American Editor, Lecturer and Essayist
William George Jordan
American Editor, Lecturer and Essayist
Ingratitude is a crime more despicable than revenge, which is only returning evil for evil, while ingratitude returns evil for good.
Man is the only animal that can be really happy. To the rest of the creation belong only weak imitations of the understudies. Happiness represents a peaceful attunement of a life with a standard of living. It can never be made by the individual, by himself, for himself. It is one of the incidental by-products of an unselfish life. No man can make his own happiness the one object of his life and attain it, any more than he can jump on the far end of his shadow. If you would hit the bull's-eye of happiness on the target of life, aim above it. Place other things higher than your own happiness and it will surely come to you. You can buy pleasure, you can acquire content, you can become satisfied, ? but Nature never put real happiness on the bargain-counter. It is the undetachable accompaniment of true living. It is calm and peaceful; it never lives in an atmosphere of worry or of hopeless struggle.
The man who is seeking ever to do his best is the man who is keen, active, wide-awake, and aggressive. He is ever watchful of himself in trifles; his standard is not "What will the world say?" but "Is it worthy of me?"
We need in our country today less politics and more statesmanship, less party and more patriotism. We need an awakening to higher ideals. We need a higher conception of America's place and destiny in the evolution of the world. We need something nobler as a purpose than our self-satisfied complacency at the material prosperity of the nation, ?. We need the scourging of the money changers out of the temple of legislation?State and national. ... We need the clear clarion voice a great inspiration to rouse the States to their duty?not the gilded phrases of mere rhetoric, but the honest eloquence of a high and exalted purpose
It takes over thirty years for the light of some of the stars to reach the earth, some a hundred, some a thousand years. Those stars do not become visible till their light reaches and reacts on human vision. It takes an almost equal time for the light of some of the world's great geniuses to meet real, seeing eyes. Then we see these men as the brilliant stars in the world's gallery of immortal great ones. This is why contemporary reputation rarely indicates lasting fame. We are constantly mistaking fireflies of cleverness for stars of genius.
Man to be great must be self-reliant. Though he may not be so in all things, he must be self-reliant in the one in -which he 'would be great. This self-reliance is not the self-sufficiency of conceit. It is daring to stand alone. Be an oak, not a vine. Be ready to give support, but do not crave it; do not be dependent on it. To develop your true self- reliance, you must see from the very beginning that life is a battle you must fight for yourself, ? you must be your own soldier. You cannot buy a substitute, you cannot win a reprieve, you can never be placed on the retired list. The retired list of life is, ? death. The world is busy with its own cares, sorrows and joys, and pays little heed to you. There is but one great password to success, ? self-reliance.
The man who is self-reliant does not live in the shadow of someone else's greatness; he thinks for himself, depends on himself, and acts for himself. In throwing the individual thus back upon himself it is not shutting his eyes to the stimulus and light and new life that come -with the warm pressure of the hand, the kindly -word and the sincere expressions of true friendship. But true friendship is rare; its great value is in a crisis, ? like a lifeboat. Many a boasted friend has proved a leaking, worthless "lifeboat" when the storm of adversity might make him useful. In these great crises of life, man is strong only as he is strong from within, and the more he depends on himself the stronger -will he become, and the more able will he be to help others in the hour of their need. His very life will be a constant help and a strength to others, as he becomes to them a living lesson of the dignity of self-reliance.
We need men and women trained to think, not merely to think they think.
Jealousy stifles faith, which is the soul of love. It is emotional suicide. It is a peculiar form of fear which seeks constantly to discover what it does not want to find. Jealousy is the chloroform of confidence. It requires faith to keep faith, trust to retain trust, love to cherish love.
Man?s conscious influence, when he is on dress-parade, when he is posing to impress those around him,?is woefully small. But his unconscious influence, the silent, subtle radiation of his personality, the effect of his words and acts, the trifles he never considers,?is tremendous.
The man who is slipshod and thoughtless in his daily speech, whose vocabulary is a collection of anemic commonplaces, whose repetitions of phrases and extravagance of interjections act but as feeble disguises to his lack of ideas, will never be brilliant on an occasion when he longs to outshine the stars. Living at one's best is constant preparation for instant use.
