« AnkstesnisTęsti »
Color-Tone, engraved for THE CENTURY, by H. Davidson and H. C. Merrill
"LOOK AT THE SUN BLAZING THERE AMONG THE PEAKS...
I TELL YOU, HE WILL BURN AS WE PLEASE AND
members on each occasion. The method of proportional representation was adopted, and the voter might also write upon his voting paper in a specially marked space the name of any of his representatives that he wished to recall. ruler was recallable by as many votes as the quota by which he had been elected, and the original members by as many votes in any constituency as the returning quotas in the first election. Upon these conditions the council submitted itself very cheerfully to the suffrages of the world. None of its members was recalled, and its fifty new associates, which included twenty-seven that it had seen fit to recommend, were of an altogether too miscellaneous quality to disturb the broad trend of its policy.
But already by that time the work of the council was drawing to an end. It was concerned not so much for the continuation of its construction as for the preservation of its accomplished work from the dramatic instincts of the politician.
we should as soon think of fighting over the arrangement of the parts of a machine. We know nowadays that such things go on best within laws as life goes on between earth and sky. And so it is that government gathers now for a day or so in each year under the sunshine of Brissago when the asphodel is in flower and does little more than bless the work of its committees. And even these committees are less originative and more expressive of the general thought than they were at first. It becomes difficult to mark out the particular directive personalities of the world. Continually we are less personal. Every good thought contributes now, and every able brain falls within that informal and dispersed kingship which gathers together into one purpose the energies of the race.
The life of the race becomes, indeed, more and more independent of the formal government. The council in its opening phase was heroic in spirit: a dragon-slaying body, it slashed out of existence a vast knotted tangle of obsolete ideas and clumsy and jealous proprietorships; by a noble system of institutional precautions it secured freedom of inquiry, freedom of criticism, free communications, a common basis of education and understanding, and freedom from economic oppression. With that its creative task was accomplished. It became more and more an established security and less and less an active intervention. There is nothing in our time to correspond with the continual petty making and entangling of laws in an atmosphere of contention that is perhaps the most perplexing aspect of constitutional history in the nineteenth century. In that age they seem to have been perpetually making laws when we should alter regulations. The work of change which we delegate to these scientific committees of specific general direction that have the special knowledge needed, and which are themselves dominated by the broad intellectual process of the community, was in those days inextricably mixed up with legislation. They fought over the details;
IT is doubtful if we shall ever see again a phase of human existence in which "politics," that is to say, a partizan interference with the ruling sanities of the world, will be the dominant interest among serious men. We seem to have entered upon an entirely new phase in history in which contention, as distinguished from rivalry, has almost abruptly ceased to be the usual occupation, and has become at most a subdued and hidden and discredited thing. Contentious professions cease to be an honorable employment for men. The peace between nations is also a peace between individuals. We live in a world that comes of age. Man the warrior, man the lawyer, and all the bickering aspects of life, pass into obscurity; the grave dreamers, man the curious learner, and man the creative artist come forward to replace these barbaric aspects of existence by a less ignoble adventure.
THE NATURAL INSTINCT OF MAN TO CREATE
THERE is no natural life of man. He is and always has been a sheath of varied and and even incompatible possibilities, a palimpsest of inherited dispositions. It was the habit of many writers in the early twentieth century to speak of competition and the narrow, private life of trade and saving and suspicious isolation as though
such things were in some exceptional way proper to the human constitution, and as though openness of mind and a preference for achievement over possession were abnormal and rather unsubstantial qualities. How wrong that was the history of the decades immediately following the establishment of the world republic witnesses. Once the world was released from the hardening insecurities of a needless struggle for life that was collectively planless and individually absorbing, it became apparent that there was in the vast mass of people a long-smothered passion to make things. The world broke out into making, and at first mainly into esthetic making. This phase of history, which has been not inaptly termed the "efflorescence," is still to a large extent with us. The majority of our population consists of artists, and the bulk of activity in the world lies no longer with necessities, but with their elaboration, decoration, and refinement. There has been an evident change in the quality of this making during recent years. It becomes more purposeful than it was, losing something of its first elegance and prettiness and gaining in intensity; but this is a change rather of hue than of nature. That comes with a deepening philosophy and a sounder education. For the first joyous exercises of fancy we perceive now the deliberation of a more constructive imagination. There is a natural order in these things, and art comes before science as the satisfaction of more elemental needs must come before art, and as play and pleasure come in a human life before the development of a settled purpose.
