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On Polish
by [?]

But, to look for a moment less profoundly into the matter, have we not known those whose best never could get to the surface just from the lack of polish?–persons who, if they could only reveal the kindness of their nature, would make men believe in human nature, but in whom some roughness of awkwardness or of shyness prevents the true self from appearing? Even the dread of seeming to claim a good deed or to patronize a fellow-man will sometimes spoil the last touch of tenderness which would have been the final polish of the act of giving, and would have revealed infinite depths of human devotion. For let the truth out, and it will be seen to be true.

Simplicity is the end of all Polish, as of all Art, Culture, Morals, Religion, and Life. The Lord our God is one Lord, and we and our brothers and sisters are one Humanity, one Body of the Head.

Now to the practical: what are we to do for the polish of our manners?

Just what I have said we must do for the polish of our style. Take off; do not put on. Polish away this rudeness, that awkwardness. Correct everything self-assertive, which includes nine tenths of all vulgarity. Imitate no one’s behaviour; that is to paint. Do not think about yourself; that is to varnish. Put what is wrong right, and what is in you will show itself in harmonious behaviour.

But no one can go far in this track without discovering that true polish reaches much deeper; that the outward exists but for the sake of the inward; and that the manners, as they depend on the morals, must be forgotten in the morals of which they are but the revelation. Look at the high-shouldered, ungainly child in the corner: his mother tells him to go to his book, and he wants to go to his play. Regard the swollen lips, the skin tightened over the nose, the distortion of his shape, the angularity of his whole appearance. Yet he is not an awkward child by nature. Look at him again the moment after he has given in and kissed his mother. His shoulders have dropped to their place; his limbs are free from the fetters that bound them; his motions are graceful, and the one blends harmoniously with the other. He is no longer thinking of himself. He has given up his own way. The true childhood comes to the surface, and you see what the boy is meant to be always. Look at the jerkiness of the conceited man. Look at the quiet fluency of motion in the modest man. Look how anger itself which forgets self, which is unhating and righteous, will elevate the carriage and ennoble the movements.

But how far can the same rule of omission or rejection be applied with safety to this deeper character–the manners of the spirit?

It seems to me that in morals too the main thing is to avoid doing wrong; for then the active spirit of life in us will drive us on to the right. But on such a momentous question I would not be dogmatic. Only as far as regards the feelings I would say: it is of no use to try to make ourselves feel thus or thus. Let us fight with our wrong feelings; let us polish away the rough ugly distortions of feeling. Then the real and the good will come of themselves. Or rather, to keep to my figure, they will then show themselves of themselves as the natural home-produce, the indwelling facts of our deepest–that is, our divine nature.

Here I find that I am sinking through my subject into another and deeper–a truth, namely, which should, however, be the foundation of all our building, the background of all our representations: that Life is at work in us–the sacred Spirit of God travailing in us. That Spirit has gained one end of his labour–at which he can begin to do yet more for us–when he has brought us to beg for the help which he has been giving us all the time.

I have been regarding infinite things through the medium of one limited figure, knowing that figures with all their suggestions and relations could not reveal them utterly. But so far as they go, these thoughts raised by the word Polish and its figurative uses appear to me to be most true.