To live at real peace with ourselves, we must surely let every little evil imp of selfishness show himself, and not have any skulking around corners. Recognize him for his full worthless-ness, call him by his right name, and move off. Having called him by his right name, our severity with ourselves for harboring him is unnecessary. To be gentle with ourselves is quite as important as to be gentle with others. Great nervous suffering is caused by this over-severity to one’s self, and freedom is never accomplished by that means. Many of us are not severe enough, but very many are too severe. One mistake is quite as bad as the other, and as disastrous in its effects.
If we would regard our own state less, or careless whether we were happy or unhappy, our freedom from self would be gained more rapidly.
As a man intensely interested in some special work does not notice the weather, so we, if we once get hold of the immense interest there may be in living, are not moved to any depth by changes in the clouds of our personal state. We take our moods as a matter of course, and look beyond to interests that are greater. Self may be a great burden if we allow it. It is only a clear window through which we see and are seen, if we are free. And the repose of such freedom must be beyond our conception until we have found it. To be absolutely certain that we know ourselves at any time is one great impediment to reaching such rest. Every bit of self-knowledge gained makes us more doubtful as to knowledge to come. It would surprise most of us to see how really unimportant we are. As a part of the universe, our importance increases just in proportion to the laws that work through us; but this self-importance is lost to us entirely in our greater recognition of the laws. As we gain in the sensitive recognition of universal laws, every petty bit of self-contraction disappears as darkness before the rising of the sun.
Work for the better progress of the human race is most effective when it is done through the children; for children are future generations. The freedom in mature life gained by a training that would enable the child to avoid nervous irritants is, of course, greatly in advance of most individual freedom to-day. This real freedom is the spirit of the kindergarten; but Frobel’s method, as practised to-day, does not attack and put to rout all those various nervous irritants which are the enemies of our civilization. To be sure, the teaching of his philosophy develops such a nature that much pettiness is thrown off without even being noticed as a snare; and Frobel helps one to recognize all pettiness more rapidly. There are, however, many forms of nervous irritation which one is not warned against in the kindergarten, and the absence of which, if the child is taught as a matter of course to avoid them, will give him a freedom that his elders and betters (?) lack. The essential fact of this training is that it is only truly effectual when coming from example rather than precept.