"He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son"—Revelation 21:7.
"Sweet are the uses of adversity;
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
And thus our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks
Sermons in stones, and good in everything."
MORE than a million people have sat in audiences in all parts of the United States and have listened to "The University of Hard Knocks." It has been delivered to date more than twenty-five hundred times upon lyceum courses, at chautauquas, teachers' institutes, club gatherings, conventions and before various other kinds of audiences. Ralph Parlette is kept busy year after year lecturing, because his lectures deal with universal human experience.
"Can I get the lecture in book form?" That continuous question from audiences brought out this book in response. Here is the overflow of many deliveries.
"What is written here is not the way I would write it, were I writing a book," says Ralph Parlette. "It is the way I say it. The lecture took this unconscious colloquial form before audiences. An audience makes a lecture, if the lecture survives. I wish I could shake the hand of every person who has sat in my audiences. And I wish I could tell the lecture committees of America how I appreciate the vast amount of altruistic work they have done in bringing the audiences of America together. For lecture audiences are not drawn together, they are pushed together."
The warm reception given "The University of Hard Knocks" by the public, has encouraged the publishers to put more of Mr. Parlette's lectures into book form, "Big Business" and "Pockets and Paradises" are now in preparation as this, the third edition of "The University of Hard Knocks" comes from the press.
SOME PRELIMINARY REMARKS—The lecturer the delivery wagon—The sorghum barrel—Audience must have place to put lecture—Why so many words
I. THE BOOKS ARE BUMPS—Every bump a lesson—Why the two kinds of bumps—Description of University—"Sweet are the uses of Adversity"—Why children are not interested
II. THE COLLEGE OF NEEDLESS KNOCKS, the bumps that we bump into—Getting the coffee-pot—Teaching a wilful child—Bumps make us "stop, look, listen"—Blind man learns with one bump—Going up requires effort—Prodigals must be bumped—The fly and the sticky fly-paper—"Removed" and "knocked out"
III. THE COLLEGE OF NEEDFUL KNOCKS, the bumps that bump into us—Our sorrows and disappointments—How the piano was made—How the "red mud" becomes razor-blades—The world our mirror—The cripple taught by the bumps—Every bump brings a blessing—You are never down and out
IV. "SHAKE THE BARREL"—How we decide our destinies—Why the big ones shake up and the little ones shake down—The barrel of life sorting people—How we hold our places, go down, go up—Good luck and bad luck—The girl who went up—The man who went down—The fatal rattle—We must get ready to get—Testimonials and press notices—You cannot uplift people with derrick—No laws can equalize—Help people to help themselves—We cannot get things till we get ready for them
V. GOING UP—How we become great—We must get inside greatness—There is no top—We make ourselves great by service—the first step at hand—All can be greatest—Where to find great people—A glimpse of Gunsaulus
VI. THE PROBLEM OF "PREPAREDNESS"—Preparing children for life—Most "advantages" are disadvantages—Buying education for children—The story of "Gussie" and "Bill Whackem"—Schools and books only give better tools for service—"Hard knocks" graduates—Menace of America not swollen fortunes but shrunken souls—Children must have struggle to get strength—Not packhorse work—Helping the turkeys killed them—the happiness of work we love—Amusement drunkards—Lure of the city—Strong men from the country—Must save the home towns—A school of struggle—New School experiment
VII. THE SALVATION OF A "SUCKER"—You can't get something for nothing—The fiddle and the tuning—How we know things—Trimmed at the shell game—My "fool drawer"—Getting "selected to receive 1,000 per cent"—You must earn what you own—Commencement orations—My maiden sermon—The books that live have been lived—Singer must live songs—Successful songs written from experience—Theory and practice—Tuning the strings of life
VIII. LOOKING BACKWARD—Memories of the price we pay—My first school teaching—Loaning the deacon my money—Calling the roll of my schoolmates—At the grave of the boy I had envied—Why Ben Hur won the chariot race—Pulling on the oar
IX. GO ON SOUTH!—The book in the running brook—The Mississippi keeps on going south and growing greater—We generally start well, but stop—Few go on south—The plague of incompetents—Today our best day, tomorrow to be better—Birthdays are promotions—I am just beginning—Bernhardt, Davis, Edison—Moses begins at eighty—Too busy to bury—Sympathy for the "sob squad"—Child sees worst days, not best—Waiting for the second table—Better days on south—Overcoming obstacles develops power—Go on south from principle, not praise—Doing duty for the joy of it—Becoming the "Father of Waters"—Go on south forever!
X. GOING UP LIFE'S MOUNTAIN—The defeats that are victories—Climbing Mount Lowe—Getting above the clouds into the sunshine—Each day we rise to larger vision—Getting above the night into the eternal day—Going south is going upward
LADIES and Gentlemen:
I do not want to be seen in this lecture. I want to be heard. I am only the delivery wagon. When the delivery wagon comes to your house, you are not much interested in how it looks; you are interested in the goods it brings you. You know some very good goods are sometimes delivered to you in some very poor delivery wagons.
So in this lecture, please do not pay any attention to the delivery wagon—how much it squeaks and wheezes and rattles and wabbles. Do not pay much attention to the wrappings and strings. Get inside to the goods.
Really, I believe the goods are good. I believe I am to recite to you some of the multiplication table of life—not mine, not yours alone, but everybody's.
Every audience has a different temperature, and that makes a lecture go differently before every audience. The kind of an audience is just as important as the kind of a lecture. A cold audience will make a good lecture poor, while a warm audience will make a poor lecture good.
Let me illustrate:
When I was a boy we had a barrel of sorghum in the woodshed. When mother wanted to make ginger-bread or cookies, she would send me to the woodshed to get a bucket of sorghum from that barrel.
Some warm September day I would pull the plug from the barrel and the sorghum would fairly squirt into my bucket. Later in the fall when it was colder, I would pull the plug but the sorghum would not squirt. It would come out slowly and reluctantly, so that I would have to wait a long while to get a little sorghum. And on some real cold winter day I would pull the plug, but the sorghum would not run at all. It would just look out at me.
I discovered it was the temperature.
I have brought a barrel of sorghum to this audience. The name of the sorghum is "The University of Hard Knocks." I can only pull the plug. I cannot make it run. That will depend upon the temperature of this audience. You can have all you want of it, but to get it to running freely, you will have to warm up.
No matter how the sorghum runs, you have to have a bucket to get it. How much any one gets out of a lecture depends also upon the size of the bucket he brings to get it in. A big bucket can get filled at a very small stream. A little bucket gets little at the greatest stream. With no bucket you can get nothing at Niagara.
That often explains why one person says a lecture is great, while the next person says he got nothing out of it.
Here is a great mass of words and sentences and pictures to express two or three simple little ideas of life, that our education is our growing up from the Finite to the Infinite, and that it is done by our own personal overcoming, and that we never finish it.
Have you noticed that no sentence, nor a million sentences, can bound life? Have you noticed that every statement does not quite cover it? No statement, no library, can tell all about life. No success rule can alone solve the problem. You must average it all and struggle up to a higher vision.
We are told that the stomach needs bulk as well as nutriment. It would not prosper with the necessary elements in their condensed form. So abstract truths in their lowest terms do not always promote mental digestion like more bulk in the way of pictures and discussions of these truths. Here is bulk as well as nutriment.
If you get the feeling that the first personal pronoun is being overworked, I remind you that this is more a confession than a lecture. You cannot confess without referring to the confesser.
I like you because I am like you.
I believe in you because I believe in myself. We are all one family. I believe in your Inside, not in your Outside, whoever you are, whatever you are, wherever you are.
I believe in the Angel of Good inside every block of human marble. I believe it must be carved out in The University of Hard Knocks.
I believe all this pride, vanity, selfishness, self-righteousness, hypocrisy and human frailty are the Outside that must be chipped away.
I believe the Hard Knocks cannot injure the Angel, but can only reveal it.
I hope you are getting your Hard Knocks.
I care little about your glorious or inglorious past. I care little about your present. I care much about your future for that is to see more of the Angel in you.
THE greatest school is the University of Hard Knocks. Its books are bumps.
Every bump is a lesson. If we learn the lesson with one bump, we do not get that bump again. We do not need it. We have traveled past it. They do not waste the bumps. We get promoted to the next bump.
But if we are "naturally bright," or there is something else the matter with us, so that we do not learn the lesson of the bump we have just gotten, then that bump must come back and bump us again.
Some of us learn to go forward with a few bumps, but most of us are "naturally bright" and have to be pulverized.
The tuition in the University of Hard Knocks is not free. Experience is the dearest teacher in the world. Most of us spend our lives in the A-B-C's of getting started.
We matriculate in the cradle.
We never graduate. When we stop learning we are due for another bump.
There are two kinds of people—wise people and fools. The fools are the people who think they have graduated.
The playground is all of God's universe.
The university colors are black and blue.
The yell is "ouch" repeated ad lib.
When I was thirteen I knew a great deal more than I do now. There was a sentence in my grammar that disgusted me. It was by some foreigner I had never met. His name was Shakespeare. It was this:
"Sweet are the uses of adversity; Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, Wears yet a priceless jewel in its head; And thus our life, exempt from public haunt, Finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks, Sermons in stones, and good in everything."
"Tongues in trees," I thought. "Trees can't talk! That man is crazy. Books in running brooks! Why nobody never puts no books in no running brooks. They'd get wet. And that sermons in stones! They get preachers to preach sermons, and they build houses out of stones."
I was sorry for Shakespeare—when I was thirteen.
But I am happy today that I have traveled a little farther. I am happy that I have begun to learn the lessons from the bumps. I am happy that I am learning the sweet tho painful lessons of the University of Adversity. I am happy that I am beginning to listen. For as I learn to listen, I hear every tree speaking, every stone preaching and every running brook the unfolding of a book.
Children, I fear you will not be greatly interested in what is to follow. Perhaps you are "naturally bright" and feel sorry for Shakespeare.
I was not interested when father and mother told me these things. I knew they meant all right, but the world had moved since they were young, and now two and two made seven, because we lived so much faster.
It is so hard to tell young people anything. They know better. So they have to get bumped just where we got bumped, to learn that two and two always makes four, and "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."
But if you will remember some of these things, they will feel like poultices by and by when the bumps come.
As we get bumped and battered on life's pathway, we discover we get two kinds of bumps—bumps that we need and bumps that we do not need.
Bumps that we bump into and bumps that bump into us.
We discover, in other words, that The University of Hard Knocks has two colleges—The College of Needless Knocks and The College of Needful Knocks.
We attend both colleges.
NEARLY all the bumps we get are Needless Knocks.
There comes a vivid memory of one of my early Needless Knocks as I say that. It was back at the time when I was trying to run our home to suit myself. I sat in the highest chair in the family circle. I was three years old and ready to graduate.
That day they had the little joy and sunshine of the family in his high-chair throne right up beside the dinner table. The coffee-pot was within grabbing distance.
I became enamored with that coffee-pot. I decided I needed that coffee-pot in my business. I reached over to get the coffee-pot. Then I discovered a woman beside me, my mother. She was the most meddlesome woman I had ever known. I had not tried to do one thing in three years that that woman had not meddled into.
And that day when I wanted the coffee-pot—I did want it. Nobody knows how I desired that coffee-pot. "One thing thou lackest," a coffee-pot—I was reaching over to get it, that woman said, "Don't touch that!"
The longer I thought about it the more angry I became. What right has that woman to meddle into my affairs all the time? I have stood this petticoat tyranny three years, and it is time to stop it!
I stopped it. I got the coffee-pot. I know I got the coffee-pot. I got it unanimously. I know when I got it and I also know where I got it. I got about a gallon of the reddest, hottest coffee a bad boy ever spilled over himself.
O-o-o-o-o-o! I can feel it yet!
There were weeks after that when I was upholstered. They put applebutter on me—and coal oil and white-of-an-egg and starch and anything else the neighbors could think of. They would bring it over and rub it on the little joy and sunshine of the family, who had gotten temporarily eclipsed.
You see, my mother's way was to tell me and then let me do as I pleased. She told me not to get the coffee-pot and then let me get it, knowing that it would burn me. She would say, "Don't." Then she would go on with her knitting and let me do as I pleased.
Why don't mothers knit today?
Mother would say, "Don't fall in the well." I could go and jump in the well after that and she would not look at me. I do not argue that this is the way to raise children, but I insist that this was the most kind and effective way to rear one stubborn boy I know of. The neighbors and the ladies' aid society often said my mother was cruel with that angel child. But the neighbors did not know what kind of an insect mother was trying to raise. Mother did know. She knew how stubborn and self-willed I was. It came from father's "side of the house."
Mother knew that to argue with me was to flatter me. Tell me, serve notice upon me, and then let me go ahead and get my coffee-pot. That was the quickest and kindest way to teach me.
I learned very quickly that if I did not hear mother, and heed, a coffee-pot would spill upon me. I cannot remember when I disobeyed my mother that a coffee-pot of some kind did not spill upon me, and I got my blisters. Mother did not inflict them. Mother was not much of an inflicter. Father attended to that in the laboratory behind the parsonage.
And thru the bumps we learn that The College of Needless Knocks runs on the same plan. The Voice of Wisdom says to each of us, "Child of humanity, do right, walk in the right path. You will be wiser and happier." The tongues in the trees, the books in the running brooks and the sermons in the stones all repeat it.
But we are not compelled to walk in the right path. We are free im-moral agents.
We get off the right path. We go down forbidden paths. They seem easier and more attractive. It is so easy to go downward. We slide downward, but we have to make effort to go upward.
Anything that goes downward will run itself. Anything that goes upward has to be pushed.
And going down the wrong path, we get bumped harder and harder until we listen.
We are lucky if we learn the lesson with one bump. We are unlucky when we get bumped twice in the same place, for it means we are making no progress.
When we are bumped, we should "stop, look, listen." "Safety first!"
One time I paid a seeress two dollars to look into my honest palm. She said, "It hain't your fault. You wasn't born right. You was born under an unlucky star." You don't know how that comforted me. It wasn't my fault—all my bumps and coffee-pots! I was just unlucky and it had to be.
How I had to be bumped to learn better! Now when I get bumped I try to learn the lesson of the bump and find the right path, so that when I see that bump coming again I can say, "Excuse me; it hath a familiar look," and dodge it.
The seeress is the soothing syrup for mental infants.
The other day I watched a blind man go down the aisle of the car to get off the train. Did you ever study the walk of a blind man? He "pussyfooted" it along so carefully. He bumped his hand against a seat. Then he did what every blind man does, he lifted his hand higher and didn't bump any more seats.
I looked down my nose. "Ralph Parlette," I said to myself, "when are you going to learn to see as well as that blind man? He learns his lesson with one bump, and you have to go bumping into the same things day after day and wonder why you have so much 'bad luck'!"
Let me repeat, things that go downward will run themselves. Things that go upward have to be pushed. Going upward is overcoming. Notice that churches, schools, lyceums, chautauquas, reform movements—things that go upward—never run themselves. They must be pushed all the time.
And so with our own lives. Real living is conscious effort to go upward to larger life.
If you are making no effort in your life, if you are moving in the line of least resistance, depend upon it you are going downward. Look out for the bumps!
Look over your community. Note the handful of brave, faithful, unselfish souls who are carrying the community burdens and pushing upward. Note the multitude making little or no effort, and even getting in the way of the pushers.
Majorities do not rule. Majorities never have ruled. It is the brave minority of thinking, self-sacrificing people that decides the tomorrow of communities that go upward. Majorities are not willing to make the effort to rule themselves. They are content to drift and be amused and follow false gods that promise something for nothing. They must be led—sometimes driven—by minorities.
People are like sheep. The shepherd can lead them to heaven—or to hell.
Human life is the story of the Prodigal Son. We look over the fence of goodness into the mystery of the great unknown world beyond and in that unknown realm we fondly imagine is happiness.
Down the great white way of the world go the million prodigals, seeking happiness where nobody ever found happiness. Their days fill up with disappointment, their vision becomes dulled. They become anaemic feeding upon the husks.
They just must get their coffee-pot!
How they must be bumped to think upon their ways. Every time we do wrong we get a Needless Knock. Every time! We may not always get bumped on the outside, but we always get bumped on the inside. A bump on the conscience is worse than a bump on the "noodle."
"I can do wrong and not get bumped. I have no feelings upon the subject," somebody says, You can? You poor old sinner, you have bumped your conscience numb. That is why you have no feelings on the subject. You have pounded your soul into a jelly. You don't know how badly you are hurt.
How the old devil works day and night to keep people amused and doped so that they will not think upon their ways! How he keeps the music and the dazzle going so they will not see they are bumping themselves!
Did you ever watch a fly get his Needless Knocks on the sticky flypaper?
The last thing Mamma Fly said as Johnny went off to the city was, "Remember, son, to stay away from the sticky flypaper. That is where your poor dear father was lost." And Johnny Fly remembers for several minutes. But when he sees all the smart young flies of his set go over to the flypaper, he goes over, too. He gazes down at his face in the stickiness. "Ah! how pretty I am! This sticky flypaper shows me up better than anything at home. What a fine place to skate. Just see how close I can fly over it and not get stuck a bit. Mother is such a silly old worryer. She means all right, of course, but she isn't up-to-date. We young set of modern flies are naturally bright and have so many more advantages. You can't catch us. They were too strict with me back home."
You see Johnny fly back and forth and have the time of his naturally bright young life. Afterwhile, tho, he stubs his toe and lands in the stickiness. "Well, well, how nice this is on the feet, so soft and soothing!"
First he puts one foot down and pulls it out. That is a lot of fun. It shows he is not a prisoner. He is a strong-minded fly. He can quit it or play in it, just as he pleases. After while he puts two feet down in the stickiness. It is harder to pull them out. Then he puts three down and puts down a few more trying to pull them out.
"Really," says Johnny Fly bowing to his comrades also stuck around him, "really, boys, you'll have to excuse me now. Good-bye!" But he doesn't pull loose. He feels tired and he sits down in the sticky flypaper. It is a fine place to stick around. All his young set of flies are around him. He does like the company. They all feel the same way—they can play in the sticky flypaper or let it alone, just as they please, for they are strong-minded flies. They have another drink and sing, "We won't go home till morning."
Johnny may get home, but he will leave a wing or a leg. Most of them stay. They just settle down into the stickiness with sleeping sickness.
The tuition in The College of Needless Knocks is very high indeed!
The man who goes to jail ought to congratulate himself if he is guilty. It is the man who does not get discovered who is to be pitied, for he must get some more knocks.
The world loves to write resolutions of respect. How often we write, "Whereas, it has pleased an all-wise Providence to remove," when we might reasonably ask whether the victim was "removed" or merely "knocked out."
There is a good deal of suicide charged up to Providence.
BUT occasionally all of us get bumps that we do not bump into. They bump into us. They are the guideboard knocks that point us to the higher pathway.
You were bumped yesterday or years ago. Maybe the wound has not yet healed. Maybe you think it never will heal. You wondered why you were bumped. Some of you in this audience are just now wondering why.
You were doing right—doing just the best you knew how—and yet some blow came crushing upon you and gave you cruel pain.
It broke your heart. You have had your heart broken. I have had my heart broken more times than I care to talk about now. Your home was darkened, your plans were wrecked, you thought you had nothing more to live for.
I am like you. I have had more trouble than anybody else. I have never known anyone who had not had more trouble than anyone else.
But I am discovering that life only gets good after we have been killed a few times. Each death is a larger birth.
We all must learn, if we have not already learned, that these blows are lessons in The College of Needful Knocks. They point upward to a higher path than we have been traveling.
