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Education and Ethics of Nowadays Human Being

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There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives atthe conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation issuicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse,as his portion; that though the wide universe is full ofgood, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him butthrough his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which isgiven to him to till. The power which resides in him is newin nature, and none but he knows what that is which he cando, nor does he know until he has tried.

Not for nothingone face, one character, one fact, makes much impression onhim, and another none. This sculpture in the memory is notwithout preestablished harmony. The eye was placed whereone ray should fall, that it might testify of thatparticular ray. We but half express ourselves, and areashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents. Itmay be safely trusted as proportionate and of good issues,so it be faithfully imparted, but God will not have hiswork made manifest by cowards.

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A man is relieved and gaywhen he has put his heart into his work and done his best;but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him nopeace. It is a deliverance which does not deliver. In theattempt his genius deserts him; no muse befriends; noinvention, no hope.

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.

Accept the place the divine providence has found for you,the society of your contemporaries, the connection ofevents. Great men have always done so, and confidedthemselves childlike to the genius of their age, betrayingtheir perception that the absolutely trustworthy was seatedat their heart, working through their hands, predominatingin all their being. And we are now men, and must accept inthe highest mind the same transcendent destiny; and notminors and invalids in a protected corner, not cowardsfleeing before a revolution, but guides, redeemers, andbenefactors, obeying the Almighty effort, and advancing onChaos and the Dark.

What pretty oracles nature yields us on this text, in theface and behaviour of children, babes, and even brutes!That divided and rebel mind, that distrust of a sentimentbecause our arithmetic has computed the strength and meansopposed to our purpose, these have not. Their mind beingwhole, their eye is as yet unconquered, and when we look intheir faces, we are disconcerted. Infancy conforms tonobody: all conform to it, so that one babe commonly makesfour or five out of the adults who prattle and play to it.

So God has armed youth and puberty and manhood no less withits own piquancy and charm, and made it enviable andgracious and its claims not to be put by, if it will standby itself. Do not think the youth has no force, because hecannot speak to you and me. Hark! in the next room hisvoice is sufficiently clear and emphatic. It seems he knowshow to speak to his contemporaries. Bashful or bold, then,he will know how to make us seniors very unnecessary.

The nonchalance of boys who are sure of a dinner, and woulddisdain as much as a lord to do or say aught to conciliateone, is the healthy attitude of human nature. A boy is inthe parlour what the pit is in the playhouse; independent,irresponsible, looking out from his corner on such peopleand facts as pass by, he tries and sentences them on theirmerits, in the swift, summary way of boys, as good, bad,interesting, silly, eloquent, troublesome. He cumbershimself never about consequences, about interests: he givesan independent, genuine verdict. You must court him: hedoes not court you. But the man is, as it were, clappedinto jail by his consciousness. As soon as he has onceacted or spoken with eclat, he is a committed person,watched by the sympathy or the hatred of hundreds, whoseaffections must now enter into his account. There is noLethe for this. Ah, that he could pass again into hisneutrality! Who can thus avoid all pledges, and havingobserved, observe again from the same unaffected, unbiased,unbribable, unaffrighted innocence, must always beformidable. He would utter opinions on all passing affairs,which being seen to be not private, but necessary, wouldsink like darts into the ear of men, and put them in fear.

These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but theygrow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world.

Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood ofevery one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company,in which the members agree, for the better securing of hisbread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty andculture of the eater. The virtue in most request isconformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves notrealities and creators, but names and customs.

Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who wouldgather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name ofgoodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is atlast sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve youto yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world.

I remember an answer which when quite young I was promptedto make to a valued adviser, who was wont to importune mewith the dear old doctrines of the church. On my saying,What have I to do with the sacredness of traditions, if Ilive wholly from within? my friend suggested, — But theseimpulses may be from below, not from above. I replied,They do not seem to me to be such; but if I am the Devil’schild, I will live then from the Devil. No law can besacred to me but that of my nature. Good and bad are butnames very readily transferable to that or this; the onlyright is what is after my constitution, the only wrong whatis against it. A man is to carry himself in the presence ofall opposition, as if every thing were titular andephemeral but he. I am ashamed to think how easily wecapitulate to badges and names, to large societies and deadinstitutions. Every decent and well-spoken individualaffects and sways me more than is right. I ought to goupright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways. Ifmalice and vanity wear the coat of philanthropy, shall thatpass? If an angry bigot assumes this bountiful cause ofAbolition, and comes to me with his last news fromBarbadoes, why should I not say to him, ‘Go love thyinfant; love thy wood-chopper: be good-natured and modest:have that grace; and never varnish your hard, uncharitableambition with this incredible tenderness for black folk athousand miles off. Thy love afar is spite at home.’ Roughand graceless would be such greeting, but truth ishandsomer than the affectation of love. Your goodness musthave some edge to it, — else it is none. The doctrine ofhatred must be preached as the counteraction of thedoctrine of love when that pules and whines. I shun fatherand mother and wife and brother, when my genius calls me. Iwould write on the lintels of the door-post, Whim. I hopeit is somewhat better than whim at last, but we cannotspend the day in explanation. Expect me not to show causewhy I seek or why I exclude company. Then, again, do nottell me, as a good man did to-day, of my obligation to putall poor men in good situations. Are they my poor? I tellthee, thou foolish philanthropist, that I grudge thedollar, the dime, the cent, I give to such men as do notbelong to me and to whom I do not belong. There is a classof persons to whom by all spiritual affinity I am boughtand sold; for them I will go to prison, if need be; butyour miscellaneous popular charities; the education atcollege of fools; the building of meeting-houses to thevain end to which many now stand; alms to sots; and thethousandfold Relief Societies; — though I confess withshame I sometimes succumb and give the dollar, it is awicked dollar which by and by I shall have the manhood towithhold.


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Education and Ethics of Nowadays Human Being. (2018, Nov 25). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/education-and-ethics-of-nowadays-human-being/

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