In order to sympathize with the best possibilities in others, our own standards must be high and clear, and we must be steadily true to them. Such sympathy is freedom itself,—it is warm and glowing,—while the sympathy which adds its weight to the pain or selfishness of others can really be only bondage, however good it may appear.
IN proportion as every organ of the human body is free to perform its own functions, unimpeded by any other, the body is perfectly healthy and vigorous; and, in proportion as every organ of the body is receiving its proper support from every other, the body as a whole is vigorous, and in the full use of its powers.
These are two self-evident axioms, and, if we think of them quietly for a little while, they will lead us to a clear realization of true personal independence.
The lungs cannot do the work of the heart, but must do their own work, independently and freely; and yet, if the lungs should suddenly say to themselves:
“This is all nonsense,—our depending upon the heart in this way; we must be independent! It is weak to depend upon the other organs of the body!” And if they should repel the blood which the heart pumped into them, with the idea that they could manage the body by themselves, and were not going to be weakly dependent upon the heart, the stomach, or any other organ,—if the lungs should insist upon taking this independent stand, they would very soon stop breathing, the heart would stop beating, the stomach would stop digesting, and the body would die. Or, suppose that the heart should refuse to supply the lungs with the blood necessary to provide oxygen; the same fatal result would of course follow. Or, even let us imagine all the organs of the body agreeing that it is weak to be dependent, and asserting their independence of each other. At the very instant that such an agreement was carried into effect, the body would perish.
Then, on the other hand,—to reverse the illustration,—if the lungs should feel that they could help the heart’s work by attending to the circulation of the blood, if the heart should insist that it could inhale and exhale better than the lungs, and should neglect its own work in order to advise and assist the lungs in the breathing, the machinery of the body would be in sad confusion for a time, and would very soon cease altogether.
This imaginary want of real independence in the working of the different organs of the body can be illustrated by the actual action of the muscles. How often we see a man working with his mouth while writing, when he should be only using his hands; or, working uselessly with his left hand, when what he has to do only needs the right! How often we see people trying to listen with their arms and shoulders! Such illustrations might be multiplied indefinitely, and, in all cases, the false sympathy of contraction in the parts of the body which are not needed for the work in hand comes from a wrong dependence,—from the fact that the pats of the body that are not needed, are officiously dependent upon those that are properly active, instead of minding their own affairs and saving energy for their own work.