In other words, we are raw material. You know what raw material is—material that needs more Needful Knocks to make it more useful and valuable.
The clothing we wear, the food we eat, the house we live in, all have to have the Needful Knocks to become useful. And so does humanity need the same preparation for greater usefulness.
I should like to know every person in this audience. But the ones I should most appreciate knowing are the ones who have known the most of these knocks—who have faced the great crises of life and have been tried in the crucibles of affliction. For I am learning that these lives are the gold tried in the fire.
See the piano on this stage? Good evening, Mr. Piano. I am glad to see you. You are so shiny, beautiful, valuable and full of music, if properly treated.
Do you know how you got upon this stage, Mr. Piano? You were bumped here. This is no reflection upon the janitor. You became a piano by the Needful Knocks.
I can see you back in your callow beginnings, when you were just a tree—a tall, green tree. You were green! Only green things grow. Did you get the meaning of that, children? I hope you are green.
There you stood in the forest, a perfectly good, green young tree. You got your lessons, combed your hair, went to Sunday school and were the best young tree you could be.
That is why you were bumped—because you were good! There came a man into the woods with an ax, and he looked for the best trees there to bump. He bumped you—hit you with the ax! How it hurt you! And how unjust it was! He kept on hitting you. "The operation was just terrible." Finally you fell, crushed, broken, bleeding.
It is a very sad story. They took you all bumped and bleeding to the sawmill and they bumped and ripped you more. They cut you in pieces and hammered you day by day.
They did not bump the little, crooked, dissipated, cigaret-stunted trees. They were not worth bumping.
But shake, Mr. Piano. That is why you are on this stage. You were bumped here. All the beauty, harmony and value were bumped into you.
One day I was up the Missabe road about a hundred miles north of Duluth, Minnesota, and came to a hole in the ground. It was a big hole—about a half-mile of hole. There were steam-shovels at work throwing out of that hole what I thought was red mud.
"Kind sir, why are they throwing that red mud out of that hole?" I asked a native.
"That hain't red mud. That's iron ore, an' it's the best iron ore in the world."
"What is it worth?"
"It hain't worth nothin' here; that's why they're movin' it away."
There's red mud around every community that "hain't worth nothin'" until you move it—send it to college or somewhere.
Not very long after this, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I saw some of this same red mud. It had been moved over the Great Lakes and the rails to what they call a blast furnace, the technological name of which being The College of Needful Knocks for Red Mud.
I watched this red mud matriculate into a great hopper with limestone, charcoal and other textbooks. Then they corked it up and school began. They roasted it. It is a great thing to be roasted.
When it was done roasting they stopped. Have you noticed that they always stop when anything is done roasting? If we are yet getting roasted, perhaps we are not done!
Then they pulled the plug out of the bottom of the college and held promotion exercises. The red mud squirted out into the sand. It was not red mud now, because it had been roasted. It was a freshman—pig iron, worth more than red mud, because it had been roasted.
Some of the pig iron went into another department, a big teakettle, where it was again roasted, and now it came out a sophomore—steel, worth more than pig iron.
Some of the sophomore steel went up into another grade where it was roasted yet again and rolled thin into a junior. Some of that went on up and up, at every step getting more pounding and roasting and affliction.
It seemed as tho I could hear the suffering red mud crying out, "O, why did they take me away from my happy hole-in-the-ground? Why do they pound me and break my heart? I have been good and faithful. O, why do they roast me? O, I'll never get over this!"
But after they had given it a diploma—a pricemark telling how much it had been roasted—they took it proudly all over the world, labeled "Made in America." They hung it in show windows, they put it in glass cases. Many people admired it and said, "Isn't that fine work!" They paid much money for it now. They paid the most money for what had been roasted the most.
If a ton of that red mud had become watch-springs or razor-blades, the price had gone up into thousands of dollars.
My friends, you and I are the raw material, the green trees, the red mud. The Needful Knocks are necessary to make us serviceable.
Every bump is raising our price. Every bump is disclosing a path to a larger life. The diamond and the chunk of soft coal are exactly the same material, say the chemists. But the diamond has gone to The College of Needful Knocks more than has her crude sister of the coal-scuttle.
There is no human diamond that has not been crystallized in the crucibles of affliction. There is no gold that has not been refined in the fire.
One evening when I was trying to lecture in a chautauqua tent in Illinois, a crippled woman was wheeled into the tent and brought right down to the foot of the platform. The subject was The University of Hard Knocks. Presently the cripple's face was shining brighter than the footlights.
She knew about the knocks!
Afterwards I went to her. "Little lady, I want to thank you for coming here. I have the feeling that I spoke the words, but you are the lecture itself."
What a smile she gave me! "Yes, I know about the hard knocks," she said. "I have been in pain most of my life. But I have learned all that I know sitting in this chair. I have learned to be patient and kind and loving and brave."
They told me this crippled woman was the sweetest-spirited, best-loved person in the town.
But her mother petulantly interrupted me. She had wheeled the cripple into the tent. She was tall and stately. She was well-gowned. She lived in one of the finest homes in the city. She had everything that money could buy. But her money seemed unable to buy the frown from her face.
"Mr. Lecture Man," she said, "why is everybody interested in my daughter and nobody interested in me? Why is my daughter happy and why am I not happy? My daughter is always happy and she hasn't a single thing to make her happy. I am not happy. I have not been happy for years. Why am I not happy?"
What would you have said? Just on the spur of the moment—I said, "Madam, I don't want to be unkind, but I really think the reason you are not happy is that you haven't been bumped enough."
I discover when I am unhappy and selfish and people don't use me right, I need another bump.
The cripple girl had traveled ahead of her jealous mother. For selfishness cripples us more than paralysis.
When I see a long row of cots in a hospital or sanitarium, I want to congratulate the patients lying there. They are learning the precious lessons of patience, sympathy, love, faith and courage. They are getting the education in the humanities the world needs more than tables of logarithms. Only those who have suffered can sympathize. They are to become a precious part of our population. The world needs them more than libraries and foundations.
There is no backward step in life. Whatever experiences come to us are truly new chapters of our education if we are willing to learn them.
We think this is true of the good things that come to us, but we do not want to think so of the bad things. Yet we grow more in lean years than in fat years. In fat years we put it in our pockets. In lean years we put it in our hearts. Material and spiritual prosperity do not often travel hand-in-hand. When we become materially very prosperous, so many of us begin to say, "Is not this Babylon that I have builded?" And about that time there comes some handwriting on the wall and a bump to save us.
Think of what might happen to you today. Your home might burn. We don't want your home to burn, but somebody's home is burning just now. A conflagration might sweep your town from the map. Your business might wreck. Your fortune might be swept away. Your good name might be tarnished. Bereavement might take from you the one you love most.
You would never know how many real friends you have until then. But look out! Some of your friends would say, "I am so sorry for you. You are down and out." Do not believe that you are down and out, for it is not true. The old enemy of humanity wants you to believe you are down and out. He wants you to sympathize with yourself. You are never down and out!
The truth is, another chapter of your real education has been opened. Will you read the lesson of the Needful Knocks?
A great conflagration, a cyclone, a railroad wreck, an epidemic or other public disaster brings sympathy, bravery, brotherhood and love in its wake.
There is a silver lining to every hard knocks cloud.
Out of the trenches of the Great War come nations chastened by sacrifice and purged of their dross.
NOW as we learn the lessons of the Needless and the Needful Knocks, we get wisdom, understanding, happiness, strength, success and greatness. We go up in life. We become educated. Let me bring you a picture of it.
One day the train stopped at a station to take water. Beside the track was a grocery with a row of barrels of apples in front. There was one barrel full of big, red, fat apples. I rushed over and got a sack of the big, red, fat apples. Later as the train was under way, I looked in the sack and discovered there was not a big, red, fat apple there.
All I could figure out was that there was only one layer of the big, red, fat apples on the top, and the groceryman, not desiring to spoil his sign, had reached down under the top layer. He must have reached to the bottom, for he gave me the worst mess of runts and windfalls I ever saw in one sack. The things I said about the grocery business must have kept the recording angel busy.
Then I calmed down. Did the groceryman do that on purpose? Does the groceryman ever put the big apples on top and the little ones down underneath?
Do you? Is there a groceryman in the audience?
Man of sorrows, you have been slandered. It never occurred to me until that day on the train that the groceryman does not put the big ones on top and the little ones down underneath. He does not need to do it. It does itself. It is the shaking of the barrel that pushes the big ones up and the little ones down.
You laugh? You don't believe that? Maybe your roads are so good and smooth that things do not shake on the road to town. But back in the Black Swamp of Ohio we had corduroy roads. Did you ever see a corduroy road? It was a layer of logs in the mud. Riding over it was the poetry of motion! The wagon "hit the high spots." And as I hauled a wagon-bed full of apples to the cider-mill over a corduroy road, the apples sorted out by the jolting. The big apples would try to get to the top. The little, runty apples would try to hold a mass meeting at the bottom.
I saw that for thirty years before I saw it. Did you ever notice how long you have to see most things before you see them? I saw that when I played marbles. The big marbles would shake to the top of my pocket and the little ones would rattle down to the bottom.
You children try that tomorrow. Do not wait thirty years to learn that the big ones shake up and the little ones shake down. Put some big ones and some little things of about the same density in a box or other container and shake them. You will see the larger things shake upward and the smaller shake downward. You will see every thing shake to the place its size determines. A little larger one shakes a little higher, and a little smaller one a little lower.
When things find their place, you can shake on till doomsday, but you cannot change the place of one of the objects.
Mix them up again and shake. Watch them all shake back as they were before, the largest on top and the smallest at the bottom.
At this place the lecturer exhibits a glass jar more than half-filled with small white beans and a few walnuts.
Let us try that right on the platform. Here is a glass jar and inside of it you see two sizes of objects—a lot of little white beans and some walnuts. You will pardon me for bringing such a simple and crude apparatus before you in a lecture, but I ask your forbearance. I am discovering that we can hear faster thru the eye than thru the ear. I want to make this so vivid that you will never forget it, and I do not want these young people to live thirty years before they see it.
If there are sermons in stones, there must be lectures in cans. This is a canned lecture. Let the can talk to you awhile.
You note as I shake the jar the little beans quickly settle down and the big walnuts shake up. Not one bean asks, "Which way do I go?" Not one walnut asks, "Which way do I go?" Each one automatically goes the right way. The little ones go down and the big ones go up.
Note that I mix them all up and then shake. Note that they arrange themselves just as they were before.
Suppose those objects could talk. I think I hear that littlest bean down in the bottom saying, "Help me! Help me! I am so unfortunate and low down. I never had no chance like them big ones up there. Help me up."
I say, "Yes, you little bean, I'll help you." So I lift him up to the top. See! I have boosted him. I have uplifted him.
See, the can shakes. Back to the bottom shakes the little bean. And I hear him say, "King's ex! I slipped. Try that again and I'll stay on top." So I put him back again on top.
The can shakes. The little bean again shakes back to the bottom. He is too small to stay up. He cannot stand prosperity.
Then I hear Little Bean say, "Well, if I cannot get to the top, you make them big ones come down. Give every one an equal chance."
So I say, "Yes, sir, Little Bean. Here, you big ones on top, get down. You Big Nuts get right down there on a level with Little Bean!" And you see I put them down.
But I shake the can, and the big ones go right back to the top with the same shakes that send the little ones back to the bottom.
There is only one way for those objects to change their place in the can. Lifting them up or putting them down will not do it. But change their size!
Equality of position demands quality of size. Let the little one grow bigger and he will shake up. Let the big one grow smaller and he will shake down.
O, fellow apples! We are all apples in the barrel of life on the way to the market place of the future. It is a corduroy road and the barrel shakes all the time.
In the barrel are big apples, little apples, freckled apples, speckled apples, green apples, and dried apples. A bad boy on the front row shouted the other night, "And rotten apples!"
In other words, all the people of the world are in the great barrel of life. That barrel is shaking all the time. Every community is shaking, every place is shaking. The offices, the shops, the stores, the schools, the pulpits, the homes—every place where we live or work is shaking. Life is a constant survival of the fittest.
The same law that shakes the little ones down and the big ones up in that can is shaking every person to the place he fits in the barrel of life. It is sending small people down and great people up.
And do you not see that we are very foolish when we want to be lifted up to some big place, or when we want some big person to be put down to some little place? We are foolishly trying to overturn the eternal law of life.
We shake right back to the places our size determines. We must get ready for places before we can get them and keep them.
The very worst thing that can happen to anybody is to be artificially boosted up into some place where he rattles.
I hear a good deal about destiny. Some people seem to think destiny is something like a train and if we do not get to the depot in time our train of destiny will run off and leave us, and we will have no destiny. There is destiny—that jar.
If we are small we shall have a small destiny. If we are great we shall have a great destiny. We cannot dodge our destiny.
The objects in that jar cannot change their size. But thank God, you and I are not helpless victims of blind fate. We are not creatures of chance. We have it in our hands to decide our destiny as we grow or refuse to grow.
We shake down if we become small; we shake up if we become great. And when we have reached the place our size determines, we stay there so long as we stay that size.
If we wish to change our place, we must first change our size. If we wish to go down, we must grow smaller and we shall shake down. If we wish to go up, we must grow greater, and we shall shake up.
Each person is doing one of three things consciously or unconsciously.
1. He is holding his place.
2. He is going down.
3. He is going up.
In order to hold his place he must hold his size. He must fill the place. If he shrinks up he will rattle. Nobody can stay long where he rattles. Nature abhors a rattler. He shakes down to a smaller place.
In order to stay the same size he must grow enough each day to supply the loss by evaporation. Evaporation is going steadily on in lives as well as in liquids. If we are not growing any, we are rattling.
So you young people should keep in mind that you will shake into the places you fit. And when you are in your places—in stores, shops, offices or elsewhere, if you want to hold your place you must keep growing enough to keep it tightly filled.
If you want a greater place, you simply grow greater and they cannot keep you down. You do not ask for promotion, you compel promotion. You grow greater, enlarge your dimensions, develop new capabilities, do more than you are paid to do—overfill your place, and you shake up to a greater place.
I believe if I were so fortunate or unfortunate as to have a number of people working for me, I would have a jar in my office filled with various sizes of objects. When an employee would come into the office and say, "Isn't it about time I was getting a raise?" I would say, "Go shake the jar, Charlie. That is the way you get raised. As you grow greater you won't need to ask to be promoted. You will promote yourself."
This jar tells me so much about luck. I have noted that the lucky people shake up and the unlucky people shake down. That is, the lucky people grow great and the unlucky people shrivel and rattle.
Notice as I bump this jar. Two things happened. The little ones shook down and the big ones shook up. The bump that was bad luck to the little ones was good luck to the big ones. The same bump was both good luck and bad luck.
Luck does not depend upon the direction of the bump, but upon the size of the bump-ee!
So everywhere you look you see the barrel sorting people according to size. Every business concern can tell you stories like that of the Chicago house where a number of young ladies worked. Some of them had been there for a long time. There came a raw, green Dutch girl from the country. It was her first office experience, and she got the bottom job.
The other girls poked fun at her and played jokes upon her because she was so green.
Do you remember that green things grow?
"Is not she the limit?" they oft spake one to another. She was. She made many blunders. But it is now recalled that she never made the same blunder twice. She learned the lesson with one helping to the bumps.
And she never "got done." When she had finished her work, the work she had been put at, she would discover something else that ought to be done, and she would go right on working, contrary to the rules of the union! Without being told, mind you. She had that rare faculty the world is bidding for—initiative.
The other girls "got done." When they had finished the work they had been put at, they would wait—O, so patiently they would wait—to be told what to do next.
Within three months every other girl in that office was asking questions of the little Dutch girl. She had learned more about business in three months than the others had learned in all the time they had been there. Nothing ever escaped her. She had become the most capable girl in the office.
The barrel did the rest. Today she is giving orders to all of them, for she is the office superintendent.
The other girls feel hurt about it. They will tell you in confidence that it was the rankest favoritism ever known. "There was nothing fair about it. Jennie ought to have been made superintendent. Jennie had been here four years."
The other day in a paper-mill I was standing beside a long machine making shiny super-calendered paper. I asked the man working there some questions about the machine, which he answered fairly well. Then I asked him about a machine in the next room. He said, "I don't know nothing about it, boss, I don't work in there."
I asked him about another process, and he replied, "I don't know nothing about it, I never worked in there." I asked him about the pulpmill. He replied, "No, I don't know nothing about that, neither. I don't work in there." And he did not betray the least desire to know anything about anything.
"How long have you worked here?"
"About twelve years."
Going out of the building, I asked the foreman, "Do you see that man over there at the supercalendered machine?" pointing to the man who didn't know. "Is he a human being?"
The foreman's face clouded. "I hate to talk to you about that man. He is one of the kindest-hearted men we ever had in the works, but we've got to let him go. We're afraid he'll break the machine. He isn't interested, does not learn, doesn't try to learn."
So he had begun to rattle. Nobody can stay where he rattles. It is grow or go.
So books could be filled with just such stories of how people have gone up and down. You may have noticed two brothers start with the same chance, and presently notice that one is going up and the other is going down.
Some of us begin life on the top branches, right in the sunshine of popular favor, and get our names in the blue-book at the start. Some of us begin down in the shade on the bottom branches, and we do not even get invited. We often become discouraged as we look at the top-branchers, and we say, "O, if I only had his chance! If I were only up there I might amount to something. But I am too low down."
We can grow. Everybody can grow.
And afterwhile we are all in the barrel of life, shaken and bumped about. There the real people do not often ask us, "On what branch of that tree did you grow?" But they often inquire, "Are you big enough to fill this place?"
Now life is mainly routine. You and I and everybody must go on doing pretty much the same things over and over. Every day we appear to have about the same round of duties.
But if we let life become routine, we are shaking down. The very routine of life must every day flash a new attractiveness. We must be learning new things and discovering new joys in our daily routine or we become unhappy. If we go on doing just the same things in the same way day after day, thinking the same thoughts, our eyes glued to precedents—just turning round and round in our places and not growing any, pretty soon we become mere machines. We wear smaller. The joy and juice go out of our lives. We shrivel and rattle.
The success, joy and glory of life are in learning, growing, going forward and upward. That is the only way to hold our place.
The farmer must be learning new things about farming to hold his place this progressive age as a farmer. The merchant must be growing into a greater, wiser merchant to hold his place among his competitors. The minister must be getting larger visions of the ministry as he goes back into the same old pulpit to keep on filling it. The teacher must be seeing new possibilities in the same old schoolroom. The mother must be getting a larger horizon in her homemaking.
We only live as we grow and learn. When anybody stays in the same place year after year and fills it, he does not rattle.
Unless the place is a grave!
I shiver as I see the pages of school advertisements in the journals labeled "Finishing Schools," and "A Place to Finish Your Child." I know the schools generally mean all right, but I fear the students will get the idea they are being finished, which finishes them. We never finish while we live. A school finishing is a commencement, not an end-ment.
I am sorry for the one who says, "I know all there is to know about that. You can't tell me anything about that." He is generally rattling.
The greater and wiser the man, the more anxious he is to be told.
I am sorry for the one who struts around saying, "I own the job. They can't get along without me." For I feel that they are getting ready to get along without him. That noise you hear is the death-rattle in his throat.
Big business men keep their ears open for rattles in their machinery.
I am sorry for the man, community or institution that spends much time pointing backward with pride and talking about "in my day!" For it is mostly rattle. The live one's "my day" is today and tomorrow. The dead one's is yesterday.
