Try to convince a man that it is better on all accounts that he should keep his hands clean and he might answer, “Yes, I appreciate that; but I have never thought of my hands, and to keep them clean would make me conscious of them.” Try to convince an unselfishly-selfish or selfishly-unselfish person that the right care for one’s self means greater usefulness to others, and you will have a most difficult task. The man with dirty hands is quite right in his answer. To keep his hands clean would make him more conscious of them, but he does not see that, after he had acquired the habit of cleanliness, he would only be conscious of his hands when they were dirty, and that this consciousness could be at any time relieved by soap and water. The selfishly-unselfish person is right: it is most pernicious to care for one’s self in a self-centred spirit; and if we cannot get a clear sense of wholesome care of self, it is better not to care at all.
With a perception of the need for such wholesome care, would come a growing realization of the morbidness of all self-centred care, and a clearer, more definite standard of unselfishness. For the self-centred care takes away life, closes the sympathies, and makes useful service obnoxious to us; whereas the wholesome care, with useful service as an end, gives renewed life, an open sympathy, and growing power for further usefulness.
We do not need to study deeply into the laws of health, but simply to obey those we know. This obedience will lead to our knowing more laws and knowing them better, and it will in time become a very simple matter to distinguish the right care from the wrong, and to get a living sense of how power increases with the one, and decreases with the other.
OUR RELATIONS WITH OTHERS
EVERY one will admit that our relations to others should be quiet and clear, in order to give us freedom for our work. Indeed, to make these relations quiet and happy is the special work that some of us have to do. There are laws for health, laws for gaining and keeping normal nerves, laws for honest, kindly action toward others,—but the obedience to all these is a dead obedience, and does not lead to vigorous life, unless accompanied by a hearty love for work and play with those to whom we stand in natural relations,—both young and old. It is with life as it is with art, what we do must be done with love, or it will have no force. Without the living spark of love, we may have the appearance, but never the spirit, of useful work or quiet content. Stagnation is not peace, and there can be no life, and so no living peace, without happy relations with those about us.
The more we realize the practical strength of the law which bids us love our neighbor as ourselves, and the more we act upon it, the more quickly we gain the habit of pleasant, patient friendliness, which sooner or later may beget the same friendliness in return. In this kind of friendly relation there is a savor which so surpasses the unhealthy snap of disagreement, that any one who truly finds it will soon feel the fallacy of the belief that “between friends there must be a little quarrelling, to give spice to friendship.”