WHEN we face the matter squarely and give it careful thought, it seems to appear very plainly that the one thing most flagrantly in the way of the people of to-day living according to plain common sense—spiritual common sense as well as materia—is the fact that we are all living in a chronic state of excitement. It is easy to prove this fact by seeing how soon most of us suffer from ennui when “there is not anything going on.” It seems now as if the average man or woman whom we see would find it quite impossible to stop and do nothing—for an hour or more. “But,” some one will say, “why should I stop and do nothing when I am as busy as I can be all day long, and have my time very happily full?” Or some one else may say, “How can I stop and do nothing when I am nearly crazy with work and must feel that it is being accomplished?”
Now the answer to that is, “Certainly you should not stop and do nothing when you are busy and happily busy;” or, “Although your work will go better if you do not get ‘crazy’ about it, there is no need of interrupting it or delaying it by stopping to do nothing—but you should be able to stop and do nothing, and to do it quietly and contentedly at. any time when it might be required of you.”
No man, woman, or child knows the power, the very great power, for work and play—there is with one who has in the background always the ability to stop and do nothing.
If we observe enough, carefully enough, and quietly enough, to get sensitive to it, we can see how every one about us is living in excitement. I have seen women with nothing important to do come down to breakfast in excitement, give their orders for the day as if they were about running for a fire; and the standard of all those about them is so low that no one notices what a human dust is stirred up by all this flutter over nothing.
A man told me not long ago that he got tired out for the day in walking to his office with a friend, because they both talked so intensely. And that is not an unusual experience. This chronic state of strain and excitement in everyday matters makes a mental atmosphere which is akin to what the material atmosphere would be if we were persistently kicking up a dust in the road every step we took. Every one seems to be stirring up his own especial and peculiar dust and adding it to every one else’s especial and peculiar dust.
We are all mentally, morally and spiritually sneezing or choking with our own dust and the dust of other people. How is it possible for us to get any clear, all-round view of life so long as the dust stirring habit is on us? So far from being able to enlarge our horizon, we can get no horizon at all, and so no perspective until this human dust is laid. And there is just this one thing about it, that is a delight to think of: When we know how to live