It is well for each soul, in the multiplicity of questions besetting him, to deliberately face them and determine what is of first importance. Aspects are so diverse and bewildering that if we do not reduce them to some order, giving them rank, we are in danger of becoming purposeless drifters on the sea of life.
What is the most important thing in life? What shall be our aim and purpose, as we look about us, observing our fellows—what they have accomplished and what they are—what commends itself to us as best worth while? And what course can we pursue to get the most and the best out of it?
We find a world of infinite diversity in conditions, in aims, and in results. One of the most striking differences is in regard to what we call success. We are prone to conclude that he who is prosperous in the matter of having is the successful man. Possessing is the proof of efficiency, and he who possesses little has measurably failed in the main object of life. This conclusion has a measure of truth, but is not wholly true. We see not a few instances of utter poverty of life concurrent with great possessions, and are forced to conclude that the real value of possessions is dependent on what they bring us. Merely to have is of no advantage. Indeed it may be a burden or a curse. Happiness is at least desirable, but it has no necessary connection with property accumulations. They may make it possible, but they never insure it. Possession may be an incident, but seldom is a cause.
If we follow this thought further we shall find that in the accepted methods of accumulation arise many of the causes of current misery and unhappiness. Generally he who is said to succeed pays a price, and a large one, for the prosperity he achieves. To be conspicuously successful commonly involves a degree of selfishness that is almost surely damaging. Often injustice and unfairness are added to the train of factors, and dishonesty and absence of decency give the finishing touch. Every dollar tinged with doubt is a moral liability. If it has been wrested from its rightful owner through fraud or force of opportunity, it would better be at the bottom of the sea.
The power and practical irresponsibility of money have ruined many a man, and the misuse of wealth has left unused immense opportunity for good. It has coined a word that has become abhorrent, and “Capitalism” has, in the minds of the suspicious, become the all-sufficient cause of everything deplorable in human conditions. No true-hearted observer can conclude that the first consideration of life should be wealth. On the other hand, no right-minded person will ignore the desirability and the duty of judiciously providing the means for a reasonable degree of comfort and self-respect, with a surplus for the furtherance of human welfare in general, and the relief of misfortune and suffering. Thrift is a virtue; greed is a vice. Reasonable possession is a commendable and necessary object. The unrestrained avarice that today is making cowards of us all is an unmeasured curse, a world-wide disgrace that threatens civilization.