We young people come up into life wanting great places. I would not give much for a young person (or any other person) who does not want a great place. I would not give much for anybody who does not look forward to greater and better things tomorrow.
We often think the way to get a great place is just to go after it and get it. If we do not have pull enough, get some more pull. Get some more testimonials.
We think if we could only get into a great place we would be great. But unless we have grown as great as the place we would be a great joke, for we would rattle. And when we have grown as great as the place, that sized place will generally come seeking us.
We do not become great by getting into a great place, any more than a boy becomes a man by getting into his father's boots. He is in great boots, but he rattles. He must grow greater feet before he gets greater boots. But he must get the feet before he gets the boots.
We must get ready for things before we get them.
All life is preparation for greater things.
Moses was eighty years getting ready to do forty years work. The Master was thirty years getting ready to do three years work. So many of us expect to get ready in "four easy lessons by mail."
We can be a pumpkin in one summer, with the accent on the "punk." We can be a mushroom in a day, with the accent on the "mush." But we cannot become an oak that way.
The world is not greatly impressed by testimonials. The man who has the most testimonials generally needs them most to keep him from rattling. A testimonial so often becomes a crutch.
Many a man writes a testimonial to get rid of somebody. "Well, I hope it will do him some good. Anyhow, I have gotten him off my hands." I heard a Chicago superintendent say to his foreman, "Give him a testimonial and fire him!"
It is dangerous to overboost people, for the higher you boost them the farther they will fall.
Now testimonials and press-notices very often serve useful ends. In lyceum work, in teaching, in very many lines, they are often useful to introduce a stranger. A letter of introduction is useful. A diploma, a degree, a certificate, a license, are but different kinds of testimonials.
The danger is that the hero of them may get to leaning upon them. Then they become a mirror for his vanity instead of a monitor for his vitality.
Most testimonials and press-notices are frank flatteries. They magnify the good points and say little as possible about the bad ones. I look back over my lyceum life and see that I hindered my progress by reading my press-notices instead of listening to the verdict of my audiences. I avoided frank criticism. It would hurt me. Whenever I heard an adverse criticism, I would go and read a few press-notices. "There, I am all right, for this clipping says I am the greatest ever, and should he return, no hall would be able to contain the crowd."
And my vanity bump would again rise.
Alas! How often I have learned that when I did return the hall that was filled before was entirely too big for the audience! The editors of America—God bless them! They are always trying to boost a home enterprise—not for the sake of the imported attraction but for the sake of the home folks who import it.
We must read people, not press-notices.
When you get to the place where you can stand aside and "see yourself go by"—when you can keep still and see every fibre of you and your work mercilessly dissected, shake hands with yourself and rejoice, for the kingdom of success is yours.
There are so many loving, sincere, foolish, cruel uplift movements in the land. They spring up, fail, wail, disappear, only to be succeeded by twice as many more. They fail because instead of having the barrel do the uplifting, they try to do it with a derrick.
The victims of the artificial uplift cannot stay uplifted. They rattle back, and "the last estate of that man is worse than the first."
You cannot uplift a beggar by giving him alms. You are using the derrick. We must feed the hungry and clothe the naked, but that is not helping them, that is propping them. The beggar who asks you to help him does not want to be helped. He wants to be propped. He wants you to license him and professionalize him as a beggar.
You can only help a man to help himself. Help him to grow. You cannot help many people, for there are not many people willing to be helped on the inside. Not many willing to grow up.
When Peter and John went up to the temple they found the lame beggar sitting at the gate Beautiful. Every day the beggar had been "helped." Every day as they laid him at the gate people would pass thru the gate and see him. He would say, "Help me!" "Poor man," they would reply, "you are in a bad fix. Here is help," and they would throw him some money.
And so every day that beggar got to be more of a beggar. The public "helped" him to be poorer in spirit, more helpless and a more hopeless cripple. No doubt he belonged after a few days of the "helping" to the Jerusalem Beggars' Union and carried his card. Maybe he paid a commission for such a choice beggars' beat.
But Peter really helped him. "Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk."
I used to say, "Nobody uses me right. Nobody gives me a chance." But if chances had been snakes, I would have been bitten a hundred times a day. We need oculists, not opportunities.
I used to work on the "section" and get a dollar and fifteen cents a day. I rattled there. I did not earn my dollar fifteen. I tried to see how little I could do and look like I was working. I was the Artful Dodger of Section Sixteen. When the whistle would blow—O, joyful sound!—I would leave my pick hang right up in the air. I would not bring it down again for a soulless corporation.
I used to wonder as I passed Bill Barlow's bank on the way down to the section-house, why I was not president of that bank. I wondered why I was not sitting upon one of those mahogany seats instead of pumping a handcar. I was naturally bright. I used to say "If the rich wasn't getting richer and the poor poorer, I'd be president of a bank."
Did you ever hear that line of conversation? It generally comes from somebody who rattles where he is.
I am so glad now that I did not get to be president of the bank. They are glad, too! I would have rattled down in about fifteen minutes, down to the peanut row, for I was only a peanut. Remember, the hand-car job is just as honorable as the bank job, but as I was not faithful over a few things, I would have rattled over many things.
The fairy books love to tell about some clodhopper suddenly enchanted up into a king. But life's good fairies see to it that the clodhopper is enchanted into readiness for kingship before he lands upon the throne.
The only way to rule others is to learn to rule ourself.
I used to say, "Just wait till I get to Congress." I think they are all waiting! "I'll fix things. I'll pass laws requiring all apples to be the same size. Yes, I'll pass laws to turn the barrel upside down, so the little ones will be on the top and the big ones will be at the bottom."
But I had not seen that it wouldn't matter which end was the top, the big ones would shake right up to it and the little ones would shake down to the bottom.
The little man has the chance now, just as fast as he grows. You cannot fix the barrel. You can only fix the people inside the barrel.
Have you ever noticed that the man who is not willing to fix himself, is the one who wants to get the most laws passed to fix other people? He wants something for nothing.
O, I am so glad I did not get the things I wanted at the time I wanted them! They would have been coffee-pots. Thank goodness, we do not get the coffee-pot until we are ready to handle it.
Today you and I have things we couldn't have yesterday. We just wanted them yesterday. O, how we wanted them! But a cruel fate would not let us have them. Today we have them. They come to us as naturally today, and we see it is because we have grown ready for them, and the barrel has shaken us up to them.
Today you and I want things beyond our reach. O, how we want them! But a cruel fate will not let us have them.
Do you not see that "cruel fate" is our own smallness and unreadiness? As we grow greater we have greater things. We have today all we can stand today. More would wreck us. More would start us to rattling.
Getting up is growing up.
And this blessed old barrel of life is just waiting and anxious to shake everybody up as fast as everybody grows.
WE go up as we grow great. That is, we go up as we grow up. But so many are trying to grow great on the outside without growing great on the inside. They rattle on the inside!
They fool themselves, but nobody else.
There is only one greatness—inside greatness. All outside greatness is merely an incidental reflection of the inside.
Greatness is not measured in any material terms. It is not measured in inches, dollars, acres, votes, hurrahs, or by any other of the world's yardsticks or barometers.
Greatness is measured in spiritual terms. It is education. It is life expansion.
We go up from selfishness to unselfishness.
We go up from impurity to purity.
We go up from unhappiness to happiness.
We go up from weakness to strength.
We go up from low ideals to high ideals.
We go up from little vision to greater vision.
We go up from foolishness to wisdom.
We go up from fear to faith.
We go up from ignorance to understanding.
We go up by our own personal efforts. We go up by our own service, sacrifice, struggle and overcoming. We push out our own skyline. We rise above our own obstacles. We learn to see, hear, hold and understand.
We may become very great, very educated, rise very high, and yet not leave our kitchen or blacksmith shop. We take the kitchen or blacksmith shop right up with us! We make it a great kitchen or great blacksmith shop. It becomes our throne-room!
Come, let us grow greater. There is a throne for each of us.
"Getting to the top" is the world's pet delusion. There is no top. No matter how high we rise, we discover infinite distances above. The higher we rise, the better we see that life on this planet is the going up from the Finite to the Infinite.
The world says that to get greatness means to get great things. So the world is in the business of getting—getting great fortunes, great lands, great titles, great applause, great fame, and folderol. Afterwhile the poor old world hears the empty rattle of the inside, and wails, "All is vanity. I find no pleasure in them. Life is a failure." All outside life is a failure. Real life is in being things on the inside, not in getting things on the outside.
I weary of the world's pink-sheet extras about "Getting to the Top" and "Forging to the Front." Too often they are the sordid story of a few scrambling over the heads of the weaker ones. Sometimes they are the story of one pig crowding the other pigs out of the trough and cornering all the swill!
Christ Jesus was a great Teacher. His mission was to educate humanity.
There came to him those two disciples who wanted to "get to the top." Those two sons of Zebedee wanted to have the greatest places in the new kingdom they imagined he would establish on earth.
They got very busy pursuing greatness, but I do not read that they were half so busy preparing for greatness. They even had their mother out electioneering for them.
"O, Master," said the mother, "grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom."
The Master looked with love and pity upon their unpreparedness. "Are ye able to drink of the cup?" Then he gave the only definition of greatness that can ever stand: "Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant."
That is we cannot be "born great," nor "have greatness thrust upon" us. We must "achieve greatness" by developing it on the inside—developing ability to minister and to serve.
We cannot buy a great arm. Our arm must become a great servant, and thus it becomes great.
We cannot buy a great mind. Our mind must become a great servant, and thus it becomes great.
We cannot buy a great character. It is earned in great moral service.
This is the Big Business of life—going up, getting educated, getting greatness on the inside. Getting greatness on the outside is little business. Much of it mighty little.
Everybody's privilege and duty is to become great. And the joy of it is that the first step is always nearest at hand. We do not have to go off to New York or Chicago or go chasing around the world to become great. It is a great stairway that leads from where our feet are now upward for an infinite number of steps.
We must take the first step now. Most of us want to take the hundredth step or the thousandth step now. We want to make some spectacular stride of a thousand steps at one leap. That is why we fall so hard when we miss our step.
We must go right back to our old place—into our kitchen or our workshop or our office and take the first step, solve the problem nearest at hand. We must make our old work luminous with a new devotion. We must battle up over every inch. And as fast as we solve and dissolve the difficulties and turn our burdens into blessings, we find love, the universal solvent, shining out of our lives. We find our spiritual influences going upward. So the winds of earth are born; they rush in from the cold lands to the warm upward currents. And so as our problems disappear and our life currents set upward, the world is drawn toward us with its problems. We find our kitchen or workshop or office becoming a new throne of power. We find the world around us rising up to call us blessed.
As we grow greater our troubles grow smaller, for we see them thru greater eyes. We rise above them.
As we grow greater our opportunities grow greater. That is, we begin to see them. They are around us all the time, but we must get greater eyes to see them.
Generally speaking, the smaller our vision of our work, the more we admire what we have accomplished and "point with pride." The greater our vision, the more we see what is yet to be accomplished.
It was the sweet girl graduate who at commencement wondered how one small head could contain it all. It was Newton after giving the world a new science who looked back over it and said, "I seem to have been only a boy playing on the seashore * * * while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me." That great ocean is before us all.
The great Teacher pointed to the widow who cast her two mites into the treasury, and then to the rich men who had cast in much more. "This poor widow hath cast in more than they all. For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had."
Tho the rich men had cast in more, yet it was only a part of their possessions. The widow cast in less, but it was all she had. The Master cared little what the footings of the money were in the treasury. That is not why we give. We give to become great. The widow had given all—had completely overcome her selfishness and fear of want.
Becoming great is overcoming our selfishness and fear. He that saveth his life shall lose it, but he that loseth his life for the advancement of the kingdom of happiness on earth shall find it great and glorified.
Our greatness therefore does not depend upon how much we give or upon what we do, whether peeling potatoes or ruling a nation, but upon the percentage of our output to our resources. Upon doing with our might what our hands find to do. Quit worrying about what you cannot get to do. Rejoice in doing the things you can get to do. And as you are faithful over a few things you go up to be ruler over many.
The world says some of us have golden gifts and some have copper gifts. But when we cast them all into the treasury of right service, there is an alchemy that transmutes every gift into gold. Every work is drudgery when done selfishly. Every work becomes golden when done in a golden manner.
I do not know who fitted the boards into the floor I stand upon. I do not know all the great people who may come and stand upon this floor. But I do know that the one who made the floor—and the one who sweeps it—is just as great as anybody in the world who may come and stand upon it, if each be doing his work with the same love, faithfulness and capability.
We have to look farther than the "Who's Who" and Dun and Bradstreet to make a roster of the great people of a community. You will find the community heart in the precious handful who believe that the service of God is the service of man.
The great people of the community serve and sacrifice for a better tomorrow. They are the faithful few who get behind the churches, the schools, the lyceum and chautauqua, and all the other movements that go upward.
They are the ones who are "always trying to run things." They are the happy ones, happy for the larger vision that comes as they go higher by unselfish service. They are discovering that their sweetest pay comes from doing many things they are not paid for. They rarely get thanked, for the community does not often think of thanking them until it comes time to draft the "resolutions of respect."
I had to go to the mouth of a coal-mine in a little Illinois town, to find the man the bureau had given as lyceum committeeman there. I wondered what the grimy-faced man from the shaft, wearing the miner's lamp in his cap, could possibly have to do with the lyceum course. But I learned that he had all to do with it. He had sold the tickets and had done all the managing. He was superintendent of the Sunday school. He was the storm-center of every altruistic effort in the town—the greatest man there, because the most serviceable, tho he worked every day full time with his pick at his bread-and-butter job.
The great people are so busy serving that they have little time to strut and pose in the show places. Few of them are "prominent clubmen." You rarely find their names in the society page. They rarely give "brilliant social functions." Their idle families attend to such things.
I found a great man lecturing at the chautauquas. He preaches in Chicago on Sundays to thousands. He writes books and runs a college he founded by his own preaching. He is the mainspring of so many uplift movements that his name gets into the papers about every day, and you read it in almost every committee doing good things in Chicago.
He had broken away from Chicago to have a vacation. Many people think that a vacation means going off somewhere and stretching out under trees or letting the mind become a blank. But this Chicago preacher went from one chautauqua town to another, and took his vacation going up and down the streets. He dug into the local history of each place, and before dinner he knew more about the place than most of the natives.
"There is a sermon for me," he would exclaim every half-hour. He went to see people who were doing things. He went to see people who were doing nothing. In every town he would discover somebody of unusual attainment. He made every town an unusual town. He turned the humdrum travel map into a wonderland. He scolded lazy towns and praised enterprising ones. He stopped young fellows on the streets. "What are you going to do in life?" Perhaps the young man would say, "I have no chance." "You come to Chicago and I'll give you a chance," the man on his vacation would reply.
So this Chicago preacher was busy every day, working overtime on his vacation. He was busy about other people's business. He did not once ask the price of land, nor where there was a good investment for himself, but every day he was trying to make an investment in somebody else.
His friends would sometimes worry about him. They would say, "Why doesn't the doctor take care of himself, instead of taking care of everybody else? He wears himself out for other people until he hasn't strength enough left to lecture and do his own work."
Sometimes they were right about that.
But he that saveth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life in loving service finds it returning to him great and glorious. This man's preaching did not make him great. His college did not make him great. His books did not make him great. These are the by-products. His life of service for others makes him great—makes his preaching, his college and his books great.
This Chicago man gives his life into the service of humanity, and it becomes the fuel to make the steam to accomplish the wonderful things he does. Let him stop and "take care of himself," and his career would stop.
If he had begun life by "taking care of himself" and "looking out for number one," stipulating in advance every cent he was to get and writing it all down in the contract, most likely Dr. Frank W. Gunsaulus would have remained a struggling, discouraged preacher in the backwoods of Morrow county, Ohio.
Gunsaulus often says, "You are planning and saving and telling yourself that afterwhile you are going to give great things and do great things. Give it now! Give your dollar now, rather than your thousands afterwhile. You need to give it now, and the world needs to get it now."
THE problem of "preparedness" is the problem of preparing children for life. All other kinds of "preparedness" fade into insignificance before this. The history of nations shows that their strength was not in the size of their armies and in the vastness of their population and wealth, but in the strength and ideals of the individual citizens.
As long as the nation was young and growing—as long as the people were struggling and overcoming—that nation was strong. It was "prepared."
But when the struggle stopped, the strength waned, for the strength came from the struggle. When the people became materially prosperous and surrendered to ease and indulgence, they became fat, stall-fed weaklings. Then they fell a prey to younger, hardier peoples.
Has the American nation reached that period?
Many homes and communities have reached it.
All over America are fathers and mothers who have struggled and have become strong men and women thru their struggles, who are saying, "Our children shall have better chances than we had. We are living for our children. We are going to give them the best education our money can buy."
Then, forgetful of how they became strong, they plan to take away from their children their birthright—their opportunity to become strong and "prepared"—thru struggle and service and overcoming.
Most "advantages" are disadvantages. Giving a child a chance generally means getting out of his way. Many an orphan can be grateful that he was jolted from his life-preserver and cruelly forced to sink or swim. Thus he learned to swim.
"We are going to give our children the best education our money can buy."
They think they can buy an education—buy wisdom, strength and understanding, and give it to them C. O. D! They seem to think they will buy any brand they see—buy the home brand of education, or else send off to New York or Paris or to "Sears Roebuck," and get a bucketful or a tankful of education. If they are rich enough, maybe they will have a private pipeline of education laid to their home. They are going to force this education into them regularly until they get them full of education. They are going to get them fully inflated with education!
Toll the bell! There's going to be a "blow out." Those inflated children are going to have to run on "flat tires."
Father and mother cannot buy their children education. All they can do is to buy them some tools, perhaps, and open the gate and say, "Sic 'em, Tige!" The children must get it themselves.
A father and mother might as well say, "We will buy our children the strength we have earned in our arms and the wisdom we have acquired in a life of struggle." As well expect the athlete to give them his physical development he has earned in years of exercise. As well expect the musician to give them the technic he has acquired in years of practice. As well expect the scholar to give them the ability to think he has developed in years of study. As well expect Moses to give them his spiritual understanding acquired in a long life of prayer.
They can show the children the way, but each child must make the journey.
Here is a typical case.
There was a factory town back East. Not a pretty town, but just a great, dirty mill and a lot of little dirty houses around the mill. The hands lived in the little dirty houses and worked six days of the week in the big mill.
There was a little, old man who went about that mill, often saying, "I hain't got no book l'arnin' like the rest of you." He was the man who owned the mill. He had made it with his own genius out of nothing. He had become rich and honored. Every man in the mill loved him like a father.
He had an idolatry for a book.
He also had a little pink son, whose name was F. Gustavus Adolphus. The little old man often said, "I'm going to give that boy the best education my money can buy."
He began to buy it. He began to polish and sandpaper Gussie from the minute the child could sit up in the cradle and notice things. He sent him to the astrologer, the phrenologer and all other "ologers" they had around there. When Gussie was old enough to export, he sent the boy to one of the greatest universities in the land. The fault was not with the university, not with Gussie, who was bright and capable.
The fault was with the little old man, who was so wise and great about everything else, and so foolish about his own boy. In the blindness of his love he robbed his boy of his birthright.
The birthright of every child is the opportunity of becoming great—of going up—of getting educated.
Gussie had no chance to serve. Everything was handed to him on a silver platter. Gussie went thru that university about like a steer from Texas goes thru Mr. Armour's institute of packnology in Chicago. Did you ever go over into Packingtown and see a steer receive his education?
