We have spoken in the preceding chapter about the attraction of things in the world about us. They undeniably exercise a fascina tion, so subtle, indeed, that many a man has spent all his life playing with them as a baby plays with its toys. The young man or woman intent on securing the point of view and the education that will permit self-expression to the utmost degree cannot afford to make the world a child's nursery. It must be a workshop where, in exchange for labor, all good things the gods provide are to be had. This is the one great privilege that opportunity offers to youth.
It is worth while, then, to consider environ ment, whose objects not only surround us, but force themselves in upon us until they occupy the very throne of reason itself.
Aside from the heavens above us, the earth beneath our feet and the fellow-being at our side, the objects of environment are the works of man. If we stand in admiration before a building, a statue, a picture, or a toy in a shop window the thing itself that attracts us is, after all, one of the units of man's handicraft. How did this thing which we so much admire and which we covet to possess come to be ? Before it was, before it came into being, a man thought it. When he had thought it long enough he made it, and when he had made it we were per mitted to look upon it as the picture of his thought. It is misleading to say the statue was once a block of marble. The fact is the statue was once a thought in a man't mind. The com ing of the thought is akin to the coming of the apple blossom, evidence that the living organ ism is drawing from environment all that which is necessary to make it fulfill its mission.
As gradually as the apple blossom merges into fruit, so the sculptor's thought merges into the finished statue. This process lies back of everything about us, and it shows that a man's natural impulse is to create, to make things, to bring things into being. Hence we have sculptors and painters, carpenters and joiners and all the rest. Whenever one among them becomes, through education, aware of his power and the purpose of work, he strives to make the things of his creation more and more beautiful. This point of view is slowly taken up by the race and it, like the individual, moves forward. This explains why a portion of the race has passed beyond the hut-village stage to that of cities and magnificent buildings. And let us remember that even cities of magnificent buildings are not the ultimate. We shall not stop with them, but move forward to something which will still further reflect the spiritual evolution that is going on within us.
What is true of the sculptor and the statue is in like manner, true of the carpenter making a box. First comes the thought, then the mental box, then finally the wooden box as a picture of the thought. Hence, the first lesson environment has for us is this : In its objects, we may read the secret of every man who has contributed them. The building reveals to us how true a thinker the builder was, the book tells us in every word how true a thinker the writer was. The paint on the house is direct evidence of the kind of work-thoughts the painter entertained.
It is important then, for us to study environ ment, until we are able to read the man in the thing; the maker in the object. By doing this
we shall learn the craft of true men and we shall understand the futility of all work done by untrue men. These lessons will serve us in our attempts to do our own work, by showing us that true labor demands true thought, that unworthy labor spells untrue thought; in fact, that a man's work is only the man expressed in his own handwriting. This essential reality of all life as residing within us is admirably and truthfully expressed in these lines: "Truth is within ourselves; and to know Rather consists in an opening out a way Whence the imprisoned splendor may escape Than in effecting entry for a light, Supposed to be without" The study of environment will inspire us not only to be authors of true handicraft, but it will impel us to surround ourselves, particu larly in the home, with true objects; that is with objects which were made by conscientious workers. The objects of home may be ever so simple, but we shall soon come to recognize that if they are good, they will constantly in spire us with the kind of thought that produced them.
The Norwegian writer, Bjornson, once said: "The expression is the thought." It is impor tant to remember this as we discuss the condi tions and factors of success. The thought does not reach its end, nor fulfill its purpose until it is worked out and pictured in an object. When the object, for which the thought stands, is made, the thought itself has reached the end of its career as an inner creative impulse, but it is just beginning its career as a thing which will continue to radiate the thought that made it, as fruit radiates the perfume that the tree sought and found in the earth and air.
Our immediate environment, particularly home, can, then, be made a constant source of inspiration. We may possess only few and simple things but they must be true things; not ugly, not ill-made, each serving its purpose faithfully and spelling a good workman. The importance of this kind of home environment is great because we are constantly influenced by our immediate surroundings. They are almost as much a part of us as the body itself. As we build up home environment, it in turn builds us. For this reason, it should always reveal the best to us in order that the best in us may be stimulated into activity.
Mind, body, home and environment are fundamental to all success in life. The mind is the power that governs the body and all that surrounds it. As a man directs the body ma chine, so he makes progress in his work. As he makes home a more and more perfect copy of his true thoughts, the more it will inspire him.
As home is a little world created by a man or by a family, it should be a world of joy and of simplicity. It will become more lovely as thought is given to it, and as the loveliness of the thought increases, the loveliness of home follows.
Then home becomes a place of beauty, and an inspiration to those who live in it, because inspiration makes it what it is, and from it, as from a beautiful model, one will learn to read that greater environment of the world at large that lies so temptingly at every man's door.