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When The Baby Changed Into A Fourteen-Year-Old
by [?]

Nothing is more common than to hear men–especially great and moral men–deplore the results of civilization, of mechanical, industrial and scientific progress. We quote a typical lament by a noble and sincere man, the Reverend Charles Wagner, author of an admirable book called “The Simple Life.” The author says:

“If it had been prophesied to the ancients that one day humanity would have all of the machinery now in use to sustain and protect natural existence, they would have concluded therefrom, first, an increase of independence, and in the second place, a great decrease in the competition for worldly possessions, They would have thought that the simplification of life would have been the result of such perfected means of action, that there would follow the realization of a higher standard of morality. Nothing of this sort has come to pass–not happiness, nor social peace, nor energy for good has increased.”

Naturally, from a superficial point of view, it is discouraging to see poverty, ostentation of wealth, injustice and the love of money increasing, instead of declining, with the great developments in human power.

Suppose it had been said two hundred years ago that some day one single man, with a loom, would be able to make cloth enough to clothe scores in one day; that a few children working in a stocking factory would be able to produce more stockings than a million women could knit.

It would, of course, have been prophesied that when these great inventions came everybody would be well clothed, every woman and child would have warm stockings–and so on.

But we find, as society’s powers increase, as machinery improves, and the means of producing and distributing wealth develop, that the struggle for existence and the display of avarice are accentuated.

The pessimistic man, observing these conditions, is filled with despair for the future of humanity. He predicts worse and worse times ahead, while he longs for the peaceable old days before the steam engine had appeared among us. —-

Now, in order to map out a parable, we must ask you to do a good deal of supposing.

Suppose, in place of the human race, one single human baby. Suppose that its mother had never seen another baby, and had no idea of the laws governing a baby’s development.

And suppose, as the helpless baby lay on its back in the cradle, waving its arms, kicking its legs, gasping and blinking, that the following prophecy had been made to the mother:

“Some day that baby of yours will be five feet high. Some day it will be able to walk and run, and throw stones, and carry weights, and fight, and do all kinds of things.”

Of course, the mother, hearing this, would have been very much rejoiced, saying to herself:

“My baby now is feeble and helpless, and I must watch it all the time to see that it does not roll out of the cradle, or that the cat does not bite it. When my baby gets to be five feet high and able to fight and run and jump, of course it will be free from danger, it will live happily, and I shall be free from anxiety.”

Now, suppose that fourteen years have passed. The mother has seen the baby grow to be five feet high and fourteen years old, and the prophecy is fulfilled.

Is the mother happy? She is weeping bitterly. The baby has certainly improved in its powers most wonderfully. It can run and jump and fight. As a result of its abilities, it comes back one day with a black eye, the next day with a broken nose, the next day with a sore toe. It is always in trouble. It has even developed vicious traits of its own. It tells lies, it steals, it is even disrespectful to its mother.