The reason so few people succeed in life is because it is so easy to do. Achievement follows one’s use of attention. He who believes that the bringing of an ever better future to pass is a weird, arduous task, only makes it so. He musters courage as if to conquer Mount Everest, when it is the ruts in his own little road he needs to conquer. In this 230 page ebook spiritual psychologist David Seabury provides the reader with many time-tested suggestions to help build a solid, successful future and avoid the pitfalls that lead to failure and disappointment.
Dr. David Seabury (1885-1960), famed psychologist, spent his life striving to help individuals fulfill their responsibilities and discover how to get more out of living. Fortunately, he also wrote beautifully and left us several great books. He was the son of the eminent Horatio W. Dresser but chose to use his mother's maiden name.
Throughout his colorful career as a spiritual psychologist Dr David Seabury's writings and lectures have had a profound impact on the American way of life. He consistently emphasizes the necessity of the individual recognizing his complex nature. Man is an emotional, mental, and spiritual being, and unless, and until he recognizes these three aspects of his nature and discovers how to have them harmonize with each other, difficulties will be encountered.
by paying close
these three factors, nurturing them, and carefully controlling them, a
self-mastery can be achieved which will open up a wonderful new
1. THE SECRET OF GOOD FORTUNE
2. THE ART OF LIVING NOW
3. FUTURES WORTH HAVING
4. THE ROAD TO RUIN
5. CONDUCT AS A CRAFT
6. PLAN, PLEASE!
7. THROW OFF FALSE VALUES
8. READJUST YOUR EXPECTANCY
9. FUTILITY SPELLS FAILURE
10. ADAPT TODAY
11. KEEPING THE PAST FROM THE PRESENT
12. WHAT ARE YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES?
13. DEBUNK YOUR INHERITED ATTITUDES
14. THE FEAR OF DESIRE
15. DESIGNING YOUR LIFE
16. SUGGESTION STRATEGY
17. YOU ARE THE KEY TO TOMORROW
18. ADVANCE EFFORT
19. METAPHYSICS AND COMMON SENSE
20. CONCERNING THE WILL
21. ESTABLISHING A MOMENTUM22. A WAY TO WIN
AS LONG as we live, the future is coming to pass. There it is, a promise or a specter. To one man it brings joy and the realization of his dreams–to another, tragedy.
All your life you have seen such futures happening. Years ago, some intimate of yours gave evidence of splendid possibilities. Now he is a broken man, sick and discredited. An acquaintance you believed had little promise is wealthy and revered. How did it happen?
No question is more important than this, none upon which you and I need more light. Here we are, working at our tasks, trying to save a little money, giving what love we have to our intimates, and hoping, always hoping, for a better tomorrow.
But suppose we are working, saving, struggling to no avail? We need to do something about tomorrow NOW. What if we discover, years from now, that ignorance of certain laws and the neglect of important methods compromised our efforts and left us disappointed? That is our fear.
You can’t build the future in the future. You can only plan for it by constructive programs and positive actions today. There is now something for you to take, and something for you to give. Your giving may be only a courteous attention to another man’s ideas, but that is something–in fact, much. When this act of giving and taking is wisely repeated you learn not only that you can produce a constantly unfolding life, but how–which is to some point.
We must be ready to meet the ever changing scene. Surely this has always been true. Does not the art of planning one’s future begin with alert interest in how to overcome the obstacles of today? Tomorrow is new. New ways are necessary in the now if we are to be ready for the time to come.
Suppose, instead of living in this century, you were a primitive man trying to lift a massive stone, tearing your bleeding fingers. Suppose someone came along with a crowbar, crying “Here, I’ve a lever, I’ll pry the rock out for you.” What would you do: go on tugging, or stand back and let him use his bar?
If you saw him accomplish the task with ease would you let the man go away, leaving you to struggle with other rocks, or would you ask him how such levers work? Suppose that then, after you had learned all about this easier way of moving rocks, you dis-covered this stranger used other methods new to you. He could move things around on what he called “wheels.” He knew how to harness a waterfall and make it work for you. He could hollow out a log so that, in it, you could travel with ease on the water. Wouldn’t you become a little excited and want to find out more of what he knew?
