Getting Married eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 213 pages of information about Getting Married.
that the insanity may be privileged, as Savonarola’s was up to the point of wrecking the social life of Florence, does not alter the case.  We always hesitate to treat a dangerously good man as a lunatic because he may turn out to be a prophet in the true sense:  that is, a man of exceptional sanity who is in the right when we are in the wrong.  However necessary it may have been to get rid of Savonarola, it was foolish to poison Socrates and burn St. Joan of Arc.  But it is none the less necessary to take a firm stand against the monstrous proposition that because certain attitudes and sentiments may be heroic and admirable at some momentous crisis, they should or can be maintained at the same pitch continuously through life.  A life spent in prayer and alms giving is really as insane as a life spent in cursing and picking pockets:  the effect of everybody doing it would be equally disastrous.  The superstitious tolerance so long accorded to monks and nuns is inevitably giving way to a very general and very natural practice of confiscating their retreats and expelling them from their country, with the result that they come to England and Ireland, where they are partly unnoticed and partly encouraged because they conduct technical schools and teach our girls softer speech and gentler manners than our comparatively ruffianly elementary teachers.  But they are still full of the notion that because it is possible for men to attain the summit of Mont Blanc and stay there for an hour, it is possible for them to live there.  Children are punished and scolded for not living there; and adults take serious offence if it is not assumed that they live there.

As a matter of fact, ethical strain is just as bad for us as physical strain.  It is desirable that the normal pitch of conduct at which men are not conscious of being particularly virtuous, although they feel mean when they fall below it, should be raised as high as possible; but it is not desirable that they should attempt to live above this pitch any more than that they should habitually walk at the rate of five miles an hour or carry a hundredweight continually on their backs.  Their normal condition should be in nowise difficult or remarkable; and it is a perfectly sound instinct that leads us to mistrust the good man as much as the bad man, and to object to the clergyman who is pious extra-professionally as much as to the professional pugilist who is quarrelsome and violent in private life.  We do not want good men and bad men any more than we want giants and dwarfs.  What we do want is a high quality for our normal:  that is, people who can be much better than what we now call respectable without self-sacrifice.  Conscious goodness, like conscious muscular effort, may be of use in emergencies; but for everyday national use it is negligible; and its effect on the character of the individual may easily be disastrous.


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Getting Married from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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