You remember, then, that after he matriculates—after he gets the grand bump, said steer does not have to do another thing. His education is all arranged for in advance and he merely rides thru and receives it. There is a row of professors with their sleeves rolled up who give him the degrees. So as Mr. T. Steer of Panhandle goes riding thru on that endless cable from his A-B-C's to his eternal cold storage, each professor hits him a dab. He rides along from department to department until he is canned.
They "canned" Gussie. He had a man hired to study for him. He rode from department to department. They upholstered him, enameled him, manicured him, sugar-cured him, embalmed him. Finally Gussie was done and the paint was dry. He was a thing of beauty.
Gussie and Bill Whackem Gussie came back home with his education in the baggage-car. It was checked. The mill shut down on a week day, the first time in its history. The hands marched down to the depot, and when the young lord alighted, the factory band played, "See, the Conquering Hero Comes."
A few years later the mill shut down again on a week day. There was crape hanging on the office door. Men and women stood weeping in the streets. The little old man had been translated.
When they next opened up the mill, F. Gustavus Adolphus was at its head. He had inherited the entire plant. "F. Gustavus Adolphus, President."
Poor little peanut! He rattled. He had never grown great enough to fill so great a place. In two years and seven months the mill was a wreck. The monument of a father's lifetime was wrecked in two years and seven months by the boy who had all the "advantages."
So the mill was shut down the third time on a week day. It looked as tho it never could open. But it did open, and when it opened it had a new kind of boss. If I were to give the new boss a descriptive name, I would call him "Bill Whackem." He was an orphan. He had little chance. He had a new black eye almost every day. But he seemed to fatten on bumps. Every time he was bumped he would swell up. How fast he grew! He became the most useful man in the community. People forgot all about Bill's lowly origin. They got to looking up to him to start and run things.
So when the courts were looking for somebody big enough to take charge of the wrecked mill, they simply had to appoint Hon. William Whackem. It was Hon. William Whackem who put the wreckage together and made the wheels go round, and finally got the hungry town back to work.
After that a good many people said it was the college that made a fool of Gussie. They said Bill succeeded so well because he never went to one of "them highbrow schools." I am sorry to say I thought that way for a good while.
But now I see that Bill went up in spite of his handicaps. If he had had Gussie's fine equipment he might have accomplished vastly more.
The book and the college suffer at the hands of their friends. They say to the book and the college, "Give us an education." They cannot do that. You cannot get an education from the book and the college any more than you can get to New York by reading a travelers' guide. You cannot get physical education by reading a book on gymnastics.
The book and the college show you the way, give you instruction and furnish you finer working tools. But the real education is the journey you make, the strength you develop, the service you perform with these instruments and tools.
Gussie was in the position of a man with a very fine equipment of tools and no experience in using them. Bill was the man with the poor, homemade, crude tools, but with the energy, vision and strength developed by struggle.
For education is getting wisdom, understanding, strength, greatness, physically, mentally and morally. I believe I know some people liberally educated who cannot write their own names. But they have served and overcome and developed great lives with the poor, crude tools at their command.
In almost every community are what we sometimes call "hard knocks graduates"—people who have never been to college nor have studied many or any books. Yet they are educated to the degree they have acquired these elements of greatness in their lives.
They realized how they have been handicapped by their poor mental tools.
That is why they say, "All my life I have been handicapped by lack of proper preparation. Don't make my mistake, children, go to school."
The young person with electrical genius will make an electrical machine from a few bits of junk. But send him to Westinghouse and see how much more he will achieve with the same genius and with finer equipment.
Get the best tools you can. But remember diplomas, degrees are not an education, they are merely preparations. When you are thru with the books, remember, you are having a commencement, not an end-ment. You will discover with the passing years that life is just one series of greater commencements.
Go out with your fine equipment from your commencements into the school of service and write your education in the only book you ever can know—the book of your experience.
That is what you know—what the courts will take as evidence when they put you upon the witness stand.
The story of Gussie and Bill Whackem is being written in every community in tears, failure and heartache. It is peculiarly a tragedy of our American civilization today.
These fathers and mothers who toil and save, who get great farms, fine homes and large bank accounts, so often think they can give greatness to their children—they can make great places for them in life and put them into them.
They do all this and the children rattle. They have had no chance to grow great enough for the places. The child gets the blame for making the wreck, even as Gussie was blamed for wrecking his father's plant, when the child is the victim.
A man heard me telling the story of Gussie and Bill Whackem, and he went out of my audience very indignant. He said he was very glad his boy was not there to hear it. But that good, deluded father now has his head bowed in shame over the career of his spoiled son.
I rarely tell of it on a platform that at the close of the lecture somebody does not take me aside and tell me a story just as sad from that community.
For years poor Harry Thaw was front-paged on the newspapers and gibbeted in the pulpits as the shocking example of youthful depravity. He seems never to have had a fighting chance to become a man. He seems to have been robbed of his birthright from the cradle. Yet the father of this boy who has cost America millions in court and detention expenses was one of the greatest business generals of the Keystone state. He could plat great coal empires and command armies of men, but he seems to have been pitifully ignorant of the fact that the barrel shakes.
It is the educated, the rich and the worldly wise who blunder most in the training of their children. Poverty is a better trainer for the rest.
The menace of America lies not in the swollen fortunes, but in the shrunken souls who inherit them.
But Nature's eliminating process is kind to the race in the barrel shaking down the rattlers. Somebody said it is only three generations from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves.
How long this nation will endure depends upon how many Gussie boys this nation produces. Steam heat is a fine thing, but do you notice how few of our strong men get their start with steam heat?
You boys and girls, God bless you! You live in good homes. Father and mother love you and give you everything you need. You get to thinking, "I won't have to turn my hand over. Papa and mamma will take care of me, and when they are gone I'll inherit everything they have. I'm fixed for life."
No, you are unfixed. You are a candidate for trouble. You are going to rattle. Father and mother can be great and you can be a peanut.
You must solve your own problems and carry your own loads to have a strong mind and back. Anybody who does for you regularly what you can do for yourself—anybody who gives you regularly what you can earn for yourself, is robbing you of your birthright.
Father and mother can put money in your pocket, ideas in your head and food in your stomach, but you cannot own it save as you digest it—put it into your life.
I have read somewhere about a man who found a cocoon and put it in his house where he could watch it develop. One day he saw a little insect struggling inside the cocoon. It was trying to get out of the envelope. It seemed in trouble and needed help. He opened the envelope with a knife and set the struggling insect free. But out came a monstrosity that soon died. It had an over-developed body and under-developed wings. He learned that helping the insect was killing it. He took away from it the very thing it had to have—the struggle. For it was this struggle of breaking its own way out of that envelope that was needed to reduce its body and develop its wings.
But remember there is little virtue in work unless it is getting us somewhere. Just work that gets us three meals a day and a place to lie down to sleep, then another day of the same grind, then a year of it and years following until our machine is worn out and on the junkpile, means little. "One day nearer home" for such a worker means one day nearer the scrapheap.
Such a worker is like the packhorse who goes forward to keep ahead of the whip. Such a worker is the horse we used to have hitched to the sorghum mill. Round and round that horse went, seeing nothing, hearing nothing, his head down, without ambition enough to prick up his ears. Such work deadens and stupefies. The masses work about that way. They regard work as a necessary evil. They are right—such work is a necessary evil, and they make it such. They follow their nose. "Dumb, driven cattle."
But getting a vision of life, and working to grow upward to it, that is the work that brings the joy and the greatness.
When we are growing and letting our faculties develop, we will love even the packhorse job, because it is our "meal ticket" that enables us to travel upward.
One time I put some turkey eggs under the mother hen and waited day by day for them to hatch. And sure enough, one day the eggs began to crack and the little turkeys began to stick their heads out of the shells. Some of the little turkeys came out from the shells all right, but some of them stuck in the shells.
"Shell out, little turkeys, shell out," I urged, "for Thanksgiving is coming. Shell out!"
But they stuck to the shells.
"Little turkeys, I'll have to help you. I'll have to shell you by hand." So I picked the shells off. "Little turkeys, you will never know how fortunate you are. Ordinary turkeys do not have these advantages. Ordinary turkeys do not get shelled by hand."
Did I help them? I killed them, or stunted them. Not one of the turkeys was "right" that I helped. They were runts. One of them was a regular Harry Thaw turkey. They had too many silk socks. Too many "advantages."
Children, you must crack your own shells. You must overcome your own obstacles to develop your own powers.
A rich boy can succeed, but he has a poorer chance than a poor boy. The cards are against him. He must succeed in spite of his "advantages."
I am pleading for you to get a great arm, a great mind, a great character, for the joy of having a larger life. I am pleading with you to know the joy of overcoming and having the angels come and minister to you.
Children, I am pleading with you to find happiness. All the world is seeking happiness, but so many are seeking it by rattling down instead of by shaking up.
The happiness is in going up—in developing a greater arm, a greater mind, a greater character.
Happiness is the joy of overcoming. It is the delight of an expanding consciousness. It is the cry of the eagle mounting upward. It is the proof that we are progressing.
We find happiness in our work, not outside of our work. If we cannot find happiness in our work, we have the wrong job. Find the work that fits your talents, and stop watching the clock and planning vacations.
Loving friends used to warn me against "breaking down." They scared me into "taking care" of myself. And I got to taking such good care of myself and watching for symptoms that I became a physical wreck.
I saved myself by getting busier. I plunged into work I love. I found my job in my work, not away from it, and the work refreshed me and rejuvenated me. Now I do two men's work, and have grown from a skinny, fretful, nervous wreck into a hearty, happy man. This has been a great surprise to my friends and a great disappointment to the undertaker. I am an editor in the daytime and a lecturer at night.
I edit all day and take a vacation lecturing at night. I lecture almost every day of the year—maybe two or three times some days—and then take a vacation by editing and writing. Thus every day is jam full of play and vacation and good times. The year is one round of joy, and I ought to pay people for the privilege of speaking and writing to them instead of them paying me!
If I did not like my work, of course, I would be carrying a terrible burden and would speedily collapse.
You see, I have no time nowadays to break down. I have no time to think and grunt and worry about my body. And like Paul I am happy to be "absent from the body and present with the Lord." Thus this old body behaves just beautifully and wags along like the tail follows the dog when I forget all about it. The grunter lets the tail wag the dog.
I have never known a case of genuine "overwork." I have never known of anyone killing himself by working. But I have known of multitudes killing themselves by taking vacations.
The people who think they are overworking are merely overworrying. This is one species of selfishness.
To worry is to doubt God.
To work at the things you love, or for those you love, is to turn work into play and duty into privilege.
When we love our work, it is not work, it is life.
The world is trying to find happiness in being amused. The world is amusement-mad. Vacations, Coca Cola and moviemania!
What a sad, empty lot of rattlers! Look over the bills of the movies, look over the newsstands and see a picture of the popular mind, for these places keep just what the people want to buy. What a lot of mental frog-pond and moral slum our boys and girls wade thru!
There are ten literary drunkards to one alcoholic drunkard. There are a hundred amusement drunkards to one victim of strong drink. And all just as hard to cure.
We have to have amusement, but if we fill our lives with nothing but amusement, we never grow. We go thru our lives babies with new rattleboxes and "sugar-tits."
Almost every day as I go along the street to some hall to lecture, I hear somebody asking, "What are they going to have in the hall tonight?"
"Going to have a lecture."
"Lecture?" said with a shiver as tho it was "small pox." "I ain't goin.' I don't like lectures."
The speaker is perfectly honest. He has no place to put a lecture. I am not saying that he should attend my lecture, but I am grieving at what underlies his remark. He does not want to think. He wants to follow his nose around. Other people generally lead his nose. The man who will not make the effort to think is the great menace to the nation. The crowd that drifts and lives for amusement is the crowd that finds itself back near the caboose, and as the train of progress leaves them, they wail, they "never had no chanct." They want to start a new party to reform the government.
Do you ever get lonely in a city? How few men and women there. A jam of people, most of them imitations—most of them trying to look like they get more salary. Poor, hungry, doped butterflies of the bright lights,—hopers, suckers and straphangers! Down the great white way they go chasing amusement to find happiness. They must be amused every moment, even when they eat, or they will have to be alone with their empty lives.
The Prodigal Son came to himself afterwhile and thought upon his ways. Then he arose and went to his father's house. Whenever one will stop chasing amusements long enough to think upon his ways, he will arise and go to his father's house of wisdom. But there is no hope for the person who will not stop and think. And the devil works day and night shifts keeping the crowd moving on.
That is why the crowd is not furnishing the strong men and women.
We must have amusement and relaxation. Study your muscles. First they contract, then they relax. But the muscle that goes on continually relaxing is degenerating. And the individual, the community, the nation that goes on relaxing without contracting—without struggling and overcoming—is degenerating.
The more you study your muscles, the more you learn that while one muscle is relaxing another is contracting. So you must learn that your real relaxation, vacation and amusement, are merely changing over to contracting another set of muscles.
Go to the bank president's office, go to the railroad magnate's office, go to the great pulpit, to the college chair—go to any place of great responsibility in a city and ask the one who fills the place, "Were you born in this city?"
The reply is almost a monotony. "I born in this city? No, I was born in Poseyville, Indiana, and I came to this city forty years ago and went to work at the bottom."
He glows as he tells you of some log-cabin home, hillside or farmside where he struggled as a boy. Personally, I think this log-cabin ancestry has been over-confessed for campaign purposes. Give us steam heat and push-buttons. There is no virtue in a log-cabin, save that there the necessity for struggle that brings strength is most in evidence. There the young person gets the struggle and service that makes for strength and greatness. And as that young person comes to the city and shakes in the barrel among the weaklings of the artificial life, he rises above them like the eagle soars above a lot of chattering sparrows.
The cities do not make their own steam. The little minority from the farms controls the majority. The red blood of redemption flows from the country year by year into the national arteries, else these cities would drop off the map.
If it were not for Poseyville, Indiana, Chicago would disappear. If it were not for Poseyville, New York would disintegrate for lack of leaders.
But so many of the home towns of America are sick. Many are dying. Many are dead.
It is the lure of the city—and the lure-lessness of the country. The town the young people leave is the town the young people ought to leave. Somebody says, "The reason so many young people go to hell is because they have no other place to go."
What is the matter with the small town? Do not blame it all upon the city mail order house. With rural delivery, daily papers, telephones, centralized schools, automobiles and good roads, there are no more delightful places in the world to live than in the country or in the small town. They have the city advantages plus sunshine, air and freedom that the crowded cities cannot have.
I asked the keeper who was showing me thru the insane asylum at Weston, West Virginia, "You say you have nearly two thousand insane people in this institution and only a score of guards to keep them in. Aren't you in danger? What is to hinder these insane people from getting together, organizing, overpowering the few guards and breaking out?"
The keeper was not in the least alarmed at the question. He smiled. "Many people say that. But they don't understand. If these people could get together they wouldn't be in this asylum. They are insane. No two of them can agree upon how to get together and how to break out. So a few of us can hold them."
It would be almost unkind to carry this further, but I have been thinking ever since that about three-fourths of the small towns of America have one thing in common with the asylum folks—they can't get together. They cannot organize for the public good. They break up into little antagonistic social, business and even religious factions and neutralize each other's efforts.
A lot of struggling churches compete with each other instead of massing for the common good. And when the churches fight, the devil stays neutral and furnishes the munitions for both sides.
So the home towns stagnate and the young people with visions go away to the cities where opportunity seems to beckon. Ninety-nine out of a hundred of them will jostle with the straphangers all their lives, mere wheels turning round in a huge machine. Ninety-nine out of a hundred of them might have had a larger opportunity right back in the home town, had the town been awake and united and inviting.
We must make the home town the brightest, most attractive, most promising place for the young people. No home town can afford to spend its years raising crops of young people for the cities. That is the worst kind of soil impoverishment—all going out and nothing coming back. That is the drain that devitalizes the home towns more than all the city mail order houses.
America is to be great, not in the greatness of a few crowded cities, but in the greatness of innumerable home towns.
The slogan today should be, For God and Home and the Home Town!
Dr. Henry Solomon Lehr, founder of the Ohio Northern University at Ada, Ohio, one of Ohio's greatest educators, used to say with pride, "Our students come to school; they are not sent."
He encouraged his students to be self-supporting, and most of them were working their way thru school. He made the school calendar and courses elastic to accommodate them. He saw the need of combining the school of books with the school of struggle. He organized his school into competing groups, so that the student who had no struggle in his life would at least have to struggle with the others during his schooling.
He pitted class against class. He organized great literary and debating societies to compete with each other. He arranged contests for the military department. His school was one surging mass of contestants. Yet each student felt no compulsion. Rather he felt that he was initiating an individual or class effort to win. The literary societies vied with each other in their programs and in getting new members, going every term to unbelievable efforts to win over the others. They would go miles out on the trains to intercept new students, even to their homes in other states. Each old student pledged new students in his home country. The military companies turned the school into a military camp for weeks each year, scarcely sleeping while drilling for a contest flag.
Those students went out into the world trained to struggle. I do not believe there is a school in America with a greater alumni roll of men and women of uniformly greater achievement.
I believe the most useful schools today are schools of struggle schools offering encouragement and facilities for young people to work their way thru and to act upon their own initiative.
We are trying a new educational experiment today.
The old "deestrick" school is passing, and with it the small academies and colleges, each with its handful of students around a teacher, as in the old days of the lyceum in Athens, when the pupils sat around the philosopher in the groves.
From these schools came the makers and the preservers of the nation.
Today we are building wonderful public schools with equally wonderful equipment. Today we are replacing the many small colleges with a few great centralized state normal schools and state universities. We are spending millions upon them in laboratories, equipment and maintenance. Today we scour the earth for specialists to sit in the chairs and speak the last word in every department of human research.
O, how the students of the "dark ages" would have rejoiced to see this day! Many of them never saw a germ!
But each student has the same definite effort to make in assimilation today as then. Knowing and growing demand the same personal struggle in the cushions of the "frat" house as back on the old oak-slab bench with its splintered side up.
I am anxiously awaiting the results. I am hoping that the boys and girls who come out in case-lots from these huge school plants will not be rows of lithographed cans on the shelves of life. I am hoping they will not be shorn of their individuality, but will have it stimulated and unfettered. I am anxious that they be not veneered but inspired, not denatured but discovered.
All this school machinery is only machinery. Back of it must be men—great men. I am anxious that the modern school have the modern equipment demanded to serve the present age. But I am more anxious that each student come in vital touch with great men. We get life from life, not from laboratories, and we have life more abundantly as our lives touch greater lives.
A school is vastly more than machinery, methods, microscopes and millions.
Many a small school struggling to live thinks that all it needs is endowment, when the fact is that its struggle for existence and the spirit of its teachers are its greatest endowment. And sometimes when the money endowment comes the spiritual endowment goes in fatty degeneration. Some schools seem to have been visited by calamities in the financial prosperity that has engulfed them.
Can we keep men before millions, and keep our ideals untainted by foundations? That is the question the age is asking.
You and I are very much interested in the answer.
HOW long it takes to learn things! I think I was thirty-four years learning one sentence, "You can't get something for nothing." I have not yet learned it. Every few days I stumble over it somewhere.
For that sentence utters one of the fundamentals of life that underlies every field of activity.
What is knowing?
One day a manufacturer took me thru his factory where he makes fiddles. Not violins—fiddles.
A violin is only a fiddle with a college education.
I have had the feeling ever since that you and I come into this world like the fiddle comes from the factory. We have a body and a neck. That is about all there is either to us or to the fiddle. We are empty. We have no strings. We have no bow—yet!