I have been excited a good many years now over what seems to me a most amazing fact. The discovery of how to control matter, to make physical life easier, came to mankind slowly. Insight into how a like transformation may take place in a man’s handling of his own life has come in one generation. Most people are not yet aware of it. Few realize what has been happening, for millions are toiling greedily and fighting bitterly everywhere. They know that science and mechanics have made over the face of the earth. They do not know that psychology and its sister sciences are making a like change for man’s handling of his own nature.
Yet, in spite of this fact I hate “success books.” I sympathize with those critics who open such a volume with the feeling that “here is another attempt to mind my business.” There is nothing wrong in the desire to help others. I do not dislike the idea of someone showing me better ways of living. But I refuse to be constantly admonished.
If a man has spent years in chemistry or astronomy we do not feel that our independence is interfered with if he reports on his experience in research. When an explorer, returned from the Peruvian jungle, describes his adventures, no one protests, not even though one may conceivably have been there too. What people object to, I believe, is the idea that they are unable to think out their own problems. And yet, this is a very different civilization from that of our forefathers. Changes have come with great rapidity. Education in the art of living has not kept pace with environmental transitions.
It is hard to reach people’s minds in a world of such hurry, worry and strain, a fact which may explain from another angle the “style” of even the most sincere of the “self-help” books. How often do people separate serious effort–that done in the spirit of modern science–from the jim-crack attempts to teach you how to trick fortune? I don’t know. I am frankly puzzled about this question of trying, through the written word, to help people. Should the aim be to reach every one or to write for the chosen few? Between the Scylla of culture and the Charybdis of practicality, the channel is narrow indeed. Form and language must touch primary responses in the reader’s mind; otherwise, if he reads at all, he merely admires, commends, and returns to his old harmful habits because the electric switch of emotional purpose has not been touched.
Recently, much to my confusion, a top-notcher in advertising advised me to use the very admonitions I hate. We were finishing dinner when he demanded, “Do you know what century you are living in?”
“I always thought I did,” I answered.
“Do you think in the same century you live in?” he pursued.
“Think in it?”
“Yes, think in its terms, do things in a way consistent with its experiences. Lots of advice given people these days is put in the same form which Marcus Aurelius used for Roman minds when chariots clattered down the streets and books were scrawled on papyrus. Now, you’re not living in that age. Airplanes, radio, newspapers, a million influences have speeded things up. We men in advertising have learned that if we want to communicate with people we must do so in a way consistent with the life they lead. Look here, you speak about designing one’s own future. That’s a matter of having good plans, isn’t it, and getting yourself to see what to do?”
“Why, certainly,” I agreed.
“Well, if you want people to listen, mustn’t you try for the same, rapid-fire effect we use in selling a new car? ‘Synchronized gear shift–just feel her glide–you stop at the touch of the velvet brake.’ They hear us warning them about vitamins A, B, C, D. People plan their personal life in tune with these everyday impressions, so I don’t agree with your fear of practical phrases. I’d like you to get some new slogans for us all to live by. They should be just as impelling as those emblazoned by the commercial world. We sell toothpaste by pointing a finger, shouting Four Out Of Five, picturing an open mouth with bleeding gums. You fellows must cry: ‘Put Your Life in Order Or You’ll Go Insane–breakdowns are packing our asylums. Stop Rushing–heart failure is waiting for you. Psychic Germs Crawl Everywhere–learn to protect yourself against emotional infections. Mental Malnutrition Is Starving Men’s Minds. Millions Fail From Psychic Anemia. Don’t Accept a Diet of Old Ideas and Musty Morals. Demand Fresh Food for Your Thought. You writers of psychology can’t succeed by retaining the literary flavor of the Dark Ages. If you buggy-ride your way into tomorrow the world will pass you in its new V-8.”
“I don’t want to be sensational,” I objected, shaking my head. “I don’t like the way you fellows are hounding people to buy this, that, and the other worthless object.”
“No, you don’t like it, but the same people you want to help are being screamed at by our advertisements. You can’t get a whisper across in a mad uproar. You have valuable information that shows how men could live more happily. But they don’t know, it; they can’t hear your stuff because you refuse to make a loud enough noise.”<>“So,” I said irritably, “you want me to shout:
DARE TO BE YOURSELF
DON’T PERMIT COMPROMISE
USE STRATEGY TO PROTECT YOUR
DESIGN YOUR OWN FUTURE
BUILD ONLY ON YOUR OWN PLANS
DON’T BECOME A PSYCHIC SLAVE
IMAGINATION IS MAGIC WHEN YOU
ARE ITS MASTER
VISUALIZE TOMORROW, THEN ACT TO
MAKE THE PICTURE LIVE
MAKE YOUR DESTINY OR IT UNMAKES
“Are these the sort of slogans you want?” I added, out of breath.
