THE SCHOOL OF LIFE.
In every work that he began he did it with all his heart, and prospered.
School is the beginning of life and life is the greatest school in the world. The process of education begins with a child's first crying gasp at the atmosphere into which it is born, and it continues to the last conscious act of life.
The young man or woman who leaves school for the life of the business world is still the same individual. The change consists only in substituting one set of tasks for another. The stimuli that call forth the power have changed, but the call to the power itself is clear and distinct.
Business is an elastic word. It applies to the activities, by the exercise of which a man re ceives from some source outside of himself payment for the expenditure of energy which is aroused within himself. In its broadest sense, then, the word business refers equally to the laborer who gives only what seems to be physi cal strength, and to the financier or scholar who gives mental power. In either case, the reward is for power expended.
It has been pointed out by Mr. Arnold Ben nett that in the popular sense of the word it is impossible for all men to succeed. This is not an indictment against the word Success, but against our use of it.
Every human being can succeed in the one path that is open to him. That is he can suc ceed in letting himself out, if he will, which means, if he "wills" it. "What I am," said Sir Humphrey Davy, "I have made myself." In every man there is something which can be in creased ; something that liberates the real man and permits one more expression of the divinity which is fundamental to us all. It may mean only a good foot soldier instead of a general; it may mean an humble schoolmaster, not a Pestalozzi ; again, it may mean a man wise in the humble task of family government, and not at all wise in national government. But there is need of all these forms of being and each in relation to the task concerned spells success. Every man succeeds after his kind. All that is essential is that he be a vital worker, also after his kind. A mouse is just as much alive as an elephant despite the difference in their bulks, but it would avail nothing for an ele phant to attempt to succeed as a mouse, or a mouse as an elephant.
This measure and meaning of success are pre cisely what is developed by business, or by a man's daily work. It may be, on the one hand, the apparently simple task of digging a ditch; or, on the other, the guiding of a national crisis. Some measure of a man is called out in both cases, and a man can win success at either task.
Now, if we employ this word business as meaning a man's daily labor, it is a great word, and it shows clearly the direction whence suc cess comes.
A man at work is not only a free man, but he is of use to the world. His presence is not a burden. He is lifting his share of the load.
He is an active unit in a progressive mass. So long as he honors his work by performing it well, by putting one hundred per cent of him self into it every day, he continually increases his ability. He changes himself gradually into
a more highly efficient agent in the world's work.
Once the laboring man was called a villain. He was bought and sold with the soil on which he worked. The sweat of his brow gave ease to another man; to himself it spelled pain and nothing attained. Now he can aspire and at tain if he determines to do so.
That he may perform his labor, man has been given a golden gift called a day. It is a wonderful unit of time, for within it there is room not only for hours of business cares, but hours when the man is free. These are great hours. And they are not hours that have passed, nor hours yet to come, they are the minutes in hand. "Now" is the one golden word in the calendar of the youth who listens to opportunity. "Yesterday is but a dream, and To-morrow is only a vision; but To-day well-lived makes every Yesterday a dream of happiness, and every To-morrow a vision of hope." What value has To-day? Many a man has so employed his spare time as to become world famous in one line or another. Hugh Miller, the Scotch geologist is a case in point. He worked as a stone mason all his life. He did not merely quarry stones, however; he looked at them with an observant and an analytical mind.
After some years of patient study and in quiry (about the raw material of his daily work, remember), he wrote a book called Old Red Sandstone. No novel is more fascinating; no novel is half so instructive. It is the re sult of a laborer thinking about the material of his labor. It is the product of a laborer's thought while he worked and while he had leisure. It is an evidence that work can be thought about to advantage, and it made the author famous as a geologist.
Not only did Hugh Miller become a famous geologist (by being primarily a faithful work man), but he became a philosopher. He turned a Scotch stone quarry into a college. He said that work abounds with opportunity for pleas ure and for education.
Again, he said : "Toil and hardship are severe, but noble teachers." Undoubtedly he made this deduction from what he observed of the mason with whom he served his apprentice ship. "He was one who put his conscience into every stone that he laid." Thus it is that we are forever forced to believe in the humble. When Tolstoi sought the greatest thing in life he found it not in the learning of the aristocracy, but in the faith of the humble. The stability of life lies in the people as a whole. "Out of the people comes all the worth, comes all the beauty, comes all the seed, comes all the reasonableness with which we engirdle our life." Men must work and worship. Women must sing and sew. Children must laugh and learn.
These activities change the face of the earth, and they change, as well, the faces of men, women and children; for they are the activi ties of light.