When the human fiddles are about six years old they go into the primary schools and up thru the grammar grades, and get the first string—the little E string. The trouble is so many of these human fiddles think they are an orchestra right away. They want to quit school and go fiddling thru life on this one string!
We must show these little fiddles they must go back into school and go up thru all the departments and institutions necessary to give them the full complement of strings for their life symphonies.
After all this there comes the commencement, and the violin comes forth with the E, A, D and G strings all in place. Educated now? Why is a violin? To wear strings? Gussie got that far and gave a lot of discord. The violin is to give music.
So there is much yet to do after getting the strings. All the book and college can do is to give the strings—the tools. After that the violin must go into the great tuning school of life. Here the pegs are turned and the strings are put in tune. The music is the knowing. Learning is tuning.
You do not know what you have memorized, you know what you have vitalized, what you have written in the book of experience.
Gussie says, "I have read it in a book." Bill Whackem says, "I know!"
All of us are Christopher Columbuses, discovering the same new-old continents of Truth. That is the true happiness of life—discovering Truth. We read things in a book and have a hazy idea of them. We hear the preacher utter truths and we say with little feeling, "Yes, that is so." We hear the great truths of life over and over and we are not excited. Truth never excites—it is falsehood that excites—until we discover it in our lives. Until we see it with our own eyes. Then there is a thrill. Then the old truth becomes a new blessing. Then the oldest, driest platitude crystallizes into a flashing jewel to delight and enrich our consciousness. This joy of discovery is the joy of living.
There is such a difference between reading a thing and knowing a thing. We could read a thousand descriptions of the sun and not know the sun as in one glimpse of it with our own eyes.
I used to stand in the row of blessed little rascals in the "deestrick" school and read from McGuffey's celebrated literature, "If—I-p-p-play—with—the—f-f-f-i-i-i-i-r-r-e—I—will—g-e-e-et —my-y-y-y-y—f-f-f-f—ingers—bur-r-r-rned—period!"
I did not learn it. I wish I had learned by reading it that if I play with the fire I will get my fingers burned. I had to slap my hands upon hot stoves and coffee-pots, and had to get many kinds of blisters in order to learn it.
Then I had to go around showing the blisters, boring my friends and taking up a collection of sympathy. "Look at my bad luck!" Fool!
This is not a lecture. It is a confession! It seems to me if you in the audience knew how little I know, you wouldn't stay.
Yes, I was thirty-four years learning that one sentence. "You can't get something for nothing." That is, getting it in partial tune. It took me so long because I was naturally bright. It takes that kind longer than a human being. They are so smart you cannot teach them with a few bumps. They have to be pulverized.
That sentence takes me back to the days when I was a "hired man" on the farm. You might not think I had ever been a "hired man" on the farm at ten dollars a month and "washed, mended and found." You see me here on this platform in my graceful and cultured manner, and you might not believe that I had ever trained an orphan calf to drink from a copper kettle. But I have fed him the fingers of this hand many a time. You might not think that I had ever driven a yoke of oxen and had said the words. But I have!
I remember the first county fair I ever attended. Fellow sufferers, you may remember that at the county fair all the people sort out to their own departments. Some people go to the canned fruit department. Some go to the fancywork department. Some go to the swine department. Everybody goes to his own department. Even the "suckers"! Did you ever notice where they go? That is where I went—to the "trimming department."
I was in the "trimming department" in five minutes. Nobody told me where it was. I didn't need to be told. I gravitated there. The barrel always shakes all of one size to one place. You notice that—in a city all of one size get together.
Right at the entrance to the "local Midway" I met a gentleman. I know he was a gentleman because he said he was a gentleman. He had a little light table he could move quickly. Whenever the climate became too sultry he would move to greener pastures. On that table were three little shells in a row, and there was a little pea under the middle shell. I saw it there, being naturally bright. I was the only naturally bright person around the table, hence the only one who knew under which shell the little round pea was hidden.
Even the gentleman running the game was fooled. He thought it was under the end shell and bet me money it was under the end shell. You see, this was not gambling, this was a sure thing. (It was!) I had saved up my money for weeks to attend the fair. I bet it all on that middle shell. I felt bad. It seemed like robbing father. And he seemed like a real nice old gentleman, and maybe he had a family to keep. But I would teach him a lesson not to "monkey" with people like me, naturally bright.
But I needn't have felt bad. I did not rob father. Father cleaned me out of all I had in about five seconds.
I went over to the other side of the fairgrounds and sat down. That was all I had to do now—just go, sit down. I couldn't see the mermaid now or get into the grandstand.
Sadly I thought it all over, but I did not get the right answer. I said the thing every fool does say when he gets bumped and fails to learn the lesson from the bump. I said, "Next time I shall be more careful."
When anybody says that he is due for a return date.
Learn? No! Within a month I was on the street a Saturday night when another gentleman drove into town. He stopped on the public square and stood up in his buggy. "Let the prominent citizens gather around me, for I am going to give away dollars."
Immediately all the prominent "suckers" crowded around the buggy. "Gentlemen, I am introducing this new medicinal soap that cures all diseases humanity is heir to. Now just to introduce and advertise, I am putting these cakes of Wonder Soap in my hat. You see I am wrapping a ten-dollar bill around one cake and throwing it into the hat. Now who will give me five dollars for the privilege of taking a cake of this wonderful soap from my hat—any cake you want, gentlemen!"
And right on top of the pile was the cake with the ten wrapped around it! I jumped over the rest to shove my five (two weeks' farm work) in his hands and grab that bill cake. But the bill disappeared. I never knew where it went. The man whipped up his horse and also disappeared. I never knew where he went.
I grew older and people began to notice that I was naturally bright and therefore good picking. They began to let me in on the ground floor. Did anybody ever let you in on the ground floor? I never could stick. Whenever anybody let me in on the ground floor it seemed like I would always slide on thru and land in the cellar.
I used to have a drawer in my desk I called my "fool drawer." I kept my investments in it. I mean, the investments I did not have to lock up. You get the pathos of that—the investments nobody wanted to steal. And whenever I would get unduly inflated I would open that drawer and "view the remains."
I had in that drawer the deed to my Oklahoma corner-lots. Those lots were going to double next week. But they did not double I doubled. They still exist on the blueprint and the Oklahoma metropolis on paper is yet a wide place in the road.
I had in that drawer my deed to my rubber plantation. Did you ever hear of a rubber plantation in Central America? That was mine. I had there my oil propositions. What a difference, I have learned, between an oil proposition and an oil well! The learning has been very expensive.
I used to wonder how I ever could spend my income. I do not wonder now. I wonder how I will make it.
I had in that drawer my "Everglade" farm. Did you ever hear of the "Everglades"? I have an alligator ranch there. It is below the frost-line, also below the water-line. I will sell it by the gallon.
I had also a bale of mining stock. I had stock in gold mines and silver mines. Nobody knows how much mining stock I have owned. Nobody could know while I kept that drawer shut. As I looked over my gold and silver mine stock, I often noticed that it was printed in green. I used to wonder why they printed it in green—wonder if they wanted it to harmonize with me! And I would realize I had so much to live for—the dividends. I have been so near the dividends I could smell them. Only one more assessment, then we will cut the melon! I have heard that all my life and never got a piece of the rind.
Why go farther? I am not half done confessing. Each bump only increased my faith that the next ship would be mine. Good, honest, retired ministers would come periodically and sell me stock in some new enterprise that had millions in it—in its prospectus. I would buy because I knew the minister was honest and believed in it. He was selling it on his reputation. Favorite dodge of the promoter to get the ministers to sell his shares.
I was also greatly interested in companies where I put in one dollar and got back a dollar or two of bonds and a dollar or two of stock. That was doubling and trebling my money over night. An old banker once said to me, "Why don't you invest in something that will pay you five or six per cent. and get it?"
I pitied his lack of vision. Bankers were such "tightwads." They had no imagination! Nothing interested me that did not offer fifty or a hundred per cent.—then. Give me the five per cent. now!
By the time I was thirty-four I was a rich man in worthless paper. It would have been better for me if I had thrown about all my savings into the bottom of the sea.
Then I got a confidential letter from a friend of our family I had never met. His name was Thomas A. Cleage, and he was in the Rialto Building, St. Louis, Missouri. He wrote me in extreme confidence, "You have been selected."
Were you ever selected? If you were, then you know the thrill that rent my manly bosom as I read that letter from this man who said he was a friend of our family. "You have been selected because you are a prominent citizen and have a large influence in your community. You are a natural leader and everybody looks up to you."
He knew me! He was the only man who did know me. So I took the cork clear under.
"Because of your tremendous influence you have been selected to go in with us in the inner circle and get a thousand per cent. dividends."
Did you get that? I hope you did. I did not! But I took a night train for St. Louis. I was afraid somebody might beat me there if I waited till next day. I sat up all night in a day coach to save money for Tom, the friend of our family. But I see now I need not have hurried so. They would have waited a month with the sheep-shears ready. Lambie, lambie, lambie, come to St. Louis!
I don't get any sympathy from this crowd. You laugh at me. You respect not my feelings. I am not going to tell you a thing that happened in St. Louis. It is none of your business!
O, I am so glad I went to St. Louis. Being naturally bright, I could not learn it at home, back in Ohio. I had to go clear down to St. Louis to Tom Cleage's bucket-shop and pay him eleven hundred dollars to corner the wheat market of the world. That is all I paid him. I could not borrow any more. I joined what he called a "pool." I think it must have been a pool, for I know I fell in and got soaked!
That bump set me to thinking. My fever began to reduce. I got the thirty-third degree in financial suckerdom for only eleven hundred dollars.
I have always regarded Tom as one of my great school teachers. I have always regarded the eleven hundred as the finest investment I had made up to that time, for I got the most out of it. I do not feel hard toward goldbrick men and "blue sky" venders. I sometimes feel that we should endow them. How else can we save a sucker? You cannot tell him anything, because he is naturally bright and knows better. You simply have to trim him till he bleeds.
It is worth eleven hundred dollars every day to know that one sentence, You cannot get something for nothing. Life just begins to get juicy when you know it. Today when I open a newspaper and see a big ad, "Grasp a Fortune Now!" I will not do it! I stop my subscription to that paper. I simply will not take a paper with that ad in it, for I have graduated from that class.
I will not grasp a fortune now. Try me, I dare you! Bring a fortune right up on this platform and put it down there on the floor. I will not grasp it. Come away, it is a coffee-pot!
Today when somebody offers me much more than the legal rate of interest I know he is no friend of our family.
If he offers me a hundred per cent. I call for the police!
Today when I get a confidential letter that starts out, "You have been selected—" I never read farther than the word "selected." Meeting is adjourned. I select the waste-basket. Here, get in there just as quick as you can. I was selected!
O, Absalom, Absalom, my son, my son! Learn it early in life. The law of compensation is never suspended. You only own what you earn. You can't get something for nothing. If you do not learn it, you will have to be "selected." There is no other way for you, because you are naturally bright. When you get a letter, "You have been selected to receive a thousand per cent. dividends," it means you have been selected to receive this bunch of blisters because you look like the biggest sucker on the local landscape.
The other night in a little town of perhaps a thousand, a banker took me up into his office after the lecture in which I had related some of the above experiences. "The audience laughed with you and thought it very funny," said he. "I couldn't laugh. It was too pathetic. It was a picture of what is going on in our own little community year after year. I wish you could see what I have to see. I wish you could see the thousands of hard-earned dollars that go out of our community every year into just such wildcat enterprises as you described. The saddest part of it is that the money nearly always goes out of the pockets of the people who can least afford to lose it."
Absalom, wake up! This is bargain night for you. I paid eleven hundred dollars to tell you this one thing, and you get it for a dollar or two. This is no cheap lecture. It cost blood.
Learn that the gambler never owns his winnings. The man who accumulates by sharp practices or by undue profits never owns it. Even the young person who has large fortune given him does not own it. We only own what we have rendered definite service to bound. The owning is in the understanding of values.
This is true physically, mentally, morally. You only own what you have earned and stored in your life, not merely in your pocket, stomach or mind.
I often think if it takes me thirty-four years to begin to learn one sentence, I see the need of an eternity.
To me that is one of the great arguments for eternal life—how slowly I learn, and how much there is to learn. It will take an eternity!
The young person says, "By next June I shall have finished my education." Bless them all! They will have put another string on their fiddle.
After they "finish" they have a commencement, not an end-ment, as they think. This is not to sneer, but to cheer. Isn't it glorious that life is one infinite succession of commencements and promotions!
I love to attend commencements. The stage is so beautifully decorated and the joy of youth is everywhere. There is a row of geraniums along the front of the stage and a big oleander on the side. There is a long-whiskered rug in the middle. The graduates sit in a semicircle upon the stage in their new patent leather. I know how it hurts. It is the first time they have worn it.
Then they make their orations. Every time I hear their orations I like them better, because every year I am getting younger. Damsel Number One comes forth and begins:
"Beyond the Alps (sweep arms forward to the left, left arm leading) lieth Italy!" (Bring arms down, letting fingers follow the wrist. How embarrassing at a commencement for the fingers not to follow the wrist! It is always a shock to the audience when the wrist sweeps downward and the fingers remain up in the air. So by all means, let the fingers follow the wrist, just as the elocution teacher marked on page 69.)
Applause, especially from relatives.
Sweet Girl Graduate Number 2, generally comes second. S. G. G. No. 2 stands at the same leadpencil mark on the floor, resplendent in a filmy creation caught with something or other.
"We (hands at half-mast and separating) are rowing (business of propelling aerial boat with two fingers of each hand, head inclined). We are not drifting (hands slide downward)."
Children, we are not laughing at you. We are laughing at ourselves. We are laughing the happy laugh at how we have learned these great truths that you have memorized, but not vitalized.
You get the most beautiful and sublime truths from Emerson's essays. (How did they ever have commencements before Emerson?) But that is not knowing them. You cannot know them until you have lived them. It is a grand thing to say, "Beyond the Alps lieth Italy," but you can never really say that until you know it by struggling up over Alps of difficulty and seeing the Italy of promise and victory beyond. It is fine to say, "We are rowing and not drifting," but you cannot really say that until you have pulled on the oar.
O, Gussie, get an oar!
Did you ever hear a young preacher, just captured, just out of a factory? Did you ever hear him preach his "maiden sermon"? I wish you had heard mine. I had a call. At least, I thought I had a call. I think now I was "short-circuited." The "brethren" waited upon me and told me I had been "selected": Maybe this was a local call, not long distance.
They gave me six weeks in which to load the gospel gun and get ready for my try-out. I certainly loaded it to the muzzle.
But I made the mistake I am trying to warn you against. Instead of going to the one book where I might have gotten a sermon—the book of my experience, I went to the books in my father's library. "As the poet Shakespeare has so beautifully said," and then I took a chunk of Shakespeare and nailed it on page five of my sermon. "List to the poet Tennyson." Come here, Lord Alfred. So I soldered these fragments from the books together with my own native genius. I worked that sermon up into the most beautiful splurges and spasms. I bedecked it with metaphors and semaphores. I filled it with climaxes, both wet and dry. I had a fine wet climax on page fourteen, where I had made a little mark in the margin which meant "cry here." This was the spilling-point of the wet climax. I was to cry on the lefthand side of the page.
I committed it all to memory, and then went to a lady who taught expression, to get it expressed. You have to get it expressed.
I got the most beautiful gestures nailed into almost every page. You know about gestures—these things you make with your arms in the air as you speak. You can notice it on me yet.
I am not sneering at expression. Expression is a noble art. All life is expression. But you have to get something to express. Here I made my mistake. I got a lot of fine gestures. I got an express-wagon and got no load for it. So it rattled. I got a necktie, but failed to get any man to hang it upon. I got up before a mirror for six weeks, day by day, and said the sermon to the glass. It got so it would run itself. I could have gone to sleep and that sermon would not have hesitated.
Then came the grand day. The boy wonder stood forth and before his large and enthusiastic concourse delivered that maiden sermon more grandly than ever to a mirror. Every gesture went off the bat according to the blueprint. I cried on page fourteen! I never knew it was in me. But I certainly got it all out that day!
Then I did another fine thing, I sat down. I wish now I had done that earlier. I wish now I had sat down before I got up. I was the last man out of the church—and I hurried. But they beat me out—all nine of them. When I went out the door, the old sexton said as he jiggled the key in the door to hurry me, "Don't feel bad, bub, I've heerd worse than that. You're all right, bub, but you don't know nothin' yet."
I cried all the way to town. If he had plunged a dagger into me he would not have hurt me so much. It has taken some years to learn that the old man was right. I had wonderful truth in that sermon. No sermon ever had greater truth, but I had not lived it. The old man meant I did not know my own sermon.
So, children, when you prepare your commencement oration, write about what you know best, what you have lived. If you know more about peeling potatoes than about anything else, write about "Peeling Potatoes," and you are most likely to hear the applause peal from that part of your audience unrelated to you.
Out of every thousand books published, perhaps nine hundred of them do not sell enough to pay the cost of printing them. As you study the books that do live, you note that they are the books that have been lived. Perhaps the books that fail have just as much of truth in them and they may even be better written, yet they lack the vital impulse. They come out of the author's head. The books that live must come out of his heart. They are his own life. They come surging and pulsating from the book of his experience.
The best part of our schooling comes not from the books, but from the men behind the books.
We study agriculture from books. That does not make us an agriculturist. We must take a hoe and go out and agricult. That is the knowing in the doing.
"There was never a picture painted,
There was never a poem sung,
But the soul of the artist fainted,
And the poet's heart was wrung."
So many young people think because they have a good voice and they have cultivated it, they are singers. All this cultivation and irritation and irrigation and gargling of the throat are merely symptoms of a singer—merely neckties. Singers look better with neckties.
They think the song comes from the diaphragm. But it comes from the heart, chaperoned by the diaphragm. You cannot sing a song you have not lived.
Jessie was singing the other day at a chautauqua. She has a beautiful voice, and she has been away to "Ber-leen" to have it attended to. She sang that afternoon in the tent, "The Last Rose of Summer." She sang it with every note so well placed, with the sweetest little trills and tendrils, with the smile exactly like her teacher had taught her. Jessie exhibited all the machinery and trimmings for the song, but she had no steam, no song. She sang the notes. She might as well have sung, "Pop, Goes the Weasel."
The audience politely endured Jessie. That night a woman sang in the same tent "The Last Rose of Summer." She had never been to Berlin, but she had lived that song. She didn't dress the notes half so beautifully as Jessie did, but she sang it with the tremendous feeling it demands. The audience went wild. It was a case of Gussie and Bill Whackem.
All this was gall and wormwood to Jessie. "Child," I said to her, "this is the best singing lesson you have ever had. Your study is all right and you have a better voice than that woman, but you cannot sing "The Last Rose of Summer" yet, for you do not know very much about the first rose of summer. And really, I hope you'll never know the ache and disappointment you must know before you can sing that song, for it is the sob of a broken-hearted woman. Learn to sing the songs you have lived."
Why do singers try to execute songs beyond the horizon of their lives? That is why they "execute" them.
The guest of honor at a dinner in a Chicago club was a woman who is one of the widely known song-writers of this land. As I had the good fortune to be sitting at table with her I wanted to ask her, "How did you get your songs known? How did you know what kind of songs the people want to sing?"
But in the hour she talked with her friends around the table I found the answer to every question. "Isn't it good to be here? Isn't it great to have friends and a fine home and money?" she said. "I have had such a struggle in my life. I have lived on one meal a day and didn't know where the next meal was coming from. I know what it is to be left alone in the world upon my own resources. I have had years of struggle. I have been sick and discouraged and down and out. It was in my little back-room, the only home I had, that I began to write songs. I wrote them for my own relief. I was writing my own life, just what was in my own heart and what the struggles were teaching me. No one is more surprised and grateful that the world seems to love my songs and asks for more of them."