“Well, why not? Aren’t they true?”
“You bet they are.”
“Don’t they stick in your mind, this way? In one of your books you gave a description of directing and empowering the will which should transform any man’s life. You put it all in quiet, dignified words, stated calmly, at some length. One person in a hundred thousand would read that dissertation. Now suppose you’d said, instead:
‘‘‘Will is powerless without action patterns. Make clear designs of what you want to do. Make pictures in your brain for your future conduct to follow. Repeat the same picture until it sticks. Habit is master or slave. Make a practice of mental imagery. Your brain is your theater. Make movies of tomorrow on your screen of thought.’
“Now, I’ll wager that a hundred persons to every one who got your ideas before would get them put in this new way.”
“Yes,” I shot back, “and every lover of literature from here to Hooeyton would jump on me and bemoan the passing of a reticent style.”
“Maybe, maybe,” he admitted, “but which is better: for reticence to pass or people to go mad and commit suicide because they don’t know the truths which you and other psychologists could tell them? Your job, as I see it, is to get your ideas over and take the consequences. If you’re criticized, well . . .”
However wise this advice may be–to put what one has to say in the spirit and tone of this century–the essential truths of how to plan your own future were nearly as well known two thousand years ago as they are today. Truth is never new. Even airplanes fly in obedience to ancient principles.
I would like to emphasize also that there is no magic by which tomorrow is made into certain joy. I have no platitudes of plenty or promises of ecstatic poise. I can sing you no lullabies while the drums beat and the riot grows. I can only help you to direct yourself into some semblance of fortitude, some habits of sanity, some conservation of strength, some return to reason; that you may play your best part in the present turmoil and win whatever place is constructive and forward-looking in the great tomorrow.
For sometimes, when I see the appalling misery around me, the failure, sickness and suicide, I feel, indeed, like shouting down all the streets, “It doesn’t need to be. There is a way. Your life can be set free. Happiness, achievement, a better future is possible.” Of course, cynics would only think, “He’s hipped on psychology.”
But isn’t it tragic that millions suffer on, battered about by fate, when if they only knew and would believe it, a miracle could come to pass in their own lives? Isn’t it tragic, too, that if you have enthusiasm for the new discoveries and an ardent desire to help put them across many people will think you foolishly extreme?
If, fifty years ago, anyone had said that man would soon travel from Los Angeles to New York in the brief time of the last transcontinental flight, he would have been called foolishly extravagant. Would you have listened, at the turn of the century, to prophecies of the radio?
Call me a visionary if you will, I still insist that nowadays knowledge of how to plan your own future can free your life of hardship just as remarkably as mechanics has liberated your physical experience. We do not, by any means, understand the whole art of fashioning a human life, but we know enough to turn discouragement into confidence, grief into happiness, failure into success–and that’s a start, you’ll admit.
The Secret of Good Fortune
YOU can have what you want if you know how to get it. A simple statement, you tell me,–too obvious to discuss. And yet, belief in it has changed the face of life and shaped the destiny of nations. Those peoples who thought that what they had was all they could ever have stayed for centuries in a primitive state. Those who were convinced that they could make life easier and happier transformed their surroundings as the effort to find a way produced results.
This belief–that you can have what you want if you know how to get it–is the single most important attitude either a nation or an individual can have.
As long as the Australian aborigines believed that caves and camp-fires were all the comfort a man could have, they made no effort to secure better conditions. Had humanity continued to believe that lightning was the fireworks of God and electricity useless, dynamos would never have been made. Without belief there is no effort. We remain handicapped just as long as we think our obstacles inevitable. We do almost nothing to bring about a better tomorrow if we think the attempt is futile anyhow. If we accept the limitations that now trouble us, we shall learn little about how the improvements of life are brought to pass.
