those who imagine “plow hands” have no ambitions to gratify know little of life. Sometimes they aspire to be presidents, and sometimes they gratify those aspirations, but they never know happiness. They may be as wise as a dozen Solons, but they can not provide happiness by legislation. They may reach the summit of earthly glory and strive to seize the fulgurant prize that lured them on, only to find a penumbra–the shadow of a shade. And if conditions are actually known they prove nothing, generally. Each case must be specialized. Children and grown people, for that matter, are subjected to involuntary fasts and oftimes go hungry, in fact are always hungry, but they suffer less and are healthier than those who are stuffed and pampered and sated. The joy of eating when food comes compensates for the previous scantiness of the fare. There are deaths from insufficient alimentation; ten to one are the deaths traceable to over-feeding. There is suffering for lack of food. There is ten to one more suffering by gouty and dyspeptic gourmands. The beggar shivers in the cold for lack of clothing; there is ten to one more suffering from over-swathing. For pain, actual, excrutiating; for pain invincible, somber and unutterable, one proud woman reduced to a last season’s frock suffers more than twenty arrayed in customary rags and tatters. God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb, but not to the dowdy woman. The occupant of the cottage or cabin as he hurries home on Saturday night with his hard-earned store perhaps envies the occupant of the mansion where lights burn brightly and music fills the air, but the master of the mansion may be driven to the verge of insanity in an unequal contest to keep up appearances and a style of living that is grinding his heart into dust. Gladly, he thinks, he would court the modest shelter of the cottage or cabin but, alas! sorrow and suffering, want and wickedness might follow him there. From natal bed to mortuary box happiness escapes us–the faster, the more we pursue it.