Whether in little ways or in great ways, it is stupid and useless to expect to gain real strength, unless we are working in obedience to the laws that govern its development. We have a faculty for distinguishing order from disorder and harmony from discord, which grows in delicacy and strength as we use it, and we can only use it through refusing disorder and choosing order. As our perception grows, we choose more wisely, and as we choose more wisely, our perception grows. But our perceptions must work in causes, not at all in effects, except as they lead us to a knowledge of causes. We must, above all, train our wills as a means of useful work. It is impossible to perfect ourselves for the sake of ourselves.
It is a happy thing to have been taught the right use of the will as a child, but those of us who have not been so taught, can be our own fathers and our own mothers, and we must be content with a slow growth. We are like babies learning to walk. The baby tries day after day, and does not feel any strain, or wake in the morning with a distressing sense of “Oh! I must practise walking to-day. When shall I have finished learning?” He works away, time after time falling down and picking himself up, and some one day finally walks, without thinking about it any more. So we, in the training of our wills, need to work patiently day by day; if we fall, we must pick ourselves up and go on, and just as the laws of balance guide the baby, so the laws of life will carry us.
When the baby has succeeded in walking, he is not elated at his new power, but uses it quietly and naturally to accomplish his ends. We cannot realize too strongly that any elation or personal pride on our part in a better use of the will, not only obstructs its growth, but is directly and immediately weakening.
A quiet, intelligent use of the will is at the root of all character; and unselfish, well-balanced character, with the insight which it develops, will lead us to well-balanced nerves.
TO sum it all up, the nerves are conductors for impression and expression. As channels, they should be as free as Emerson’s “smooth hollow tube,” for transmission from without in, and from within out. Thus the impressions will be clear, and the expressions powerful.
The perversions in the way of allowing to the nerves the clear conducting power which Nature would give them are, so far as the body is concerned, unnecessary fatigue and strain caused by not resting entirely when the times come for rest, and by working with more than the amount of force needed to accomplish our ends,—thus defying the natural laws of equilibrium and economy. Not only in the ways mentioned do we defy these most powerful laws, but, because of carelessness in nourishment and want of normal exercise out of doors, we make the establishment of such equilibrium impossible.