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Certain Diversities Of American Life
by [?]

It appears, therefore, that speed,-the ability to move rapidly from place to place,–a disproportionate reward of physical over intellectual science, an intense desire to be rich, which is strong enough to compel even education to grind in the mill of the Philistines, and an inordinate elevation in public consideration of rich men simply because they are rich, are characteristics of this little point of time on which we stand. They are not the only characteristics; in a reasonably optimistic view, the age is distinguished for unexampled achievements, and for opportunities for the well-being of humanity never before in all history attainable. But these characteristics are so prominent as to beget the fear that we are losing the sense of the relative value of things in this life.

Few persons come to middle life without some conception of these relative values. It is in the heat and struggle that we fail to appreciate what in the attainment will be most satisfactory to us. After it is over we are apt to see that our possessions do not bring the happiness we expected; or that we have neglected to cultivate the powers and tastes that can make life enjoyable. We come to know, to use a truism, that a person’s highest satisfaction depends not upon his exterior acquisitions, but upon what he himself is. There is no escape from this conclusion. The physical satisfactions are limited and fallacious, the intellectual and moral satisfactions are unlimited. In the last analysis, a man has to live with himself, to be his own companion, and in the last resort the question is, what can he get out of himself. In the end, his life is worth just what he has become. And I need not say that the mistake commonly made is as to relative values,–that the things of sense are as important as the things of the mind. You make that mistake when you devote your best energies to your possession of material substance, and neglect the enlargement, the training, the enrichment of the mind. You make the same mistake in a less degree, when you bend to the popular ignorance and conceit so far as to direct your college education to sordid ends. The certain end of yielding to this so-called practical spirit was expressed by a member of a Northern State legislature who said, “We don’t want colleges, we want workshops.” It was expressed in another way by a representative of the lower house in Washington who said, “The average ignorance of the country has a right to be represented here.” It is not for me to say whether it is represented there. Naturally, I say, we ought by the time of middle life to come to a conception of what sort of things are of most value. By analogy, in the continual growth of the Republic, we ought to have a perception of what we have accomplished and acquired, and some clear view of our tendencies. We take justifiable pride in the glittering figures of our extension of territory, our numerical growth, in the increase of wealth, and in our rise to the potential position of almost the first nation in the world. A more pertinent inquiry is, what sort of people have we become? What are we intellectually and morally? For after all the man is the thing, the production of the right sort of men and women is all that gives a nation value. When I read of the establishment of a great industrial centre in which twenty thousand people are employed in the increase of the amount of steel in the world, before I decide whether it would be a good thing for the Republic to create another industrial city of the same sort, I want to know what sort of people the twenty thousand are, how they live, what their morals are, what intellectual life they have, what their enjoyment of life is, what they talk about and think about, and what chance they have of getting into any higher life. It does not seem to me a sufficient gain in this situation that we are immensely increasing the amount of steel in the world, or that twenty more people are enabled on account of this to indulge in an unexampled, unintellectual luxury. We want more steel, no doubt, but haven’t we wit enough to get that and at the same time to increase among the producers of it the number of men and women whose horizons are extended, who are companionable, intelligent beings, adding something to the intellectual and moral force upon which the real progress of the Republic depends?