On Being Human eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 25 pages of information about On Being Human.
can an insatiable mind.  No doubt the highest form of this noble curiosity is that which leads us, without self-interest, to look abroad upon all the field of man’s life at home and in society, seeking more excellent forms of government, more righteous ways of labor, more elevating forms of art, and which makes the greater among us statesmen, reformers, philanthropists, artists, critics, men of letters.  It is certainly human to mind your neighbor’s business as well as your own.  Gossips are only sociologists upon a mean and petty scale.  The art of being human lifts to be a better level than that of gossip; it leaves mere chatter behind, as too reminiscent of a lower stage of existence, and is compassed by those whose outlook is wide enough to serve for guidance and a choosing of ways.


Luckily we are not the first human beings.  We have come into a great heritage of interesting things, collected and piled all about us by the curiousity of past generations.  And so our interest is selective.  Our education consists in learning intelligent choice.  Our energies do not clash or compete:  each is free to take his own path to knowledge.  Each has that choice, which is man’s alone, of the life he shall live, and finds out first or last that the art in living is not only to be genuine and one’s own master, but also to learn mastery in perception and preference.  Your true woodsman needs not to follow the dusty highway through the forest nor search for any path, but goes straight from glade to glade as if upon an open way, having some privy understanding with the taller trees, some compass in his senses.  So there is the subtle craft in finding ways for the mind, too.  Keep but your eyes alert and your ears quick, as you move among men and among books, and you shall find yourself possessed at last of a new sense, the sense of the pathfinder.  Have you never marked the eyes of a man who has seen the world he has lived in:  the eyes of the sea-captain, who has watched his life through the changes of the heavens; the eyes of the huntsman, nature’s gossip and familiar; the eyes of the man of affairs, accustomed to command in moments of exigency?  You are at once aware that they are eyes which can see.  There is something in them that you do not find in other eyes, and you have read the life of the man when you have divined what it is.  Let the thing serve as a figure.  So ought alert interest in the world of men and thought to serve each one of us that we shall have the quick perceiving vision, taking meanings at a glance, reading suggestions as if they were expositions.  You shall not otherwise get full value of your humanity.  What good shall it do you else that the long generations of men which have gone before have filled the world with great store of everything that may make you wise and your life various?  Will you not take the usury of the past, if it may be had for the taking?  Here is the world humanity has made:  will you take full citizenship in it, or will you live in it as dull, as slow to receive, as unenfranchised, as the idlers for whom civilization has no uses, or the deadened toilers, men or beasts, whose labor shuts the door on choice?

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On Being Human from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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