Life That is Worth While

Life is not only for work. It is for one's self and for one's friends. The degree of joy that a man finds in his work is due to two things: the intensity or fullness of his vitality, and the congenial character of the work itself. When one is thoroughly well and vorious, the mere joy of living, of merely being alive, is very great. At such a time the nature of the work does not matter to a large extent. The sense of having power at your command, and the delight of accelerating it even in coal shoveling or selling goods is enough. When one is full of life, the mere feel of fresh water or air on the skin, the taste of the plainest food, the exertion of muscular effort, the keenness of one's vision, the sight of color in the sky, or the sound of the wind or the waves-it takes nothing beyond these to make one jubilant, enthusiastic.

To a man who is fatigued such sensations are sure to be without zest, even if they are not positively unpleasant. One of the commonest reasons for the blasé or pessimistic feelings that so often come when youth is over is that one's system is constantly tired and rebels at additional sense-stimuli.

As a matter of fact, the vividness of one's feelings, of one's emotional experience ,ought not to depart with youth. In a normal life it should deepen, to be sure, and be responsive to even larger and greater things; but it should retain its brightness and depth of color. Love, hope, desire, appreciation, ambition and determination should grow, not diminish, with experience.

To live at a low level is to deaden every faculty for high thought and high feeling-it makes drudgery not only of work but also of life.

Many mothers slave for their children so many hours a day that they have but little energy left with which to enjoy them and love them. As a result, the dullness and drudgery of existence are all come to experience. One mother of five children for years took at least an hour a day for rest and quiet reading alone by herself. Nothing but absolute necessity would reduce her to break into this hour. The result of this is not only that she has kept her own superb health, but more than this: she is a constant joy and inspiration to her children, her husband and her friends.

It is true that she might have done more dusting or mending stockings than she actually accomplished, but it would have been at the sacrifice of that whole part of her life which meant the most to herself and others. Instead of being able to enter upon the routine of each day with eagerness and satisfaction, it would have been the intolerable drudgery that it is for so many tired mothers. Even in the matter of the quantity of the work accomplished it seemed probable that the daily rest was wise, for the reminder of the day was lived more intensely, its work was done more rapidly, and best of all, that balance and poise were preserved which we all lose if over tired. When fatigued to a certain point, every one of us loses his sense of proportion: we go on fretting over little things and doing ineffective work just because we have not enough enough to stop.

Children inevitably grow away from mothers who do not keep themselves growing and their lives vivid. The mere ministering to the physical needs of children is not enough. They need our best selves after they are babies. During the years of their childhood and later we will only serve them fully by living at our best, by living with inspiration and power. This it is impossible to do if we are daily over fatigued. We must live joyful, rich, vivid lives, not only for ourselves, but for our children and for all what we love.

Full living, high-level living, is one of the conditions of continuous growth. Growth in power to see and to appreciate and to do should increase every year right into old age itself. You remember how the old scholar speaks in Browning's "By the Fireside":

My own, confirm me, if we tread.
This pathway back, is it not in pride.
To think how little we dreamed it led.
To an age so blest that by its side.
Youth sees the waste indeed?

It is certain that if a man, who starts out with a good heredity, sets himself at the effort of constantly living at his best, the right kind of growth will come to him. If we take the machine at any stage and crowd it to its full capacity every day, we not only get low-level work from it, but there is a failure all along the line. We bless the world by being happy, full of dash and vim, ready for any enterprise, alert for the new idea or the new application of the old one.

For a man to look back at childhood as the one happy time in life shows that he has missed something important. The happiest people are the men and women in the full maturity of their powers, who have kept youth's vivacity of feeling, but who have added to this those great resources of life that are not open to children.

This matter of keeping one's self on a high level relates then not only to better work, but in an equally important degree to the attainment of a fuller, richer, more joyous life.