On Being Human eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 25 pages of information about On Being Human.
view shall have no part in carrying men forward to a true humanity, shall never stand as examples of the true humankind.  What is truly human has always upon it the broad light of what is genial, fit to support life, cordial, and of a catholic spirit of helpfulness.  Your true human being has eyes and keeps his balance in the world; deems nothing uninteresting that comes from life; clarifies his vision and gives health to his eyes by using them upon things near and things far.  The brute beast has but a single neighborhood, a single, narrow round of existence; the gain of being human accrues in the choice of change and variety and of experience far and wide, with all the world for stage—­a stage set and appointed by this very art of choice—­all future generations for witnesses and audience.  When you talk with a man who has in his nature and acquirements that freedom from constraint which goes with the full franchise of humanity, he turns easily with topic to topic; does not fall silent or dull when you leave some single field of thought such as unwise men make a prison of.  The men who will not be broken from a little set of subjects, who talk earnestly, hotly, with a sort of fierceness, of certain special schemes of conduct, and look coldly upon everything else, render you infinitely uneasy, as if there were in them a force abnormal and which rocked toward an upset of the mind; but from the man whose interest swings from thought to thought with the zest and poise and pleasure of the old traveler, eager for what is new, glad to look again upon what is old, you come away with faculties warmed and heartened—­with the feeling of having been comrade for a little with a genuine human being.  It is a large world and a round world, and men grow human by seeing all its play of force and folly.


Let no one suppose that efficiency is lost by such breadth and catholicity of view.  We deceive ourselves with instances, look at sharp crises in the world’s affairs, and imagine that intense and narrow men have made history for us.  Poise, balance, a nice and equable exercise of force, are not, it is true, the things the world ordinarily seeks for or most applauds in its heroes.  It is apt to esteem that man most human who has his qualities in a certain exaggeration, whose courage is passionate, whose generosity is without deliberation, whose just action is without premeditation, whose spirit runs toward its favorite objects with an infectious and reckless ardor, whose wisdom is no child of slow prudence.  We love Achilles more than Diomedes, and Ulysses not at all.  But these are standards left over from a ruder state of society:  we should have passed by this time the Homeric stage of mind—­should have heroes suited to our age.  Nay, we have erected different standards, and do make a different choice, when we see in any man fulfillment of our real ideals.  Let a modern instance serve as test.  Could any man hesitate

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On Being Human from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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