On Being Human eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 25 pages of information about On Being Human.
Some seem written with knowledge of the black art, set our base passions aflame, disclose motives at which we shudder—­the more because we feel their reality and power; and we know that this is of the devil, and not the fruitage of any quality that distinguishes us as men.  We are distinguished as men by the qualities that mark us different from the beasts.  When we call a thing human we have a spiritual ideal in mind.  It may not be an ideal of that which is perfect, but it moves at least upon an upland level where the air is sweet; it holds an image of man erect and constant, going abroad with undaunted steps, looking with frank and open gaze upon all the fortunes of his day, feeling even and again—­

“...the joy Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime Of something far more deeply interfused.  Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns.  And the round ocean and the living air, And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:  A motion and a spirit, that impels All thinking things.”

Say what we may of the errors and the degrading sins of our kind, we do not willingly make what is worst in us the distinguishing trait of what is human.  When we declare, with Bagehot, that the author whom we love writes like a human being, we are not sneering at him; we do not say it with a leer.  It is in token of admiration, rather.  He makes us like our humankind.  There is a noble passion in what he says, a wholesome humor that echoes genial comradeships; a certain reasonableness and moderation in what is thought and said; an air of the open day, in which things are seen whole and in their right colors, rather than of the close study or the academic class-room.  We do not want our poetry from grammarians, nor our tales from philologists, nor our history from theorists.  Their human nature is subtly transmuted into something less broad and catholic and of the general world.  Neither do we want our political economy from tradesmen nor our statesmanship from mere politicians, but from those who see more and care for more than these men see or care for.


Once—­it is a thought which troubles us—­once it was a simple enough matter to be a human being, but now it is deeply difficult; because life was once simple, but is now complex, confused, multifarious.  Haste, anxiety, preoccupation, the need to specialize and make machines of ourselves, have transformed the once simple world, and we are apprised that it will not be without effort that we shall keep the broad human traits which have so far made the earth habitable.  We have seen our modern life accumulate, hot and restless, in great cities—­and we cannot say that the change is not natural:  we see in it, on the contrary, the fulfillment of an inevitable law of change, which is no doubt a law of growth, and not of decay.  And yet we look upon the portentous thing with a great distaste, and doubt with what altered passions we

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On Being Human from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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