different it is with ourselves! How we are cumbered
with our possessions and tied to our own hitching
post! We must have trunks and bags and hat boxes and
golf sticks and dress-suit cases and a caged parrot
(or a pet poodle), and we must have a van to move
all these household and personal gods before we can
think of starting. Indeed, we must break our backs
for two days in preparation, even with the aid of
a man servant, a maid servant and a couple of porters.
While the modern American woman is about as difficult
to move as a circus.
the typical American workman is very unlike his Japanese
fellow-craftsman in this respect; he is much more
stable and much more home-keeping. His ideal of life,
like that of his more prosperous townsman, is by no
means simple. It includes a piano and a sewing machine
and a roll-top desk and a house with nine rooms and
carpets and superfluous furniture and endless "tidies"
and countless bric-à-brac, all hideous, ill-made,
and for the most part, far more hinderance than help
to life. The man is not only a slave to his job, he
a slave to his own possessions as well. All of us
are. We seem to have no ambition but to buy a house
and pile it so full of furniture that we cannot move
without breaking our chins. If we have any other ambition
it is to have more clothes than we can wear, more
horses than we can drive, more of everything than
we can possibly use, or even take care of without
a retinue of attendants.
I do not want to rail against luxury, or seem to do
so. Cynicism of that sort is so cheap, and (I must
think) so false. It is because I want to have the
complete enjoyment of life that I should not want
to be cumbered with too many possessions. I am sure
that we all feel the strain of this fashion of having
things and owning things. There is not a man in the
country who does not long for a breath of leisure,
an adequate holiday. The enormous and unparalleled
wealth of the Unites States is beginning to pass all
the bounds of imagination. We are all prosperous together,
very unequally and unjustly, of course, but still
very really prosperous. And what is the use of it
all? Do we not all feel the burden of life more keenly
than ever? Whether we are day laborers, or capitalists,
or merchants, or in the professions, every mother's
son of us is working more than any sane man cares
to work. Why do we? Is it not silly madness? Has not
some demon of asininity possessed us?
at all. We have simply become infatuated with the
notion that we must own things. The idea is abroad
that it is impossible to be happy without great wealth.
Those of us who can in some measure command the labor
of others don't dare to stop working for fear of being
outstripped. Every man is afraid his neighbor will
get a larger share than himself. His brain is infested
by the maggot of greedy fear. While the man who is
driven to work by necessity and is not his own employer
cannot stop, even if he wanted to. Old-time slavery
was human and merciful. Modern industrial slavery
is inhuman and as obdurate as the law of gravitation.
We shall have no freedom from it until we readjust
the system entirely.
am told that the coal strike has cost the country
so many million dollars. Well, what of it? If the
miners have had a holiday for a couple of months I
should say it was cheap at the price, and I hope they
enjoyed it. I hope it will give them a taste for leisure
that they will never get over. I wish the whole American
people would follow their example and go on strike
for two months every summer. They could perfectly
well afford, if only they would agree to do it. At
least, so it seems to me. But, of course, one may
be wrong, and we must be careful not to hold our convictions
too violently. If our convictions are really true,
really a part of the truth, then they will pass into
an emotional life and again be transmitted into conduct
and action, until all our life is affected by them,
and gradually they will obtain currency in the common
life of the community.
is good, however, to think as near the truth as we
can, and to shape our conduct as near excellence as
we can. And (to end where we began) it does appear
to be a fact that none of us have as much freedom,
in our daily coming and going as is natural and healthy.
How many of us stay indoors because it is too hot,
or too cold, or too wet, or too dark! How many of
us are content to sit still by the mere force of sodden
inertia, when we might be off on a holiday, if it
were only for a half an hour! Because June happened
to be a cool month people stayed in town. The old
rut of habit held them. But it is good to go out,
no matter what the weather is. It is good to leave
town, no matter whether we need to or not. Habits
may be good, but it is also good to break habit. For
if habit helps the weak will it is also capable of
stultifying all will and crushing out initiative impulse
have an admiration for that young lady of whom I recently
heard who went to the Grand Central station, walked
to the ticket office, put down a dollar bill, and
asked for a ticket. When the man politely asked "Where
to?" she did not quite follow the lines of the
stock story and say, "What have you got?"
She said, "Anywhere you like, that I can go for
a dollar." He gave her a ticket, and she went.
She had never been there before, but she liked the
place, stayed the summer, and now is an established
cottager in that vicinity.
course, fortune favoured her-and the intelligence
of the ticket seller-and we might try many times with
no such happy result. But the spirit of that girl
was right. She just wanted to get away, and she got
away. Most of us, if we had such a day-dream, would
only turn over and go into dreaming again, instead
of getting up and making it come true.
nomadic spirit is older than we are. It resides in
our deeper, primitive, ancestral selves; and wakes
under the summer sun to send us a-gipsying through
the lovely earth once more. It has no fear of weather,
nor of hunger; nor is it timid about finding its way.
It knows very well that all roads lead somewhere,
and that happiness is not at the journey's end, nor
exclusively in this inn or that, but comes to us each
instant as fitfully or overpoweringly as the perfumes
of the fields.