It is all in the using of what you have. Let me repeat again what I have said in a previous paper—the inscription which Doc Peets inscribed on the headboard of Jack King, whose previousness furnished “Wolfville” with its first funeral:
“JACK KING, DECEASED.
Life ain’t the holding of a good hand,
The playing of a poor hand well.”
And this is nothing more than our frontier statement of the parable of the talents. After all, it is not what we have, but what we make out of what we have that counts in this world of work. And, what’s more, that is the only thing that ought to count.
THE NEW HOME
Your father made the old home. Prove yourself worthy of him by making the new home. He built the roof-tree which sheltered you. Build you a roof-tree that may in its turn shelter others. What abnormal egotism the attitude of him who says, “This planet, and all the uncounted centuries of the past, were made for me and nobody else, and I will live accordingly. I will go it alone.”
“I wish John had not married so young,” said a woman of wealth, fashion, and brilliant talents in speaking of her son. “Why, how old was he?” asked her friend. “Twenty-five,” said she; “he ought to have waited ten years longer.” “I think not,” was the response of the world-wise man with whom she was conversing. “If he got a good wife he was in great luck that he did not wait longer.” “No,” persisted the mother, “he ought to have taken more time ‘to look around.’ These early marriages interfere with a young man’s career.”
This fragment of a real conversation, which is typical of numberless others like it, reveals the false and shallow philosophy which, if it becomes our code of national living, will make the lives of our young people abnormal and our twentieth century civilization artificial and neurotic. Even now too many people are thinking about a “career.” Mothers are talking about “careers” for their sons. Young men are dreaming of their “careers.”
It is assumed that a young man can “carve out his career” if his attention is not distracted and his powers are not diminished by a wife and children whom he must feed, clothe, and consider. The icy selfishness of this hypothesis of life ought to be enough to reject it without argument. Who is any man, that he should have a “career”? and what does a “career” amount to, anyway? What is it for? Fame? Surely not, because
“Imperious Caesar dead
and turned to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away,”
says Shakespeare. And Shakespeare ought to know; he is not quite three centuries dead, and even now the world is sadly confused as to whether he wrote Shakespeare. “Career!” Let your “career” grow out of the right living of your life—not the living of your life grow out of your “career.” “Don’t get the cart before the horse.”