Shall we, like savages, leave our minds alone, do nothing to sharpen our wits toward the more efficient handling of experience? The dolt does nothing to develop himself. The bushman still makes fire by rubbing sticks; you turn the switch of your electric stove. It will be his fate to rub sticks all his days if he never looks beyond that way of fire-making. It will be your fate to have the same old troubles–anxiety over money, arguments with your wife, worries concerning your children, disappointment in your position–unless you learn how to change your fate.
It isn’t mere good luck to have a telephone at hand to call the doctor or arrange for a game of golf. One Alexander Bell did something, years ago, to facilitate the problem of communication. It isn’t fortune that brought an amusing radio program into your home. One Guglielmo Marconi had a hand in giving you that pleasure. Nor was it chance that the Magna Carta was signed, our Constitution drawn, or your daughter saved from dying for want of sunlight on her body. Her little tanned back is a privilege that was denied the girls of two centuries ago. Men have fought for her freedom, her health, her happier fate. Belief led them to strive for human betterment. Had they let the ignorance and prejudice of our forefathers remain, your offspring might still “go into a decline.”
Nor is this contrast between servitude and conquest found only in the physical aspects of life. You aren’t afraid of witchcraft. You don’t, if your baby dies unbaptized, think of her in an eternal hell because you couldn’t get to church with her before the end. You don’t whip your adolescent daughter when she’s interested in boys, or revile her for sexual capacity. The efforts of many consecrated men and women have won for her a new fate, a better destiny than came to Abigail Plymouth, her bonneted forebear.
If you believe there is a way to get what you want by learning how to secure it, you will organize your efforts to that end, seeking for a more intelligent command over things, events, and yourself. Only the moron who lets his mind alone, wallowing in the ignorance of his ancestors, needs to remain a victim of their limitations. The line between manhood and supine stupidity lies here.
Let us look at five men in an identical situation. One lives in a mountain cabin, and about him feuds have raged for years. His religion, morals, outlook on life, are all narrow, literal and primitive. Another grew to manhood in the slums. His father was a gangster, his mother a woman of the streets. He has their attitudes and ideals. A third is the son of an arrogant, austere conservative, a descendant of the witch-baiters of old, proud and sardonic. His ideas were set a century ago. A fourth is a happy-go-lucky fellow whose father was a poet of sorts, and something of an artist. He has wandered to the four winds and thinks of life as a joke. The fifth man had just as poor a start. He was an immigrant with little background and no education. His name was Joseph Pulitzer. He rose to become a great editor and a constructive influence in American culture.
But how? He believed that gaining a better future was, first of all, a matter of knowing how to gain it. Understanding of the way to live, what to take from his environment and what to give to the people and the tasks in his experience seemed to him far more important than having money, brains, or the advantages of high position.
He held the same attitude toward life that characterizes a great scientist or a successful engineer. He treated the problem of winning a brighter future than was his at birth as a matter for thoughtful, organized effort.
Failure came to the mountaineer because his superstitions denied him mental freedom. His attitude was a cramped acceptance of fate. Failure came to the slum boy because he believed life was what society had made it appear. His attitude was one of trying to cheat his way ahead. The son of the aristocrat became so frozen an intellectual he could not also become a man. His attitude made him stand aloof from good fortune. He thought it his by right and would make no move to earn happiness. The poet’s son enjoyed his indolence and, like many another vagabond, drifted to nowhere in particular.
Among the five, only Joseph Pulitzer won a better tomorrow. Note, however, that nothing physical marked the contrasts of these men. Brains played some part. But suppose all five had been adopted as infants by, let us say, Lincoln’s mother, and had grown up in her cabin, under her influence. Would the difference in brains, money, position, then have been as significant? Were not their attitudes toward life the true cause of success or failure in these five men?
Statistics show that, in most cases, it isn’t fate that blocks a man’s progress. It isn’t even himself. It is the attitudes he has taken on. These are no more the man than the clothes he wears; but, as if in shoes so tight he cannot walk, his progress is delayed by ways of doing that bind, pinch and constrict his power.
You may have become dissatisfied and blame destiny because fortune has seemed to pass you by. But probably you haven’t stopped to see why good-luck runs the other way when you approach. Possibly it makes you angry when someone suggests that your troubles cannot all be blamed on the unwillingness of other people to help you out. You may hate books which discuss methods of success and you may contest ideas loosely called psychological. If you fail, well–you cry–it’s your own privilege, and no one needs to point out what you could have done or how you could have done it, that would have led to a happier conclusion.
