To secure the most complete development one must live in one’s time and yet live above it, and one must also live in one’s home and yet live, at the same time, in the world. The life which is bounded in knowledge, interest, and activity by the invisible but real and limiting walls of a small community is often definite in aim, effective in action, and upright in intention; but it cannot be rich, varied, generous, and stimulating. The life, on the other hand, which is entirely detached from local associations and tasks is often interesting, liberalising, and catholic in spirit; but it cannot be original or productive. A sound life—balanced, poised, and intelligently directed—must stand strongly in both local and universal relations; it must have the vitality and warmth of the first, and the breadth and range of the second.
This liberation from provincialism is not only one of the signs of culture, but it is also one of its finest results; it registers a high degree of advancement. For the man who has passed beyond the prejudices, misconceptions, and narrowness of provincialism has gone far on the road to self-education. He has made as marked an advance on the position of the great mass of his contemporaries as that position is an advance on the earlier stages of barbarism. The barbarian lives only in his tribe; the civilised man, in the exact degree in which he is civilised, lives with humanity. Books are among the richest resources against narrowing local influences; they are the ripest expositions of the world-spirit. To know the typical books of the race is to be in touch with those elements of thought and experience which are shared by men of all countries. Without a knowledge of these books a man never really gets at the life of localities which are foreign to him; never really sees those historic places about which the traditions of civilisation have gathered. Travel is robbed of half its educational value unless one carries with him a knowledge of that which he looks at for the first time with his own eyes. No American sees England unless he carries England in his memory and imagination. Westminster Abbey is devoid of spiritual significance to the man who is ignorant of the life out of which it grew, and of the history which is written in its architecture and its memorials. The emancipation from the limitations of locality is greatly aided by travel, but it is accomplished only by intimate knowledge of the greater books.
The Unconscious Element.