The woman was Carrie Jacobs-Bond, who wrote "The Perfect Day," "Just a Wearyin' for You," "His Lullaby" and many more of those simple little songs so full of the pathos and philosophy of life that they tug at your heart and moisten your eyes.
Anybody could write those songs—just a few simple words and notes. No. Books of theory and harmony and expression only teach us how to write the words and where to place the notes. These are not the song, but only the skeleton into which our own life must breathe the life of the song.
The woman who sat there clad in black, with her sweet, expressive face crowned with silvery hair, had learned to write her songs in the University of Hard Knocks. She here became the song philosopher she is today. Her defeats were her victories. If Carrie Jacobs-Bond had never struggled with discouragement, sickness, poverty and loneliness, she never would have been able to write the songs that appeal to the multitudes who have the same battles.
The popular song is the song that best voices what is in the popular heart. And while we have a continual inundation of popular songs that are trashy and voice the tawdriest human impulses, yet it is a tribute to the good elements in humanity that the wholesome, uplifting sentiments in Carrie Jacobs-Bond's songs continue to hold their popularity.
My friends, I am not arguing that you and I must drink the dregs of defeat, or that our lives must fill up with poverty or sorrow, or become wrecks. But I am insisting upon what I see written all around me in the affairs of everyday life, that none of us will ever know real success in any line of human endeavor until that success flows from the fullness of our experience just as the songs came from the life of Carrie Jacobs-Bond.
The world is full of theorists, dreamers, uplifters, reformers, who have worthy visions but are not able to translate them into practical realities. They go around with their heads in the clouds, looking upward, and half the time their feet are in the flower-beds or trampling upon their fellow men they dream of helping. Their ideas must be forged into usefulness available for this day upon the anvil of experience.
Many of the most brilliant theorists have been the greatest failures in practice.
There are a thousand who can tell you what is the matter with things to one person who can give you a practical way to fix them.
I used to have respect amounting to reverence for great readers and book men. I used to know a man who could tell in what book almost anything you could think of was discussed, and perhaps the page. He was a walking library index. I thought him a most wonderful man. Indeed, in my childhood I thought he was the greatest man in the world.
He was a remarkable man—a great reader and with a memory that retained it all. That man could recite chapters and volumes. He could give you almost any date. He could finish almost any quotation. His conversation was largely made up of classical quotations.
But he was one of the most helpless men I have ever seen in practical life. He seemed to be unable to think and reason for himself. He could quote a page of John Locke, but somehow the page didn't supply the one sentence needed for the occasion. The man was a misfit on earth. He was liable to put the gravy in his coffee and the gasoline in the fire. He seemed never to have digested any of the things in his memory. Since I have grown up I always think of that man as an intellectual cold storage plant.
The greatest book is the textbook of the University of Hard Knocks, the Book of Human Experience the "sermons in stones" and the "books in running brooks." Most fortunate is he who has learned to read understandingly from it.
Note the sweeping, positive statements of the young person.
Note the cautious, specific statements of the person who has lived long in this world.
Our education is our progress from the sweeping, positive, wholesale statements we have not proved, to the cautious, specific statements we have proved.
Many audiences are gathered into this one audience. Each person here is a different audience, reading a different page in the Book of Human Experience. Each has a different fight to make and a different burden to carry. Each one of us has more trouble than anybody else!
I know there are chapters of heroism in the lives of you older ones. You have cried yourselves to sleep, some of you, and walked the floor when you could not sleep. You have learned that "beyond the Alps lieth Italy."
A good many of you were bumped today or yesterday, or maybe years ago, and the wound has not healed. You think it never will heal. You came here thinking that perhaps you would forget your trouble for a little while. I know there are people in this audience in pain.
Never do this many gather but what there are some with aching hearts.
And you young people here with lives like June mornings, are not much interested in this lecture. You are polite and attentive because this is a polite and attentive neighborhood. But down in your hearts you are asking, "What is this all about? What is that man talking about? I haven't had these things and I'm not going to have them, either!"
Maybe some of you are naturally bright!
You are going to be bumped. You are going to cry yourselves to sleep. You are going to walk the floor when you cannot sleep. Some of you are going to know the keen sorrow of having the one you trust most betray you. Maybe, betray you with a kiss. You will go through your Gethsemane. You will see your dearest plans wrecked. You will see all that seems to make life livable lost out of your horizon. You will say, "God, let me die. I have nothing more to live for."
For all lives have about the same elements. Your life is going to be about like other lives.
And you are going to learn the wonderful lesson thru the years, the bumps and the tears, that all these things somehow are necessary to promote our education.
These bumps and hard knocks do not break the fiddle—they turn the pegs.
These bumps and tragedies and Waterloos draw the strings of the soul tighter and tighter, nearer and nearer to God's great concert pitch, where the discords fade from our lives and where the music divine and harmonies celestial come from the same old strings that had been sending forth the noise and discord.
Thus we know that our education is progressing, as the evil and unworthy go out of our lives and as peace, harmony, happiness, love and understanding come into our lives.
That is getting in tune.
That is growing up.
WHAT a price we pay for what we know! I laugh as I look backward—and weep and rejoice.
I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth, altho it is quite evident that I could have handled a pretty good-sized spoon. But father being a country preacher, we had tin spoons. We never had to tie a red string around our spoons when we loaned them for the ladies' aid society oyster supper. We always got our spoons back. Nobody ever traded with us by mistake.
Do you remember the first money you ever earned? I do. I walked several miles into the country those old reaper days and gathered sheaves. That night I was proud when that farmer patted me on the head and said, "You are the best boy to work, I ever saw." Then the cheerful old miser put a nickel in my blistered hand. That nickel looked bigger than any money I have since handled.
Yet I was years learning it is much easier to make money than to handle it, hence the tale that follows.
I was sixteen years old and a school teacher. Sweet sixteen—which means green sixteen. But remember again, only green things grow. There is hope for green things. I was so tall and awkward then—I haven't changed much since. I kept still about my age. I was several dollars the lowest bidder. They said out that way, "Anybody can teach kids." That is why I was a teacher.
I had never studied pedagogy, but I had whittled out three rules that I thought would make it go. My first rule was, Make 'em study. My second, Make, em recite. That is, fill 'em up and then empty 'em.
My third and most important rule was, Get your money!
I walked thirteen miles a day, six and a half miles each way, most of the time, to save money. I think I had all teaching methods in use. With the small fry I used a small paddle to win their confidence and arouse their enthusiasm for an education. With the pupils larger and more muscular than their teacher I used love and moral suasion.
We ended the school with an "exhibition." Did you ever attend the old back-country "last day of school exhibition"? The people that day came from all over the township. They were so glad our school was closing they all turned out to make it a success. They brought great baskets of provender and we had a feast. We covered the school desks with boards, and then covered the boards with piles of fried chicken, doughnuts and forty kinds of pie.
Then we had a "doings." Everybody did a stunt. We executed a lot of literature that day. Execute is the word that tells what happened to literature in District No. 1, Jackson Township, that day. I can shut my eyes and see it yet. I can see my pupils coming forward to speak their "pieces." I hardly knew them and they hardly knew me, for we were "dressed up." Many a head showed father had mowed it with the sheepshears. Mother had been busy with the wash-rag—clear back of the ears! And into them! So many of them wore collars that stuck out all stiff like they had pushed their heads on thru their big straw hats.
I can see them speaking their "pieces." I can see "The Soldier of the Legion lay dying in Algiers." We had him die again that day, and he had a lingering end as we executed him. I can see "The boy stood on the burning deck, whence all but he had fled." I can see "Mary's little lamb" come slipping over the stage. I see the tow-headed patriot in "Give me liberty or give me death." I feel now that if Patrick Henry had been present, he would have said, "Give me death."
There came a breathless hush as "teacher" came forward as the last act on the bill to say farewell. It was customary to cry. I wanted to yell. Tomorrow I would get my money! I had a speech I had been saying over and over until it would say itself. But somehow when I got up before that "last day of school" audience and opened my mouth, it was a great opening, but nothing came out. It came out of my eyes. Tears rolled down my cheeks until I could hear them spatter on my six-dollar suit.
And my pupils wept as their dear teacher said farewell. Parents wept. It was a teary time. I only said, "Weep not for me, dear friends. I am going away, but I am coming back." I thought to cheer them up, but they wept the more.
Next day I drew my money. I had it all in one joyous wad—$240. I was going home with head high and aircastles even higher. But I never got home with the money. Talk about the fool and his money and you get very personal.
For on the way home I met Deacon K, and he borrowed it all. Deacon K was "such a good man" and a "pillar of the church." I used to wonder, tho, why he didn't take a pillow to church. I took his note for $240, "due at corncutting," as we termed that annual fall-time paying up season. I really thought a note was not necessary, such was my confidence in the deacon.
For years I kept a faded, tear-spattered, yellow note for $240, "due at corncutting," as a souvenir of my first schoolteaching. Deacon K has gone from earth. He has gone to his eternal reward. I scarcely know whether to look up or down as I say that. He never left any forwarding address.
I was paid thousands in experience for that first schoolteaching, but I paid all the money I got from it—two hundred and forty thirteen-mile-a-day dollars to learn one thing I could not learn from the books, that it takes less wisdom to make money, than it does to intelligently handle it afterwards. Incidentally I learned it may be safer to do business with a first-class sinner than with a second-class saint.
Which is no slap at the church, but at its worst enemies, the foes of its own household.
A lyceum bureau once sent me back to my home town to lecture. I imagine most lecturers have a hard time lecturing in the home town. Their schoolmates and playmates are apt to be down there in the front rows with their families, and maybe all the old scores have not yet been settled. The boy he fought with may be down there. Perhaps the girl who gave him the "mitten" is there.
And he has gotten his lecture out of that home town. The heroes and villains live there within striking distance. Perhaps they have come to hear him. "Is not this the carpenter's son?" Perhaps this is why some lecturers and authors are not so popular in the home town until several generations pass.
I went back to the same hall to speak, and stood upon the same platform where twenty-one years before I had stood to deliver my graduating oration, when in impassioned and well modulated tones I had exclaimed, "Greece is gone and Rome is no more, but fe-e-e-e-ear not, for I will sa-a-a-a-ave you!" or words to that effect.
Then I went back to the little hotel and sat up alone in my room half the night living it over. Time was when I thought anybody who could live in that hotel was a superior order of being. But the time had come when I knew the person who could go on living in any hotel has a superior order of vitality.
I held thanksgiving services that night. I could see better. I had a picture of the school in that town that had been taken twenty-one years before, just before commencement. I had not seen the picture these twenty-one years, for I could not then afford to buy one. The price was a quarter.
I got a truer perspective of life that night. Did you ever sit alone with a picture of your classmates taken twenty-one years before? It is a memorable experience.
A class of brilliant and gifted young people went out to take charge of the world. They were so glad the world had waited so long on them. They were so willing to take charge of the world. They were going to be presidents and senators and authors and authoresses and scientists and scientist-esses and geniuses and genius-esses and things like that.
There was one boy in the class who was not naturally bright. It was not the one you may be thinking of! No, it was Jim Lambert. He had no brilliant career in view. He was dull and seemed to lack intellect. He was "conditioned" into the senior class. We all felt a little sorry for Jim.
As commencement day approached, the committee of the class appointed for that purpose took Jim back of the schoolhouse and broke the news to him that they were going to let him graduate, but they were not going to let him speak, because he couldn't make a speech that would do credit to such a brilliant class. They hid Jim on the stage back of the oleander commencement night.
Shake the barrel!
The girl who was to become the authoress became the helloess in the home telephone exchange, and had become absolutely indispensable to the community. The girl who was to become the poetess became the goddess at the general delivery window and superintendent of the stamp-licking department of the home postoffice. The boy who was going to Confess was raising the best corn in the county, and his wife was speaker of the house.
Most of them were doing very well even Jim Lambert. Jim had become the head of one of the big manufacturing plants of the South, with a lot of men working for him. The committee that took him out behind the schoolhouse to inform him he could not speak at commencement, would now have to wait in line before a frosted door marked, "Mr. Lambert, Private." They would have to send up their cards, and the watchdog who guards the door would tell them, "Cut it short, he's busy!" before they could break any news to him today.
They hung a picture of Mr. Lambert in the high school at the last alumni meeting. They hung it on the wall near where the oleander stood that night.
Dull boy or girl—you with your eyes tear-dimmed sometimes because you do not seem to learn like some in your classes can you not get a bit of cheer from the story of Jim?
Hours pass, and still as I sat in that hotel room I was lost in that school picture and the twenty-one years. There were fifty-four young people in that picture. They had been shaken these years in the barrel, and now as I called the roll on them, most of them that I expected to go up had shaken down and some that I expected to stay down had shaken up.
Out of that fifty-four, one had gone to a pulpit, one had gone to Congress and one had gone to the penitentiary. Some had gone to brilliant success and some had gone down to sad failure. Some had found happiness and some had found unhappiness. It seemed as tho almost every note on the keyboard of human possibility had been struck by the one school of fifty-four.
When that picture was taken the oldest was not more than eighteen, yet most of them seemed already to have decided their destinies. The twenty-one years that followed had not changed their courses.
The only changes had come where God had come into a life to uplift it, or where Mammon had entered to pull it down. And I saw better that the foolish dreams of success faded before the natural unfolding of talents, which is the real success. I saw better that "the boy is father to the man."
The boy who skimmed over his work in school was skimming over his work as a man. The boy who went to the bottom of things in school was going to the bottom of things in manhood. Which had helped him to go to the top of things!
Jim Lambert had merely followed the call of talents unseen in him twenty-one years before.
The lazy boy became a "tired" man. The industrious boy became an industrious man. The sporty boy became a sporty man. The domineering egotist boy became the domineering egotist man.
The boy who traded knives with me and beat me—how I used to envy him! Why was it he could always get the better of me? Well, he went on trading knives and getting the better of people. Now, twenty-one years afterwards, he was doing time in the state penitentiary for forgery. He was now called a bad man, when twenty-one years ago when he did the same things on a smaller scale they called him smart and bright.
The "perfectly lovely" boy who didn't mix with the other boys, who didn't whisper, who never got into trouble, who always had his hair combed, and said, "If you please," used to hurt me. He was the teacher's model boy. All the mothers of the community used to say to their own reprobate offspring, "Why can't you be like Harry? He'll be President of the United States some day, and you'll be in jail." But Model Harry sat around all his life being a model. I believe Mr. Webster defines a model as a small imitation of the real thing. Harry certainly was a successful model. He became a seedy, sleepy, helpless relic at forty. He was "perfectly lovely" because he hadn't the energy to be anything else. It was the boys who had the hustle and the energy, who occasionally needed bumping—and who got it—who really grew.
I have said little about the girls of the school. Fact was, at that age I didn't pay much attention to them. I regarded them as in the way. But I naturally thought of Clarice, our social pet of the class—our real pretty girl who won the vase in the home paper beauty contest. Clarice went right on remaining in the social spotlight, primping and flirting. She outshone all the rest. But it seemed like she was all out-shine and no in-shine. She mistook popularity for success. The boys voted for her, but did not marry her. Most of the girls who shone with less social luster became the happy homemakers of the community.
But as I looked into the face of Jim Lambert in the picture, my heart warmed at the sight of another great success—a sweet-faced irish lass who became an "old maid." She had worked day by day all these years to support a home and care for her family. She had kept her grace and sweetness thru it all, and the influence of her white, loving life radiated far.
Frank was the boy I had envied. He had everything—a fine home, a loving father, plenty of money, opportunity and a great career awaiting him. And he was bright and lovable and talented. Everybody said Frank would make his mark in the world and make the town proud of him.
I was the janitor of the schoolhouse. Some of my classmates will never know how their thoughtless jeers and jokes wounded the sensitive, shabby boy who swept the floors, built the fires and carried in the coal. After commencement my career seemed to end and the careers of Frank and the rest of them seemed to begin. They were going off to college and going to do so many wonderful things.
But the week after commencement I had to go into a printing office, roll up my sleeves and go to work in the "devil's corner" to earn my daily bread. Seemed like it took so much bread!
Many a time as I plugged at the "case" I would think of Frank and wonder why some people had all the good things and I had all the hard things.
How easy it is to see as you look backward. But how hard it is to see when you look forward.
Twenty-one years afterward as I got off the train in the home town, I asked, "Where is he?" We went out to the cemetery, where I stood at a grave and read on the headstone, "Frank."
I had the story of a tragedy—the tragedy of modern unpreparedness. It was the story of the boy who had every opportunity, but who had all the struggle taken out of his life. He never followed his career, never developed any strength. He disappointed hopes, spent a fortune, broke his father's heart, shocked the community, and finally ended his wasted life with a bullet fired by his own hand.
It revived the memory of the story of Ben Hur.
Do you remember it? The Jewish boy is torn from his home in disgrace. He is haled into court and tried for a crime he never committed. Ben Hur did not get a fair trial. Nobody can get a fair trial at the hands of this world. That is why the great Judge has said, judge not, for you have not the full evidence in the case. I alone have that.
Then they condemn him. They lead him away to the galleys. They chain him to the bench and to the oar. There follow the days and long years when he pulls on the oar under the lash. Day after day he pulls on the oar. Day after day he writhes under the sting of the lash. Years of the cruel injustice pass. Ben Hur is the helpless victim of a mocking fate.
That seems to be your life and my life. In the kitchen or the office, or wherever we work we seem so often like slaves bound to the oar and pulling under the sting of the lash of necessity. Life seems one futureless round of drudgery. We wonder why. We often look across the street and see somebody who lives a happier life. That one is chained to no oar. See what a fine time they all have. Why must we pull on the oar?
How blind we are! We can only see our own oar. We cannot see that they, too, pull on the oar and feel the lash. Most likely they are looking back at us and envying us. For while we envy others, others are envying us.
But look at the chariot race in Antioch. See the thousands in the circus. See Messala, the haughty Roman, and see! Ben Hur from the galleys in the other chariot pitted against him. Down the course dash these twin thunderbolts. The thousands hold their breath. "Who will win?" "The man with the stronger forearms," they whisper.
There comes the crucial moment in the race. See the man with the stronger forearms. They are bands of steel that swell in the forearms of Ben Hur. They swing those flying Arabians into the inner ring. Ben Hur wins the race! Where got the Jew those huge forearms? From the galleys!
Had Ben Hur never pulled on the oar, he never could have won the chariot race.
Sooner or later you and I are to learn that Providence makes no mistakes in the bookkeeping. As we pull on the oar, so often lashed by grim necessity, every honest effort is laid up at compound interest in the bank account of strength. Sooner or later the time comes when we need every ounce. Sooner or later our chariot race is on—when we win the victory, strike the deciding blow, stand while those around us fall—and it is won with the forearms earned in the galleys of life by pulling on the oar.
That is why I thanked God as I stood at the grave of my classmate. I thanked God for parents who believed in the gospel of struggle, and for the circumstances that compelled it.
I am not an example of success.
But I am a very grateful pupil in the first reader class of The University of Hard Knocks.
THERE is a little silvery sheet of water in Minnesota called Lake Itasca. There is a place where a little stream leaps out from the lake.
"Ole!" you will exclaim, "the lake is leaking. What is the name of this little creek?"
"Creek! It bane no creek. It bane Mississippi river."