At one time or another many of us have risen in righteous wrath to point out what strenuous efforts we were making. Literally we were straining to the last nerve for that future dreamed of in the past. But there are other things besides laziness that destroy a man’s achievement. Certainly we were not lazy. Concerning the part a man plays in determining his own future, an advocate of the newer ideas is not necessarily pointing a finger at anyone’s personal failings. Quite the contrary. We who spend our days presenting the facts of the human sciences are sure that faults of character are not as much the cause of people’s difficulties as they themselves suppose. They contest our ideas, expecting condemnation from them. Yet thousands of cynics who believe the psychology of achievement is only sentimental tush, themselves indulge in tirades about our moral delinquencies, denouncing human nature in words that would make our Puritan forefathers seem brothers to Freud himself.
From the cynic’s point of view, our ancestors did not breed a people greatly superior to the apes. The cynics delight to elevate dogs above their immediate associates and sometimes defend cats as superior to the women in their lives. To the cynic, the future of no one is worth worrying about since he doesn’t deserve as good a fate as the worst he is likely to get.
All such discussions, common as they are in club and office, are quite beside the point. The modern psychologist is neither giving civilization a sheepskin of praise, nor denying that we may sometimes become pessimistic as to the intelligence and character-worth of our fellow men. Few settings are what they ought to be; fewer people angelic, or in the genius class. For all that, most of us should not trace our thwarted ambitions to either of these limitations. Men can, and do, win good futures for themselves with no more brains, as little virtue, and as great circumstantial obstacles as any of us have possessed.
But how? That is what we rush to ask. Why do some individuals push ahead to splendid accomplishments while others, no less gifted, remain in the same drab circumstances where they began the struggle? The answer lies in the frames of mind the achievers brought to their relation between the self and its setting. A point of view is neither part of a man’s character nor an objective factor in his situation. It is something between himself and his circumstances, quite as an overcoat is neither part of his body nor yet part of the wind that, but for it, might give him goose-flesh and the sniffles. His clothes are on his body. His attitudes are on his mind. Good clothes and good attitudes are essential to health and to accomplishment.
When custom put the feet of Chinese girls in such thongs that they could hardly toddle, when the style of the Victorian era bound a woman’s waist to such wasplike dimensions that she could only sit around the house like a potted lily and feared pregnancy like a plague, you couldn’t exactly admire what the fashions were doing to her body. Pale maidens of the past who swooned and languished and became wrinkled old women at forty were quite of the same blood as our sports-loving, tanned young matrons of today, with their free swinging arms and legs. Yes, even of the same biological strains as the radiant charmers of sixty-odd years who sprinkle powder and rouge about the landscape.
The change comes from a new attitude about clothing which permits natural, suitable dress and normal ways of living. For indeed attitudes, good or bad, precede all the progress or failure humanity makes. We do not create our destiny, but our achievement within that destiny is determined by the attitudes with which we meet it. Fate may stand like a specter in some lives and smile like an angel in others, but it is far more likely to smile when we are in a constructive frame of mind.
Not five per cent of humanity understands the word “practical.” They believe that a frenzied concern with things, about pennies and purchases, is essential to practicality. A man’s attitudes they ignore, yet advocate such a burdening of his mind with the thousand details of an average setting that his mental storehouse looks like a New England attic. Concern with attitudes is subjective, they scoff, akin to mystical theories. So they go on breaking down from overwork and wondering why their vaunted practicality brings such meager results. At this point, if caught up, they must find an explanation. Therefore failings of character, or faults of fortune seem logical causes. Yet even splendid abilities and the finest of opportunities would have been compromised by the attitudes brought to the situation.
When people believed that bathing was unholy, was it fate or foolishness that favored their diseases? When Athenian matrons lived so as never to see the sun, or Oriental “untouchables” felt themselves doomed to donkey driving, what blocked their future–nature or nonsense? If the chromosomes of a low-caste man in India had endowed him with the genius of an Aristotle, would he ever have been able to realize his future as long as the attitude of an outcast condemned him to the level of toil and degradation? If, as an infant, he had come to believe his lot fixed and absolute, it would have been fixed and absolute, but not otherwise. There might have been social resistances to his advancement if he had stayed in his birth setting and struggled there to elevate himself, but nothing in natural destiny denied him his future. The attitudes which bound his mind would alone be the cause of his imprisonment.