For thousands of years this gathering impulse to creative work must have struggled in man against the limitations imposed upon him by his social ineptitude. It was a long-smoldering fire that flamed out at last in all these things. The evidence of a pathetic, perpetually thwarted urgency to make something is one of the most touching aspects of the relics and records of our immediate ancestors. There exists still in the death area about the London bombs a region of deserted small homes that furnish the most illuminating comment on the old state of affairs. These homes are entirely horrible, uniform, square, squat, hideously proportioned, uncomfortable, dingy, and in some
respects quite filthy. Only people in complete despair of anything better could have lived in them; but to each is attached a ridiculous little rectangle of land called "the garden," containing usually a prop for drying clothes, a loathsome box of offal, the dust-bin, full of egg-shells, cinders, and such-like refuse. It is possible to trace in nearly every one of these gardens some effort to make. Here is a poor little plank summer-house, here it is a "fountain of bricks and oyster-shells," here a "rockery," here a "workshop." And in the houses everywhere there are pitiful little decorations, clumsy models, feeble drawings. feeble drawings. These efforts are almost incredibly inept; like the drawings of blindfolded men, they are only one shade less harrowing to a sympathetic observer than the scratchings one finds upon the walls of old prisons; but there they are, witnessing to the poor buried instincts that struggled up toward the light. That god of joyous expression our poor fathers ignorantly sought our freedom has declared to us.
In the old days the common ambition of every simple soul was to possess a little property, a patch of land, a house uncontrolled by others, an "independence," as the English used to put it. And what made this desire for freedom and prosperity so strong was very evidently the dream of self-expression, of doing something with it, of playing with it, of making a personal delightfulness, a distinctiveness. Property was never more than a means to an end, or avarice more than a perversion. Men owned in order to do freely. Now that every one has his own apartments and his own privacy secure, this disposition to own has found its release in a new direction. Men study and save and strive that they may leave behind them a series of panels in some public arcade, a row of carven figures along a terrace, a grove, a pavilion. Or they give themselves to the penetration of some still opaque riddle in phenomena, as once men gave themselves to the accumulation of riches. The work that was once the whole substance of social existence-for most men spent all their lives in earning a living-is now no more than was the burden upon one of those old climbers who carried knapsacks of provisions on their backs in order that they might ascend
mountains. It matters little to the easy charities of our emancipated time that most people have made their labor contribution produce neither new beauty nor new wisdom, but are simply busy about those pleasant activities and enjoyments that reassure them that they are alive. They help, it may be, by reception, and they hinder nothing.
portion of a life and another upon a religious, conversion was a standing example of the versatile possibilities of human nature.
Now all this phase of gigantic change in the contours and appearances of human life which is going on about us-a change as rapid and as wonderful as the swift ripening of adolescence to manhood after the barbaric boyish years, is correlated with moral and mental changes at least as unprecedented. It is not as if old things were going out of life and new things coming in; it is rather that the altered circumstances of men are making an appeal to elements in his nature that have hitherto been suppressed, and checking tendencies that have hitherto been overstimulated and overdeveloped. He has not so much grown and altered his essential being as turned new aspects to the light. Such turnings round into a new attitude the world has seen on a less extensive scale before. The Highlanders of the seventeenth century, for example, were cruel and bloodthirsty robbers; in the nineteenth their descendants were conspicuously trusty and honorable men. There was not a people in western Europe in the early twentieth century that seemed capable of hideous massacres, and none that had not been guilty of them within the previous two centuries. The free, frank, kindly, gentle life of the pros-. perous classes in any European country before the years of the last wars were in a different world of thought and feeling from that of the dingy, suspicious, secretive, and uncharitable existence of the respectable poor, or the constant personal violence, the squalor, and the naïve passions of the lowest stratum. Yet there was no real differences of blood and inherent quality between these worlds; their differences were all in circumstances, suggestion, and habits of mind. And turning to more individual instances, the constantly observed difference between one
The catastrophe of the atomic bombs which shook men out of cities and businesses and economic relations, shook them also out of their old established habits of thought, and out of the lightly held beliefs and prejudices that came down to them from the past.
The moral shock of the atomic bombs had been a profound one, and for a while the cunning side of the human animal was overpowered. Men thought twice before they sought mean advantages in the face of the unusual eagerness to realize new aspirations, and when at last the weeds revived again and "claims" began to sprout, they sprouted upon the stony soil of law-courts reformed, of laws that pointed to the future instead of the past, and under the blazing sunshine of a transforming world.
A NEW literature, a new interpretation of history, is springing into existence; a new teaching is already in the schools, a new faith in the hearts of the young.
I see the crystal cup of human knowledge perpetually brimming. I see the fires of human thought rise from ten thousand altars of research, and flare out into the wilderness of space. I see the time when men will no longer be content with this little conquered planet.
I know not by what devices, by what miracle of patience, the method will be won, but I know that they will go out into the deeps. I can see those first pioneers, the little craft dwindle up into the sky, glittering, twinkling, a speck swallowed up at last by the quivering blue. They may be lost, but other men will follow them in this eternal adventure of mankind.
Look at the sun blazing there among the peaks, too blinding almost for our eyes. See how he touches the mountaintops and how they dissolve into fire at his touch. Some day, I tell you, he will burn as we please and spin at our command. He will be our servant, our convenience, our instrument. He will be the fire before our door, the light of our first home as we spread out our power and our blood farther and farther amidst the stars.