So even the Father of Waters has to begin as a creek. We are at the cradle where the baby river leaps forth. We all start about alike. It wabbles around thru the woods of Minnesota. It doesn't know where it is going, but it is "on the way."
It keeps wabbling around, never giving up and quitting, and it gets to the place where all of us get sooner or later. The place where Paul came on the road to Damascus. The place of the "heavenly vision."
It is the place where gravity says, "Little Mississippi, do you want to grow? Then you will have to go south."
The little Mississippi starts south. He says to the people, "Goodbye, folks, I am going south." The folks at Itascaville say, "Why, Mississippi, you are foolish. You hain't got water enough to get out of the county." That is a fact, but he is not trying to get out of the county. The Mississippi is only trying to go south.
The Mississippi knows nothing about the Gulf of Mexico. He does not know that he has to go hundreds of miles south. He is only trying to go south. He has not much water, but he does not wait for a relative to die and bequeath him some water. That is a beautiful thought! He has water enough to start south, and he does that.
He goes a foot south, then another foot south. He goes a mile south. He picks up a little stream and he has some more water. He goes on south. He picks up another stream and grows some more. Day by day he picks up streamlets, brooklets, rivulets. Business is picking up! He grows as he flows. Poetry!
My friends, here is one of the best pictures I can find in nature of what it seems to me our lives should be. I hear a great many orations, especially in high school commencements, entitled, "The Value of a Goal in Life." But the direction is vastly more important than the goal. Find the way your life should go, and then go and keep on going and you'll reach a thousand goals.
We do not have to figure out how far we have to go, nor how many supplies we will need along the way. All we have to do is to start and we will find the resources all along the way. We will grow as we flow. All of us can start! And then go on south!
Success is not tomorrow or next year. Success is now. Success is not at the end of the journey, for there is no end. Success is every day in flowing and growing. The Mississippi is a success in Minnesota as well as on south.
You and I sooner or later hear the call, "Go on south." If we haven't heard it, let us keep our ear to the receiver and live a more natural life, so that we can hear the call. We are all called. It is a divine call—the call of our unfolding talents to be used.
Remember, the Mississippi goes south. If he had gone any other direction he would never have been heard of.
Three wonderful things develop as the Mississippi goes on south.
1. He keeps on going on south and growing greater.
2. He overcomes his obstacles and develops his power.
3. He blesses the valley, but the valley does not bless him.
You never meet the Mississippi after he starts south, but what he is going on south and growing greater. You never meet him but what he says, "Excuse me, but I must go on south."
The Mississippi gets to St. Paul and Minneapolis. He is a great river now—the most successful river in the state. But he does not retire upon his laurels. He goes on south and grows greater. He goes on south to St. Louis. He is a wonderful river now. But he does not stop. He goes on south and grows greater.
Everywhere you meet him he is going on south and growing greater.
Do you know why the Mississippi goes on south? To continue to be the Mississippi. If he should stop and stagnate, he would not be the Mississippi river, he would become a stagnant, poisonous pond.
As long as people keep on going south, they keep on living. When they stop and stagnate, they die.
That is why I am making it the slogan of my life—GO ON SOUTH AND GROW GREATER! I hope I can make you remember that and say it over each day. I wish I could write it over the pulpits, over the schoolrooms, over the business houses and homes—GO ON SOUTH AND GROW GREATER. For this is life, and there is no other. This is education—and religion. And the only business of life.
You and I start well. We go on south a little ways, and then we retire. Even young people as they start south and make some little knee-pants achievement, some kindergarten touchdown, succumb to their press notices. Their friends crowd around them to congratulate them. "I must congratulate you upon your success. You have arrived."
So many of those young goslings believe that. They quit and get canned. They think they have gotten to the Gulf of Mexico when they have not gotten out of the woods of Minnesota. Go on south!
We can protect ourselves fairly well from our enemies, but heaven deliver us from our fool friends.
Success is so hard to endure. We can endure ten defeats better than one victory. Success goes to the head and defeat goes to "de feet." It makes them work harder.
Civilization is mostly a conspiracy to keep us from going very far south.
The one who keeps on going south defies custom and becomes unorthodox.
But contentment with present achievement is the damnation of the race.
The mass of the human family never go on south far enough to become good servants, workmen or artists. The young people get a smattering and squeeze into the bottom position and never go on south to efficiency and promotion. They wonder why their genius is not recognized. They do not make it visible.
Nine out of ten stenographers who apply for positions can write a few shorthand characters and irritate a typewriter keyboard. They think that is being a stenographer, when it is merely a symptom of a stenographer. They mangle the language, grammar, spelling, capitalization and punctuation. Their eyes are on the clock, their minds on the movies.
Nine out of ten workmen cannot be trusted to do what they advertise to do, because they have never gone south far enough to become efficient. Many a professional man is in the same class.
Half of our life is spent in getting competents to repair the botchwork of incompetents.
No matter how well equipped you are, you are never safe in your job if you are contented to do today just what you did yesterday. Contented to think today what you thought yesterday.
You must go on south to be safe.
I used to know a violinist who would say, "If I were not a genius, I could not play so well with such little practice." The poor fellow did not know how poor a fiddler he really was. Well did Strickland Gillilan, America's great poet-humorist, say, "Egotism is the opiate that Nature administers to deaden the pains of mediocrity."
Just because our hair gets frosty or begins to rub off in spots, we are so prone to say, "I am aging rapidly." It pays to advertise. We always get results. See the one shrivel who goes around front-paging his age. Age is not years; age is grunts.
We say, "I've seen my best days." And the undertaker goes and greases his buggy. He believes in "preparedness."
Go on south! We have not seen our best days. This is the best day so far, and tomorrow is going to be better on south.
We are only children in God's great kindergarten, playing with our A-B-C's. I do not utter that as a bit of sentiment, but as the great fundamental of our life. I hope the oldest in years sees that best. I hope he says, "I am just beginning. Just beginning to understand. Just beginning to know about life."
We are not going on south to old age, we are going on south to eternal youth. It is the one who stops who "ages rapidly." Each day brings us a larger vision. Infinity, Eternity, Omnipotence, Omniscience are all on south.
We have left nothing behind but the husks. I would not trade this moment for all the years before it. I have their footings at compound interest! They are dead. This is life.
Yesterday I had a birthday. I looked in the glass and communed with my features. I saw some gray hairs coming. Hurrah!
You know what gray hairs are? Did you ever get a headmark in school? Gray hairs are silver headmarks in our education as we go on south.
You children cheer up. Your black hair and auburn hair and the other first reader hair will pass and you'll get promoted as you go on south.
Don't worry about gray hair or baldness. Only worry about the location of your gray hair or baldness. If they get on the inside of the head, worry. Do you know why corporations sometimes say they do not want to employ gray-headed men? They have found that so many of them have quit going on south and have gotten gray on the inside—or bald.
These same corporations send out Pinkertons and pay any price for gray-headed men—gray on the outside and green on the inside. They are the most valuable, for they have the vision and wisdom of many years and the enthusiasm and "pep" and courage of youth.
The preacher, the teacher—everyone who gets put on the retired list, retires himself. He quits going on south.
The most wonderful person in the world is the one who has lived years and years on earth and has perhaps gotten gray on the outside, but has kept young and fresh on the inside. Put that person in the pulpit, in the schoolroom, in the office, behind the ticket-window or on the bench—or under the hod—and you find the whole world going to that person for direction, advice, vision, help, sympathy, love.
I am happy today as I look back over my life. I have been trying to lecture a good while. I am almost ashamed to tell you how long, for I ought to know more about it by this time. But when anybody says, "I heard you lecture twenty years ago over at——" I stop him. "Please don't throw it up to me now. I am just as ashamed of it as you are. I am trying to do better now."
O, I want to forget all the past, save its lessons. I am just beginning to live. If anybody wants to be my best friend, let him come to me and tell me how to improve—what to do and what not to do. Tell me how to give a better lecture.
Years ago a bureau representative who booked me told me my lectures were good enough. I told him I wanted to get better lectures, for I was so dissatisfied with what little I knew. He told me I could never get any better. I had reached my limit. Those lectures were the "limit." I shiver as I think what I was saying then. I want to go on south shivering about yesterday. These years I have noticed the people on the platform who were contented with their offerings, were not trying to improve them, and were lost in admiration of what they were doing, did not stay long on the platform. I have watched them come and go, come and go. I have heard their fierce invectives against the bureaus and ungrateful audiences that were "prejudiced" against them.
Birthdays are not annual affairs. Birthdays are the days when we have a new birth. The days when we go on south to larger visions. I wish I could have a birthday every minute!
Some people seem to string out to near a hundred years with mighty few birthdays. Some people spin up to Methuselahs in a few years.
From what I can learn of Methuselah, he never grew past copper-toed boots. He just hibernated and "chawed on."
The more birthdays we have, the nearer we approach eternal youth!
The spectacle of Sarah Bernhardt, past seventy, thrilling and gripping audiences with the fire and brilliancy of youth, is inspiring. No obstacle can daunt her. Losing a leg does not end her acting, for she remains the "Divine Sarah" with no crippling of her work. She looks younger than many women of half her years. "The years are nothing to me."
Senator Henry Gassaway Davis, West Virginia's Grand Old Man, at ninety-two was working as hard and hopefully as any man of the multitudes in his employ. He was an ardent Odd Fellow, and one day at ninety-two—just a short time before his passing—he went out to the Odd Fellows' Home near Elkins, where he lived. On the porch of the home was a row of old men inmates. The senator shook hands with these men and one by one they rose from the bench to return his hearty greetings.
The last man on the bench did not rise. He helplessly looked up at the senator and said, "Senator, you'll have to excuse me from getting up. I'm too old. When you get as old as I am, you'll not get up, either."
"That's all right. But, my man, how old are you?"
"Senator, I'm old in body and old in spirit. I'm past sixty."
"My boy," laughed Senator Davis, "I was an Odd Fellow before you were born."
The senator at ninety-two was younger than the man "past sixty," because he was going on south.
When I was a little boy I saw them bring the first phonograph that Mr. Edison invented into the meeting at Lakeside, Ohio. The people cheered when they heard it talk.
You would laugh at it today. It had a tinfoil cylinder, it screeched and stuttered. You would not have it in your barn today to play to your ford!
But the people said, "Mr. Edison has succeeded." There was one man who did not believe that Mr. Edison had succeeded. His name was Thomas Alva Edison. He had gotten to St. Paul, and he went on south. A million people would have stopped there and said, "I have arrived." They would have put in their time litigating for their rights with other people who would have gone on south with the phonograph idea.
Mr. Edison has said that his genius is mainly his ability to keep on south. A young lady succeeded in getting into his laboratory the other day, and she wrote me that the great inventor showed her one invention. "I made over seven thousand experiments and failed before I hit upon that."
"Why make so many experiments?"
"I know more than seven thousand ways now that won't work."
I doubt if there are ten men in America who could go on south in the face of seven thousand failures. Today he brings forth a diamond-pointed phonograph. I am sure if we could bring Mr. Edison to this platform and ask him, "Have you succeeded?" he would say what he has said to reporters and what he said to the young lady, "I have not succeeded. I am succeeding. All I have done only shows me how much there is yet to do."
That is success supreme. Not "succeeded" but "succeeding."
What a difference between "ed" and "ing"! The difference between death and life. Are you "ed-ing" or "ing-ing"?
Moses, the great Hebrew law-giver, was eighty years old before he started south. It took him eighty years to get ready. Moses did not even get on the back page of the Egyptian newspapers till he was eighty. He went on south into the extra editions after that!
If Moses had retired at seventy-nine, we'd never have heard of him. If Moses had retired to a checkerboard in the grocery store or to pitching horseshoes up the alley and talking about "ther winter of fifty-four," he would have become the seventeenth mummy on the thirty-ninth row in the green pickle-jar!
Imagine Moses living today amidst the din of the high school orations on "The Age of the Young Man" and the Ostler idea that you are going down hill at fifty. Imagine Moses living on "borrowed time" when he becomes the leader of the Israelite host.
I would see his scandalized friends gather around him. "Moses! Moses! what is this we hear? You going to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land? Why, Moses, you are an old man. Why don't you act like an old man? You are liable to drop off any minute. Here is a pair of slippers. And keep out of the night air. It is so hard on old folks."
I think I would hear Moses say, "No, no, I am just beginning to see what to do. Watch things happen from now on. Children of Israel, forward, march!"
I see Moses at eighty starting for the Wilderness so fast Aaron can hardly keep up. Moses is eighty-five and busier and more enthusiastic than ever. The people say, "Isn't Moses dead?" "No." "Well, he ought to be dead, for he is old enough."
They appoint a committee to bury Moses. You cannot do anything in America without a committee. The committee gets out the invitations and makes all the arrangements for a gorgeous funeral next Thursday. They get ready the resolutions of respect—"Whereas,—Whereas,—Resolved,—Resolved."
Then I see the committee waiting on Moses. That is what a committee does—it "waits" on something or other. And this committee goes up to General Moses' private office. It is his busy day. They have to stand in line and wait their turn. When they get up to Moses' desk, the great prophet says, "Boys, what is it? Cut it short, I'm busy."
The committee begins to weep. "General Moses, you are a very old man. You are eighty-five years old and full of honors. We are the committee duly authorized to give you gorgeous burial. The funeral is to be next Thursday. Kindly die."
I see Moses look over his appointments. "Next Thursday? Why, boys, every hour is taken next Thursday. I simply cannot attend my funeral next Thursday."
They cannot bury Moses. He cannot attend. You cannot bury anybody who is too busy to attend his own funeral! You cannot bury anybody until he consents. It is bad manners! The committee is so mortified, for all the invitations are out. It waits.
Moses is eighty-six and the committee 'phones over, "Moses, can you attend next Thursday?" And Moses says, "No, boys, you'll just have to hold that funeral until I get this work pushed off so I can attend it. I haven't even time to think about getting old."
The committee waits. Moses is ninety and rushed more than ever. He is doing ten men's work and his friends all say he is killing himself. But he makes the committee wait.
Moses is ninety-five and burning the candle at both ends. He is a hundred. And the committee dies!
Moses goes right on shouting, "Onward!" He is a hundred and ten. He is a hundred and twenty. Even then I read, "His eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated." He had not time to stop and abate.
So God buried him. The committee was dead. O, friends, this is not irreverence. It is joyful reverence. It is the message to all of us, Go on south to the greater things, and get so enthused and absorbed in our going that we'll fool the "committee."
All the multitudes of the Children of Israel died in the Wilderness. They were afraid to go on south. Only two of them went on south—Joshua and Caleb. They put the giants out of business.
The Indians once owned America. But they failed to go on south. So another crop of Americans came into the limelight. If we modern Americans do not go on south we will join the Indians, the auk and the dodo.
I am so sorry for the folks who quit, retire, "get on the shelf" or live on "borrowed time."
They generally join the "sob squad."
They generally discover the world is "going to the dogs." They cry on my shoulder, no matter how good clothes I wear.
They tell me nobody uses them right. The person going on south has not time to look back and see how anybody uses him.
They say nobody loves them. Which is often a fact. Nobody loves the clock that runs down.
They say, "Only a few more days of trouble, only a few more tribulations, and I'll be in that bright and happy land." What will they do with them when they get them there? They would be dill pickles in the heavenly preserve-jar.
They say, "I wish I were a child again. I was happy when I was a child and I'm not happy now. Them was the best days of my life childhood's palmy days."
Wake up! Your clock has run down. Anybody who wants to be a child again is confessing he has lost his memory. Anybody who can remember the horrors of childhood could not be hired to live it over again.
If there is anybody who does not have a good time, if there is anybody who gets shortchanged regularly, it is a child. I am so sorry for a child. Hurry up and go on south. It is better on south.
I wish I could forget many of my childhood memories. I remember the palmy days. And the palm!
I often wonder how I ever lived thru my childhood. I would not take my chances living it thru again. I am not ungrateful to my parents. I had advantages. I was born in a parsonage and was reared in the nurture and admiration of the Lord. I am not just sure I quoted that correctly, but I know I was reared in a parsonage. About all I inherited was a Godly example and a large appetite. That was about all there was to inherit. I cannot remember when I was not hungry. I used to go around feeling like the Mammoth Cave, never thoroly explored.
I never sit down as "company" at a dinner and see some little children going sadly into the next room to "wait till the second table" that my heart does not go out to them. I remember when I did that.
I can only remember about four big meals in a year. That was "quart'ly meeting day." We always had a big dinner on "quart'ly meeting day." Elder Berry would stay for dinner. His name was Berry, but being "presiding elder," we called him Elder Berry.
Elder Berry always stayed for dinner. He was one of the easiest men to get to stay for dinner I ever saw.
Mother would stay home from "quart'ly meeting" to get the big dinner ready. She would cook up about all the "brethren" brought in at the last donation. We had one of those stretchable tables, and mother would stretch it clear across the room and put on two table-cloths. She would lap them over in the middle, where the hole was.
I would watch her get the big dinner ready. I would look over the long table and view the "promised land." I would see her set on the jelly. We had so much jelly—red jelly, and white jelly, and blue jelly. I don't just remember if they had blue jelly, but if they had it we had it on that table. All the jelly that ever "jelled" was represented. I didn't know we had so much jelly till "quart'ly meeting" day. I would watch the jelly tremble. Did you ever see jelly tremble? I used to think it ought to tremble, for Elder Berry was coming for dinner.
I would see mother put on the tallest pile of mashed potatoes you ever saw. She would make a hollow in the top and fill it with butter. I would see the butter melt and run down the sides, and I would say, "Hurry, mother, it is going to spill!" O, how I wanted to spill it! I could hardly hold out faithful.
And then Elder Berry would sit down at the table, at the end nearest the fried chicken. The "company" would sit down. I used to wonder why we never could have a big dinner but what a lot of "company" had to come and gobble it up. They would fill the table and father would sit down in the last seat. There was no place for me to sit. Father would say, "You go into the next room, my boy, and wait. There's no room for you at the table."
The hungriest one of that assemblage would have to go in the next room and hear the big dinner. Did you ever hear a big dinner when you felt like the Mammoth Cave? I used to think as I would sit in the next room that heaven would be a place where everybody would eat at the first table.
I would watch them thru the key-hole. It was going so fast. There was only one piece of chicken left. It was the neck. O, Lord, spare the neck! And I would hear them say, "Elder Berry, may we help you to another piece of the chicken?"
And Elder Berry would take the neck!
Many a time after that, Elder Berry would come into the room where I was starving. He would say, "Brother Parlette, is this your boy?" He would come over to the remains of Brother Parlette's boy. He would often put his hand in benediction upon my head.
My head was not the place that needed the benediction.
He would say, "My boy, I want you to have a good time now." Now! When all the chicken was gone and he had taken the neck! "My boy, you are seeing the best days of your life right now as a child."
The dear old liar! I was seeing the worst days of my life. If there is anybody shortchanged—if there is anybody who doesn't have a good time, it's a child. Life has been getting better ever since, and today is the best day of all. Go on south!
Seeing your best days as a child? No! You are seeing your worst days. Of course, you can be happy as a child. A boy can be happy with fuzz on his upper lip, but he'll be happier when his lip feels more like mine like a piece of sandpaper. There are chapters of happiness undreamed of in his philosophy.
A child can be full of happiness and only hold a pint. But afterwhile the same child will hold a quart.
I think I hold a gallon now. And I see people in the audience who must hold a barrel! Go on south. Of course, I do not mean circumference. But every year we go south increases our capacity for joy. Our life is one continual unfolding as we go south. Afterwhile this old world gets too small for us and we go on south into a larger one.
