At the basis of reverence is respect; and reverence is respect amplified and sublimated. A boy must be either dull or heedless who can look at a bird sailing in the air for five minutes and not become surcharged with curiosity to know how it can do it. His curiosity must lead him to an examination of the wing of a bird, and his scrutiny will reveal it as a marvelous bit of mechanism. The adjustment and overlapping of the feathers will convince him that it presents a wonderful design and a no less wonderful adaptation of means to ends. He sees that when the bird is poised in the air the wing is essentially air-tight and that when the bird elects to ascend or descend the feathers open a free passage for the air. Even a cursory examination of the bird’s wing must persuade the boy that, with any skill he might attain, he could never fabricate anything so wonderful. This knowledge must, in the nature of things, beget a feeling of respect, and thereafter, whenever the boy sees a bird, he will experience a resurgence of this feeling.
Some one has said, “Everything is infinitely high that we can’t see over,” and because the boy comes to know that he cannot duplicate the bird’s wing it becomes infinitely high or great to him and so wins his respect. To the boy who has been taught to think seriously, the mode of locomotion of a worm or a snake is likewise a marvel, and he observes it with awe. The boy who treads a worm underfoot gives indisputable evidence that he has never given serious thought to its mode of travel. Had he done so, he would never commit so ruthless an act. The worm would have won his respect by its ability to do a thing at which he himself would certainly fail. He sees the worm scaling the trunk of a tree with the greatest ease, but when he essays the same task he finds it a very difficult matter. So he tips his cap figuratively to the worm and, in boyish fashion, admits that it is the better man of the two. And never again, unless inadvertently, will he crush a worm. Even a snake he will kill only in what he conceives to be self-defense.
An American was making his first trip to Europe. On the way between the Azores and Gibraltar the ship encountered a storm of great violence. For an hour or more the traveler stood on the forward deck, watching the titanic struggle, feeling the ship tremble at each impact of the waves, and hearing the roar that only a storm at sea can produce. Upon returning to his friends he said, “Never again can I speak flippantly of the ocean; never again can I use the expression, ‘crossing the pond.’ The sea is too vast and too sublime for that.” He had achieved reverence. Many a child in school can spell the name of the ocean and give a book definition rather glibly, who, nevertheless, has not the faintest conception of what an ocean really is. The tragedy of the matter is that the teacher gives him a perfect