On Being Human eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 21 pages of information about On Being Human.

But how?  By what means is this self-liberation to be effected—­ this emancipation from affection and the bondage of being like other people?  Is it open to us to choose to be genuine?  I see nothing insuperable in the way, except for those who are hopelessly lacking in a sense of humor.  It depends upon the range and scale of your observation whether you can strike the balance of genuineness or not.  If you live in a small and petty world, you will be subject to its standards; but if you live in a large world, you will see that standards are innumerable—­some old, some new, some made by the noble-minded and made to last, some made by the weak-minded and destined to perish, some lasting from age to age, some only from day to day—­and that a choice must be made among them.  It is then that your sense of humor will assist you.  You are, you will perceive, upon a long journey, and it will seem to you ridiculous to change your life and discipline your instincts to conform with the usages of a single inn by the way.  You will distinguish the essentials from the accidents, and deem the accidents something meant for your amusement.  The strongest natures do not need to wait for these slow lessons of observation, to be got by conning life:  their sheer vigor makes it impossible for them to conform to fashion or care for times and seasons.  But the rest of us must cultivate knowledge of the world in the large, get our offing, reaching a comparative point of view, before we can become with steady confidence our own masters and pilots.  The art of being humans begins with the practice of being genuine, and following standards of conduct which the world has tested.  If your life is not various and you cannot know the best people, who set the standards of sincerity, your reading at least can be various, and you may look at your little circle through the best books, under the guidance of writers who have known life and loved the truth.

IV

And then genuineness will bring serenity—­which I take to be another mark of the right development of the true human being, certainly in an age passionate and confused as this in which we live.  Of course serenity does not always go with genuineness.  We must say of Dr. Johnson that he was genuine, and yet we know that the stormy tyrant of the Turk’s Head Tavern was not serene.  Carlyle was genuine (though that is not quite the first adjective we should choose to describe him), but of serenity he allowed cooks and cocks and every modern and every ancient sham to deprive him.  Serenity is a product, no doubt, of two very different things, namely, vision and digestion.  Not the eye only, but the courses of the blood must be clear, if we would find serenity.  Our word “serene” contains a picture.  Its image is of the calm evening when the stars are out and the still night comes on; when the dew is on the grass and the wind does not stir; when the day’s work is over, and the evening meal, and

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On Being Human from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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