So we cannot grow old. Our life never stops. It goes on and on forever. Anything that does not stop cannot grow old or have age. Material things will grow old. This stage will grow old and stop. This hall will grow old and stop. This house we live in will grow old and stop. This flesh and blood house we live in will grow old and stop. This lecture even will grow old—and stop! But you and I will never grow old, for God cannot grow old. You and I will go on living as long as God lives.
I am not worried today over what I do not know. I used to be worried. I used to say, "I have not time to answer you now!" But today it is such a relief to look people in the face and say, "I do not know."
And I have to say that to many questions, "I do not know." I often think if people in an audience only knew how little I know, they would not stay to hear me.
But some day I shall know! I patiently wait for the answer. Every day brings the answer to something I could not answer yesterday.
It will take an eternity to know an infinity!
What a wonderful happiness to go on south to it!
As the Mississippi River goes on south he finds obstacles along the way. You and I find obstacles along our way south. What shall we do?
Go to Keokuk, Iowa, for your answer.
They have built a great concrete obstacle clear across the path of the river. It is many feet high, and many, many feet long. The river cannot go on south. Watch him. He rises higher than the obstacle and sweeps over it on south.
Over the great power dam at Keokuk sweeps the Mississippi. And then you see the struggle of overcoming the obstacle develops light and power to vitalize the valley. A hundred towns and cities radiate the light and power from the struggle. The great city of St. Louis, many miles away, throbs with the victory.
So that is why they spent the millions to build the obstacle—to get the light and the power. The light and the power were latent in the river, but it took the obstacle and the overcoming to develop it and make it useful.
That is exactly what happens when you and I overcome our obstacles. We develop our light and power. We are rivers of light and power, but it is all latent and does no good until we overcome obstacles as we go on south.
Obstacles are the power stations on our way south!
And where the most obstacles are, there you find the most power to be developed. So many of us do not understand that. We look southward and we see the obstacles in the road. "I am so unfortunate. I could do these great things, but alas! I have so many obstacles in the way."
Thank God! You are blessed of Providence. They do not waste the obstacles. The presence of the obstacles means that there is a lot of light and power in you to be developed. If you see no obstacles, you are confessing to blindness.
I hear people saying, "I hope the time may speedily come when I shall have no more obstacles to overcome!" When that time comes, ring up the hearse, for you will be a "dead one."
Life is going on south, and overcoming the obstacles. Death is merely quitting.
The fact that we are not buried is no proof that we are alive. Go along the street in almost any town and see the dead ones. There they are decorating the hitching-racks and festooning the storeboxes. There they are blocking traffic at the postoffice and depot. There they are in the hotel warming the chairs and making the guests stand up. There they are—rows of retired farmers who have quit work and moved to town to block improvements and die. But they will never need anything more than burying.
For they are dead from the ears up. They have not thought a new thought the past month. Sometimes they sit and think, but generally they just sit. They have not gone south an inch the past year.
Usually the deadest loafer is married to the livest woman. Nature tries to maintain an equilibrium.
They block the wheels of progress and get in the way of the people trying to go on south. They say of the people trying to do things. "Aw, he's always tryin' to run things."
They do not join in to promote the churches and schools and big brother movements. They growl at the lyceum courses and chautauquas, because they "take money outa town." They do not take any of their money "outa town." Ringling and Barnum & Bailey get theirs.
I do not smile as I refer to the dead. I weep. I wish I could squirt some "pep" into them and start them on south.
But all this lecture has been discussing this, so I hurry on to the last glimpse of the book in the running brook.
Here we come to the most wonderful and difficult thing in life. It is the supreme test of character. That is, Why go on south? Not for blessing nor cursing, not for popularity nor for selfish ends, not for anything outside, but for the happiness that comes from within.
The Mississippi blesses the valley every day as he goes on south and overcomes. But the valley does not bless the river in return. The valley throws its junk back upon the river. The valley pours its foul, muddy, poisonous streams back upon the Mississippi to defile him. The Mississippi makes St. Paul and Minneapolis about all the prosperity they have, gives them power to turn their mills. But the Twin Cities merely throw their waste back upon their benefactor.
The Mississippi does not resign. He does not tell a tale of woe. He does not say, "I am not appreciated. My genius is not understood. I am not going a step farther south. I am going right back to Lake Itasca." No, he does not even go to live with his father-in-law.
He says, "Thank you. Every little helps, send it all along." Go a few miles below the Twin Cities and see how, by some mysterious alchemy of Nature, the Mississippi has taken over all the poison and the defilement, he has purified it and clarified it, and has made it a part of himself. And he is greater and farther south!
He fattens upon bumps. Kick him, and you push him farther south. "Hand him a lemon," and he makes lemonade.
Civilization conspires to defeat the Mississippi. Chicago's drainage canal pollutes him. The flat, lazy Platte, three miles wide and three inches deep; the peevish, destructive Kaw, and all those streams that unite to form the treacherous, sinful, irresponsible lower Missouri; the big, muddy Ohio, the Arkansas, the Red, the black and the blue floods—all these pour into the Mississippi.
Day by day the Father of Waters goes on south, taking them over and purifying them and making them a part of himself. Nothing can discourage, divert nor defile him. No matter how poisonous he becomes, he goes a few miles on south and he is all pure again.
Wonderful the book in the running brook! We let our life stream become poisoned by bitter memories and bitter regrets. We carry along such a heart full of the injuries that other people have done us, that sometimes we are bank to bank full of poison and a menace to those around us. We say, "I can forgive, but I cannot forget."
Oh, forget it! Drop it all. Purify your life and go on south all sweet again. We forget what we ought to remember and remember what we ought to forget. We need schools of memory, but we need schools of forgettery, even more.
As you go on south and bless your valley, do you notice the valley does not bless you very much? Have you sadly noted that the people you help the most often are the least grateful in return?
Don't wait to be thanked. Hurry on to avoid the kick! Do good to others because that is the way to be happy, but do not wait for a receipt for your goodness; you will need a poultice every time you wait. I know, for I have waited!
We get so discouraged. We say, "I have gone far enough south." There is nobody who does not have that to meet. The preacher, the teacher, the editor, the man in office, the business man, the father and mother—every one who tries to carry on the work of the church, the school, the lyceum and chautauqua, the work that makes for a better community, gets discouraged at times.
We fail to see what we are doing or why we are doing it. Sometimes we sit down completely discouraged and say, "I'm done. I'm going to quit. I have done my share. Nobody appreciates what I do. Let somebody else do it awhile."
Stop! You are not saying that. The evil one is whispering that into your heart. His business is to stop you from going south. His most successful tool is discouragement, which is a wedge, and if he can get the sharp edge started into your thought, he is going to drive it deeper.
You do not go south and overcome your obstacles and bless the valley for praise or blame, for appreciation or lack of it. You do it to live. You do it to remain a living river and not a stagnant, unhappy pond or swamp.
YOU ARE SAVING YOURSELF BY SAVING OTHERS. GO ON SOUTH!
Almost everybody is deceived. We work from mixed motives. We fool ourselves that we are working to do good, when as we do the good, if we are not praised or thanked for it, if people do not present us a medal or resolutions, we want to quit. That is why there are so many disappointed and disgruntled people in the world. They worked for outside thanks instead of inside thanks. They were trying to be personal saviours. They say this is an ungrateful world.
O, how easy it is to say these things, and how hard it is to do them!
But because the Mississippi does these things, one day the train I was riding stopped in Louisiana. We had come to a river so great science has not yet been able to put a bridge across it.
I watched them pile the steel train upon a ferry-boat. I watched the boat crossing a river more than a mile wide. Standing upon the ferry-boat, I could look down into the lordly river and then far north perhaps fifteen hundred miles to the little struggling streamlet starting southward thru the forests of Minnesota, there writing the first chapter of this wonderful book in the running brook.
I thank God that I had gone a little farther southward in my own life. Father of Waters, you have fought a good fight. You are conquering gloriously. You bear upon your bosom the commerce of many nations. I know why. I saw you born, saw your struggles, saw you get in the right channel, saw you learn the lessons of your knocks, and saw that you never stopped going southward.
And may we read it into our own lives. May we get the vision of which way to go, and then keep on going south—on and on, overcoming, getting the lessons of the bumps, the strength from the struggle and thus making it a part of ourselves, and thus growing greater.
Where shall we stop going south? At the Gulf of Mexico?
The Mississippi knows nothing about the gulf. He goes on south until he reaches the gulf. Then he pushes right on into the gulf as tho nothing had happened. So he pushes his physical banks on south many miles right out into the gulf.
And when he comes to the end of his physical banks, he pushes on south into the gulf, and goes on south round and round the globe.
When you and I come to our Gulf of Mexico, we must push right on south. So we push our physical banks years farther into the gulf. And when physical banks fail, we go on south beyond this mere husk, into the great Gulf of the Beyond, to go on south unfolding thru eternity.
WE NEVER STOP GOING SOUTH.
HOW often we say, "I wish I had a million!" Perhaps it is a blessing that we have not the million. Perhaps it would make us lazy, selfish and unhappy. Perhaps we would go around giving it to other people to make them lazy, selfish and unhappy.
O, the problem is not how to get money, but how to get rid of money with the least injury to the race!
Perhaps getting the million would completely spoil us. Look at the wild cat and then look at the tabby cat. The wild cat supports itself and the tabby cat has its million. So the tabby cat has to be doctored by specialists.
If the burden were lifted from most of us we would go to wreck. Necessity is the ballast in our life voyage.
When you hear the orator speak and you note the ease and power of his work, do you think of the years of struggle he spent in preparing? Do you ever think of the times that orator tried to speak when he failed and went back to his room in disgrace, mortified and broken-hearted? Thru it all there came the discipline, experience and grim resolve that made him succeed.
When you hear the musician and note the ease and grace of the performance, do you think of the years of struggle and overcoming necessary to produce that finish and grace? That is the story of the actor, the author and every other one of attainment.
Do you note that the tropics, the countries with the balmiest climates, produce the weakest peoples? Do you note that the conquering races are those that struggle with both heat and cold? The tropics are the geographical Gussielands.
Do you note that people grow more in lean years than in fat years? Crop failures and business stringencies are not calamities, but blessings in disguise. People go to the devil with full pockets; they turn to God when hunger hits them. "Is not this Babylon that I have builded?" says the Belshazzar of material prosperity as he drinks to his gods. Then must come the Needful and Needless Knocks handwriting upon the wall to save him.
You have to shoot many men's eyes out before they can see. You have to crack their heads before they can think, knock them down before they can stand, break their hearts before they can sing, and bankrupt them before they can be rich.
Do you remember that they had to lock John Bunyan in Bedford jail before he would write his immortal "Pilgrim's Progress"? It may be that some of us will have to go to jail to do our best work.
Do you remember that one musician became deaf before he wrote music the world will always hear? Do you remember that one author became blind before writing "Paradise Lost" the world will always read?
Do you remember that Saul of Tarsus would have never been remembered had he lived the life of luxury planned for him? He had to be blinded before he could see the way to real success. He had to be scourged and fettered to become the Apostle to the Gentiles. He, too, had to be sent to prison to write his immortal messages to humanity. What throne-rooms are some prisons! And what prisons are some throne-rooms!
Do you not see all around you that success is ever the phoenix rising from the ashes of defeat?
Then, children, when you stand in the row of graduates on commencement day with your diplomas in your hands, and when your relatives and friends say, "Success to you!" I shall take your hand and say, "Defeat to you! And struggles to you! And bumps to you!"
For that is the only way to say, "Success to you!"
O UNIVERSITY OF HARD KNOCKS, we learn to love you more with each passing year. We learn that you are cruel only to be kind. We learn that you are saving us from ourselves. But O, how most of us must be bumped to see this!
I know no better way to close this lecture than to tell you of a great bump that struck me one morning in Los Angeles. It seemed as tho twelve years of my life had dropped out of it, and had been lost.
Were you ever bumped so hard you were numb? I was numb. I wondered why I was living. I thought I had nothing more to live for. When a dog is wounded he crawls away alone to lick his wounds. I felt like the wounded dog. I wanted to crawl away to lick my wounds.
That is why I climbed Mount Lowe that day. I wanted to get alone.
It is a wonderful experience to climb Mount Lowe. The tourists go up half a mile into Rubio Canyon, to the engineering miracle, the triangular car that hoists them out of the hungry chasm thirty-five hundred feet up the side of a granite cliff, to the top of Echo Mountain.
Here they find that Echo Mountain is but a shelf on the side of Mount Lowe. Here they take an electric car that winds five miles on towards the sky. There is hardly a straight rail in the track. Every minute a new thrill, and no two thrills alike. Five miles of winding and squirming, twisting and ducking, dodging and summersaulting.
There are places where the tourist wants to grasp his seat and lift. There is a wooden shelf nailed to the side of the perpendicular rockwall where his life depends upon the honesty of the man who drove the nails. He may wonder if the man was working by the day or by the job! He looks over the edge of the shelf downward, and then turns to the other side to look at the face of the cliff they are hugging, and discovers there is no place to resign!
The car is five thousand feet high where it stops on that last shelf, Alpine Tavern. One cannot ride farther upward. This is not the summit, but just where science surrenders. There is a little trail that winds upward from Alpine Tavern to the summit. It is three miles long and rises eleven hundred feet.
To go up that last eleven hundred feet and stand upon the flat rock at the summit of Mount Lowe is to get a picture so wonderful it cannot be described with this poor human vocabulary. It must be lived. On a pure, clear day one looks down this sixty-one hundred feet, more than a mile, into the orange belt of Southern California. It spreads out below in one great mosaic of turquoise and amber and emerald, where the miles seem like inches, and where his field-glass sweeps one panoramic picture of a hundred miles or more.
Just below is Pasadena and Los Angeles. To the westward perhaps forty miles is the blue stretch of the Pacific Ocean, on westward the faint outlines of Catalina Islands. The ocean seems so close one could throw a pebble over into it. How a mountain does reduce distances. You throw the pebble and it falls upon your toes!
And Mount Lowe is but a shelf on the side of the higher Sierras. The granite mountains rise higher to the northward, and to the east rises "Old Baldy," twelve thousand feet high and snow eternally on his head.
This is one of the workshops of the infinite!
All alone I scrambled up that three-mile trail to the summit. All alone I stood upon the flat rock at the summit and looked down into the swimming distances. I did not know why I had struggled up into that mountain sanctuary, for I was not searching for sublimity. I was searching for relief. I was heartsick.
I saw clouds down in the valley below me. I had never before looked down upon clouds. I thought of the cloud that had covered me in the valley below, and dully watched the clouds spread wider and blacker.
Afterwhile the valley was all hidden by the clouds. I knew rain must be falling down there. The people must be saying, "The sun doesn't shine. The sky is all gone." But I saw the truth—the sun was shining. The sky was in place. A cloud had covered down over that first mile. The sun was shining upon me, the sky was all blue over me, and there were millions of miles of sunshine above me. I could see all this because I had gone above the valley. I could see above the clouds.
A great light seemed to break over my stormswept soul. I am under the clouds of trouble today, BUT THE SUN IS SHINING!
I must go on up the mountain to see it.
The years have been passing, the stormclouds have many times hidden my sun. But I have always found the sun shining above them. No matter how black and sunless today, when I have struggled on up the mountain path, I have gotten above the clouds and found the sun forever shining and God forever in His heavens.
Each day as I go up the mountain I get a larger vision. The miles that seem so great down in the valley, seem so small as I look down upon them from higher up. Each day as I look back I see more clearly the plan of a human life. The rocks, the curves and the struggles fit into a divine engineering plan to soften the steepness of the ascent. The bumps are lifts. The things that seem so important down in the smudgy, stormswept valley, seem so unimportant as we go higher up the mountain to more important things.
Today I look back to the bump that sent me up Mount Lowe. I did not see how I could live past that bump. The years have passed and I now know it was one of the greatest blessings of my life. It closed one gate, but it opened another gate to a better pathway up the mountain.
Late that day I was clambering down the side of Mount Lowe. Down in the valley below me I saw shadows. Then I looked over into the southwest and I could see the sun going down. I could see him sink lower and lower until his red lips kissed the cheek of the Pacific. The glory of the sunset filled sea and sky with flames of gold and fountains of rainbows. Such a sunset from the mountain-side is a promise of heaven.
The shadows of sunset widened over the valley. Presently all the valley was black with the shadow. It was night down there. The people were saying, "The sun doesn't shine." But it was not night where I stood. I was farther up the mountain. I turned and looked up to the summit. The beams of the setting sun were yet gilding Mount Lowe's summit. It was night down in the valley, but it was day on the mountain top!
Go on south!
That means, go on up!
Child of humanity, are you in the storm? Go on upward. Are you in the night? Go on upward.
For the peace and the light are always above the storm and the night, and always in our reach.
I am going on upward. Take my hand and let us go together. Mount Lowe showed the way that dark day. There I heard the "sermons in stones."
Some day my night will come. It will spread over all this valley of material things where the storms have raged.
But I shall be on the mountain top. I shall look down upon the night, as I am learning to climb and look down upon the storms. I shall be in the new day of the mountain-top, forever above the night.
I shall find this mountain-top just another shelf on the side of the Mountain of Infinite Unfolding. I shall have risen perhaps only the first mile. I shall have millions of miles yet to rise.
This will be another Commencement Day and Master's Degree. Infinite the number on up. "Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him."
We are not growing old. We are going up to Eternal Life.
Rejoice and Go Upward!
By Ralph Parlette
This book proves that the real big business is that of getting our happiness now in our work, and not tomorrow for our work.
Judge Ben B. Lindsey, the kids' Judge, says: "It is a great big boost for everybody who will read it. People ought to buy them by the gross and send them to their friends."
Dr. J. G. Crabbe, President of the State Teachers College, Greeley, Colo., says: "The Big Business of Life is a real joy to read. It is big and ought to be read today and tomorrow and forevermore every where. It is truly 'A Book of Rejoicing'."
The Augsberg Teacher, a Magazine for Teachers, says: "In The Big Business of Life we have the practical philosophy that it is everyone's business to abolish work and turn this world into a playground. Who will not confess that many mortals take their work too seriously, and that to them it is a joyless, cheerless thing? To be able to find happiness, and to find it when we are bending to our duties is to possess the secret of living to the full. And happiness is to be sought within, and not among the things that lie at our feet. The book before us is wholesome and vivacious. It provokes many a smile, and beneath each one is a bit of wisdom it would do us a world of good to learn. It recalls the saying of the wise man 'A merry heart doeth good like a medicine'."
Many who have read The Big Business of Life write us that they think it is even better than "The University of Hard Knocks," which, they add, is mighty hard to beat.
It's Up To You!
Are You Shaking Up or Rattling Down?
Go On South!
The Best is Yet to Come
The Salvation of a Sucker
You Can't Get Something for Nothing
These booklets by Ralph Parlette are short stories adapted from chapters in "The University of Hard Knocks."
John C. Carroll, President of the Hyde Park State Bank of Chicago, bought 1000 copies of the booklet "It's Up to You!" and of it he says, "Parlette's Beans and Nuts is just as good as the Message to Garcia and will be handed around just us much. I have handed the book to business men, to young fellows, bond salesmen and such, to our own vice president, and they all want another copy to send to some friend. I would rather be author of it than president of the bank."
Employers in every line of business are buying quantities of "It's Up to You!" for their workers.
William Jennings Bryan says of the booklet "Go On South": "It is one of the great stories of the day."
Charles Grilk of Davenport, says: "My two children and I read the Mississippi River story together and we were thoroly delighted."
Instruct us to send one of these booklets to your friends. It will delight them more than any small present you can make.