The Quest of the Simple Life eBook

William Johnson Dawson
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 147 pages of information about The Quest of the Simple Life.

’My objection to your new mode of life is that it is entirely self-centred.  There is no projection of yourself into other lives.  You are contributing nothing to the common stock of moral effort.  You are simply marooned.  It alters nothing that you have marooned yourself under conditions that please and content you.  I think that if I were marooned upon the fairest island of the Southern Seas, where I had but to bask in the sunshine and stretch out my hand to find delightful food, there would be still something in my lot which I should find intolerable.  I should spend my days upon the island’s loftiest crag, watching for a sail.  The thought of a thousand ships not far away, rushing round the globe, with throb of piston, crack of cordage, strain of timber, buffeting of waves, and shouting crews, would drive me distracted.  What to me were blue skies and soft winds when I might be sharer in this elemental strife?  How should I covet, in all this adorable and detested beauty of my solitary isle, the grey skies that looked on human effort, the violent wind, the roaring waves, the muscles cracking at the capstan, the strong exhilaration of peril, effort, conflict, and the glory of hourly contiguity with death!  It was so Ulysses felt: 

  How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
  To rust unburnished, not to shine in use.

It was so he resolved

  To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
        * * * * *
  To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

You will not question that the sentiment is manly.  Is there not then something that is unmanly in the opposite sentiment?  Or, to be plain, my friend, is it not lack of courage which has driven you from us, lack of heroic temper, lack of that divine and primitive instinct which takes a “frolic welcome” in the “thunder and the sunshine,” in the conflict and the stress of life?

’I believe that we are bound to be the losers by any wilful separation from our kind.  This was the case with the mediaeval monks and ascetics; they lost far more than they gained from their separation from the common life of the people.  It is the same still with very rich folk who are able to evade the harsh conscription of life; in evading the conscription of life they invariably deteriorate in physical and mental fibre.  I can conceive nothing more ruinous to a young man than that he should have just enough money to make the toil for bread unnecessary.  More lives have been spoiled by competence than by poverty; indeed, I doubt whether poverty has any effect at all upon a strong character, except as a stimulus to exertion.  Life being what it is, we should take it as we find it:  we gain nothing by going out of our way to find an easier path.  The beaten road is safest.  The man who boldly says, “Let me know the fulness of life; let me taste all that it has to present of vicissitude, joy, sorrow, labour,

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The Quest of the Simple Life from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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