We should begin it today. Today is the only real day of life for us. Today is the tomb of yesterday, the cradle of tomorrow. All our past ends in today. All our future begins in today.
Let us conceive of gratitude in its largest, most beautiful sense, that if we receive any kindness we are debtor, not merely to one man, but to the whole world. As we are each day indebted to thousands for the comforts, joys, consolations, and blessings of life, let us realize that it is only by kindness to all that we can begin to repay the debt to one [and] begin to make gratitude the atmosphere of all our living and a constant expression in outward acts, rather than in mere thoughts.
Mistakes are the inevitable accompaniment of the greatest gift given to man, - individual freedom of action. Let us be glad of the dignity of our privilege to make mistakes, glad of the wisdom that enables us to recognize them, glad of the power that permits us to turn their light as a glowing illumination along the pathway of our future. Mistakes are the growing pains of wisdom. Without them there would be no individual growth, no progress, no conquest.
The man who says he will lead a newer and better life tomorrow, who promises great things for the future, and yet does nothing in the present to make that future possible, is living in an air-castle.
When man fails he? says, ?I am as God made me;? but when he succeeds, he proudly proclaims himself a ?self-made man.?
Let us seek to reign nobly on the throne of our highest self for just a single day, filling every moment of every hour with our finest, unselfish best. Then there would come to us such a vision of the golden glory of the sunlit heights, such a glad, glowing tonic of the higher levels of life, that we could never dwell again in the darkened valley of ordinary living without feeling shut in, stifled, and hungry for the freer air and the broader outlook.
Much of the seeming ingratitude in life comes from our magnifying of our own acts, our minifying of the acts of others.
The opening words of the world?s greatest book are ?In the beginning?, and they are the most important words of married life; they open its chapters of greatest joy and keenest sorrows. All its problems are most easily mastered in the beginning.
When man has developed the spirit of Calmness until it becomes so absolutely part of him that his very presence radiates it, he has made great progress in life. Calmness cannot be acquired of itself and by itself; it must come as the culmination of a series of virtues. What the world needs and what individuals need is a higher standard of living, a great realizing sense of the privilege and dignity of life, a higher and nobler conception of individuality.
Life is a state of constant radiation and absorption; to exist is to radiate; to exist is to be the recipient of radiations.
Neither philosophy nor religion can give any final satisfactory answer that is capable of logical demonstration, of absolute proof. There is ever, even after the best explanations, a residuum of the unexplained. We must then fall back in the eternal arms of faith, and be wise enough to say, "I will not be disconcerted by these problems of life, I will not permit them to plunge me into doubt, and to cloud my life with vagueness and uncertainty. Man arrogates much to himself when he demands from the Infinite the full solution of all His mysteries. I will found my life on the impregnable rock of a simple fundamental truth: ? 'This glorious creation -with its millions of wondrous phenomena pulsing ever in harmony with eternal law must have a Creator, that Creator must be omniscient and omnipotent. But that Creator Himself cannot, in justice, demand of any creature more than the best that that individual can give.' I will do each day, in every moment, the best I can by the light I have; I will ever seek more light, more perfect illumination of truth, and ever live as best I can in harmony with the truth as I see it. If failure come I will meet it bravely; if my pathway then lie in the shadow of trial, sorrow and suffering, I shall have the restful peace and the calm strength of one who has done his best, who can look back upon the past with no pang of regret, and who has heroic courage in facing the results, whatever they be, knowing that he could not make them different."
The supreme courage of life is the courage of the soul. It is living, day by day, sincerely, steadfastly, serenely,-despite all opinions, all obstacles, all opposition. It means the wine of inspiration from the crushed grapes of our sorrows. This courage makes the simplest life, great; it makes the greatest life-sublime. It means the royal dignity of fine individual living.
Worry is discounting possible future sorrows so that the individual may have present misery.
Life is a wondrously complex problem for the individual, until, someday, in a moment of illumination, he awakens to the great realization that he can make it simple, ? never quite simple, but always simpler. There are a thousand mysteries of right and wrong that have baffled the wise men of the ages. There are depths in the great fundamental questions of the human race that no plummet of philosophy has ever sounded. There are wild cries of honest hunger for truth that seek to pierce the silence beyond the grave, but to them ever echo back, ? only a repetition of their unanswered cries.