A reaction sets in between Christmas and the New Year. It is inevitable; and I should be writing basely if I did not devote to it a full chapter. In those few dark days of inactivity, between a fete and the resumption of the implacable daily round, when the weather is usually cynical, and we are paying in our tissues the fair price of excess, we see life and the world in a grey and sinister light, which we imagine to be the only true light. Take the case of the average successful man of thirty-five. What is he thinking as he lounges about on the day after Christmas?
His thoughts probably run thus: “Even if I live to a good old age, which is improbable, as many years lie behind me as before me. I have lived half my life, and perhaps more than half my life. I have realised part of my worldly ambition. I have made many good resolutions, and kept one or two of them in k more or less imperfect manner. I cannot, as a commonsense person, hope to keep a larger proportion of good resolutions in the future than I have kept in the past. I have tried to understand and sympathise with my fellow creatures, and though I have not entirely failed to do so, I have nearly failed. I am not happy and I am not content. And if, after all these years, I am neither happy nor content, what chance is there of my being happy and content in the second half of my life? The realisation of part of my worldly ambition has not made me any happier, and, therefore, it is unlikely that the realisation of the whole of my ambition will make me any happier. My strength cannot improve; it can only weaken; and my health likewise. I in my turn am coming to believe—what as a youth I rejected with disdain—namely, that happiness is what one is not, and content is what one has not. Why, then, should I go on striving after the impossible? Why should I not let things slide?”
Thus reflects the average successful man, and there is not one of us, successful or unsuccessful, ambitious or unambitious, whose reflections have not often led him to a conclusion equally dissatisfied. Why should I or anybody pretend that this is not so?