A great estate is a great disadvantage to those who do not know hot to use it, for nothing is more common than to see wealthy persons live scandalously and miserably; riches do them no service in order to virtue and happiness; it is precept and principle, not an estate, that makes a man good for something.
I cannot teach you the ten principles of service. But a little child and a thief can show you what they are. From the child you can learn three things: He is merry for no particular reason; never for a moment is he idle; when he needs something, he demands it vigorously. The thief can instruct you in seven things: He does his service by night; if he does not finish what he has set out to do, in one night, he devotes the next night to it; he and those who work with him love one another; he risks his life for small gains; what he takes has so little value for him that he gives it up for a very small coin; he endures blows and hardship, and it matters nothing to him; he likes his trade and would not exchange it for any other.
There is no unmixed good in human affairs; the best principles, if pushed to excess, degenerate into fatal vices. Generosity is nearly allied to extravagance; charity itself may lead to ruin; the sternness of justice is but one step removed from the severity of oppression. It is the same in the political world; the tranquillity of despotism resembles the stagnation of the Dead Sea; the fever of innovation the tempests of the ocean It would seem as if, at particular periods, from causes inscrutable to human wisdom, a universal frenzy seizes mankind; reason, experience, prudence, are alike blinded; and the very classes who are to perish in the storm are the first to raise its fury.
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Foremost among the barriers to equality is the system which ignores the mother’s service to Society in making a home and rearing children. The mother is still the uncharted servant of the future, who receives from her husband, at his discretion, a share in his wages.
The full-grown modern human being who seeks but refuge finds instead boredom and mental dissolution, unless he can be, even in his withdrawal, creative. He can find the quality of happiness in the strain and travail only of achievement and growth. And he is conscious of touching the highest pinnacle of fulfillment which his life-urges demand when his is consumed in the service of an idea, in the conquest of the goal pursued.
Man cannot live by bread alone. The making of money, the accumulation of material power, is not all there is to living. Life is something more than these, and the man who misses this truth misses the greatest joy and satisfaction that can come into his life - service for others.
Active beneficence is a virtue of easier practice than forbearance after having conferred, or than thankfulness after having received a benefit. I know not, indeed, whether it be a greater and more difficult exercise of magnanimity for the one party to act as if he had forgotten, or for the other as if he constantly remembered the obligation.
The vital force in business life is the honest desire to serve. Business, it is said, is the science of service. He profits most who serves best. At the very bottom of the wish to render service must be honesty of purpose, and, as I go along through life, I see more and more that honesty in word, thought, and work means success. It spells a life worth living and in business clean success.
A successful man is he who receives a great deal from his fellowmen, usually incomparably more than corresponds to his service to them. The value of a man, however, should be seen in what he gives and not in what he is able to receive.
Exaggerated respect for athletics, an excess of coarse impressions brought about by the technical discoveries of recent years, the increased severity of the struggle for existence due to the economic crisis, the brutalization of political life: all these factors are hostile to the ripening of the character and the desire for real culture, and stamp our age as barbarous, materialistic and superficial.
As a great part of the uneasiness of matrimony arises from mere trifles, it would be wise in every young married man to enter into an agreement with his wife, that in all disputes of this kind the party who was most convinced they were right should always surrender the victory. By which means both would be more forward to give up the cause.