is a common dictum of proverbial philosophy that “haste
makes waste,” that in hurry we rush upon confusion
and miss our aim, making less progress than the tardy.
But it is not so commonly recognized that haste really
is waste, that it not only causes entanglement of affairs
but wrecks the individuality as well. Haste is the fever
of power, a malaria of the soul; and you will find that
the great characters of the earth, in history or in our
own day, are those who have been able to hold themselves
undistracted and undismayed, – without haste. They
have had that sanity or balance of mind which could perceive
the futility of hurry and the ultimate triumph of serene
endeavour. They never allowed themselves [Page
43] to be flustered, there was nothing in their
blood of the “fluttered folk and wild.” Each
moment was sufficient for itself and its task. If there
was more to do in an hour than human force could accomplish,
then it must wait the next hour; one thing only was certain,
no accumulation of duties and obligations must be allowed
to astound the spirit for an instant. For the spirit,
the central power within us, our self’s very self,
is in its essence and in its quality if not in reality
eternal, and, when we do not hurry it, dwells in eternity
amid the fleeting minutes and shows of time.
This is not the frosty grist of
fanciful preciosity; it is common truth. Think for a moment.
Stop now, as you are reading this recent volume, and notice
how absolutely unhurried and unperturbed you inmost spirit
may be. True, you have to hurry at times. You may have
had to run for your train, or you may be late for dinner,
you may have a stint of work to finish against time. The
consciousness of this has not only made you hurry [Page
44] your steps, it has made you hurry your soul.
That is wrong. No matter how much of a hurry we may be
in upon occasion, there is always the central consciousness
which we must try to control and keep undisturbed. Now,
forget your haste, just for a second or two, let go, stop
pushing the train you are riding in, stop trying to do
all your work at once; and perceive how deliberate,
how regal and indolent your soul is, how sure of itself,
how indifferent to the petty chances of punctuality or
Here and to-day we cannot live
as our fathers used. We cannot escape the pressure of
modern life altogether, mitigate it as we may. But even
supposing that you are under the necessity of strain in
your occupation, that your hours are long and your work
exacting, nothing can excuse haste or hastiness. It seems
as if there were two selves, — the lower humble,
obedient, toiling self, who occupies your body, sits in
it at the table, rides in it on the train, walks in it
through the street [Page 45]; and the
superior, commanding, thoughtful, masterly self, who does
none of these things, but merely looks on and approves.
Now, it may often be necessary for the inferior self to
hurry, to drive on the willing body at top speed in accomplishment
of some good object; but it can never be needful for the
dominant self to be in haste. It is the business of the
lower self to serve and bear about the higher; it is the
business of the higher self to rule and direct the lower.
And if I allow my inner imperial self to descend and toil
in the servant’s place, to become hurried and anxious
and fearful, I am degraded; I deteriorate every minute.
I leave the throne unoccupied, and yet the work of the
scullery is no better done.
a man makes a wreck of health and happiness through worry.
He cannot, as we say, possess his soul in patience. He
cannot see the needs of the hour alone, he is looking
at the needs of the coming year at the same time. No wonder
he is abashed and disheartened [Page 46].
A piece of work is to be done. To put his hand to it quietly
and without worry or hurry, would mean that it could be
finished in a day. If he would only hold his ruling self
still, and order that useful drudge, his secondary self,
to perform the labour, a day would amply suffice to see
it finished. But, no, he does not do that. He is infected
with the modern plague of haste. His soul is nervous;
it is not content to sit by and see the work performed;
it must rush down and tire itself out in tasks it was
never meant to be occupied with. So our friend frets and
fumes over his work for a week before he begins it; it
keeps him awake at night; it disturbs his appetite; it
makes him nervous and fanciful and incompetent; and when
at last he does drag himself through the performance,
the work is ill done.
it is necessary, in order to secure good work, that we
should throw ourselves into it whole-heartedly, as the
phrase goes. There must be no half-measures; we must be
absorbed [Page 47] absolutely in the
task before us. But this does not mean that the directing
soul, the loftier self, must be engrossed. It means only
that all those powers and faculties are to be employed
which rightly can be employed in labour. It is not the
province of the soul to labour. Its proper office is to
exist, to be and enjoy, to sorrow if it must, to rejoice
when it can, to direct, order, and govern.
is absolutely necessary that we guard against the intrusion
of haste within the precincts of the spirit. If we have
no habit of easy work, no faculty for accomplishing things
without effort, we must try to acquire it. For it is above
all things desirable that we should live without fret
and strain and haste in the inmost chambers of being.
It does not make the least difference what the occupation
may be. You enter a studio, perhaps, where the walls are
dim and reposeful, where the atmosphere is quiet, and
where you might suppose no haste nor disquiet ever entered.
But what do you find? The occupant is a [Page
48] modern painter. One glance condemns him;
he is doomed; the blight of haste is upon him; every movement
of his hand, every turn of his head, reveals the fever
of excitement under which he is working. He cannot be
himself for a minute, no, not for a second. He is bereft
of control. He is consumed with haste. The fatal malady
of modern life against which we must fight has taken hold
of him. You perceive at once that he is not living at
the centre of his being at all. His soul, instead of remaining
in its secret chamber, alone, contemplative, kindly, serene,
and glad, has rushed into his haste-driven fingers. His
work is killing him, because he is not doing it properly,
and the work itself is being ruined for want of proper
balance and control.
On the other hand, look at this
workman in a machine-shop. The belts are whirring and
the cogs roaring all around him; the dingy house of iron
and glass is a rattlebox of noise and dust and ceaseless
clang. You would say that repose in such a place were
impossible [Page 49]. And yet he goes
about his work with a quiet pleasure, with a poise and
deliberation, that show he has learned the secret of work
and of repose. He is intent, zealous, and efficient; you
would even say he is absorbed in his daily business. But
you perceive that at the centre of his being there is
calm. He has learned to possess his soul. He is without
haste [Page 50].