Nor are your limitations any less easily traced to whatever frames of mind you, as deluded by your parents and the customs in which they ignorantly trained you, have come to accept as inevitable. What made them right or holy? We give to our constricting attitudes an awful reverence. Not otherwise can we bear them. Not otherwise could our moral mentors have been sure to bind our brains successfully. We were taught to believe our chains essential to our virtue. Hence we fear freedom and contend the cutting of thongs as fervently as those first Chinese girls who shuddered to think of the consequences of having normal feet.
Consider the temerity of a taboo-worshiping savage who dares to cross the tribal line, to trespass over which is forbidden by the will of his god. Think how impotent his own human will when it has surrendered its vigor in the worship of a constricting belief. Think of the fearful toll that attitudes have taken, since time was, from the natural energy and power of a man’s volition. And in contrast think of the pent-up possibilities for a future that will fulfill our ambitions and satisfy our dreams, once we accept the importance of discarding such fetters. Ridigity of thought means torpor of the will.
The art of living consists in knowing what to take and what to give; how to gain and how to use creative powers. Fear of one’s right to life, taboos against it, foolish beliefs that enslave us in obligations make failure inevitable. You cannot exercise your judgment as to what is right for you to take nor yet know what is your duty or your joy to give if constricting prejudices stand in the way. A boy whose mother holds him in filial bondage is not free to live, grow or succeed after his own nature. Life is denied him save as it is filtered through the pattern of her biases.
Satisfaction, then, fulfillment, depends on your belief in freedom, for not otherwise can you secure what is yours in the come and go of experience. Every moment of your life is full of opportunity to give and to receive. Many influences play upon you. Many demands are made upon you and there are countless things in any setting you do not want or need to take. Failure, breakdown, madness results from too frenzied an attempt to give what you have not, do what you cannot, depriving yourself at the same time of what you need and should take, while often striving after what is worthless and should be neglected.
The art of giving and taking, then, is indeed the secret of intelligent living, a veritable key to happiness. Consider with me any ordinary life–that, for example, of Edwin Brewer. You aren’t acquainted with him but you know ten other men so like him that I might be describing any one of them. Edwin was not a success, he was not a failure. He got along with the other men in his office. His salary was not large, nor too small for his family to live on with comfort in Stogville Heights. At times there was some worry over money, when the doctor’s bills ran up, for a year or so. Edwin didn’t hate his work, but then, he didn’t like it. He’d have preferred gold mining in Alaska–at least he thought he would, knowing little of the hardship involved.
Edwin took out on his family the frustration he felt in his career. You soon learned that he was the head of the household, and Mrs. Brewer kept up the illusion, even when they were alone. It was more comfortable that way. His male arrogance didn’t bother her except when he came down too hard on Junior, or interfered with running the house. There was not much romance between them, but no undue friction either.
Could you have penetrated the masquerade in which Edwin lived, seen below his pretense of power into the confused despair of the man, how great the contrast between his outward manner and his actual emotion! Embarrassed, nervous, he felt inadequate for every aspect of his life. Confidence was only a compensation for doubt, doubt of himself, of everything. He clung to his work, his marriage and his home, empty as they were, because–well–there was nothing else to do. He had never known how to live or how to make life any better than chance let it become.
Every life has its privileges and its obligations. Reduced to simple terms, there are things that belong to us, that we have a right to take, and duties we must fulfill, things we must give. He who from childhood knows how to upbuild his life with whatever develops and enriches it, insures his future as certainly as it is possible for one to do. He who has learned what is rightly to be expected of him establishes his human relations harmoniously.
Edwin, in his nervous way, often took from others what he had no right to possess: privacy from his wife, freedom from his children. His ego in its uncertainty broke into their play, their conversation, oppressed their purposes and destroyed their poise. Nor did he give them the love they needed, the sustainment or protection. They knew him only as a provider of food, clothing and shelter, a doer of routine deeds.
He could have pointed to scores of obligations discharged, to money earned and bills paid. “See,” he could have said, “I do what is expected of me.” And in his work the same drab picture appeared. He performed his work patiently, faithfully, continually–and that was all. He gave it dutiful attention but none of the creative interest the task required. Nor was there any likelihood that things could change, for Edwin did not know much of giving and taking, in work, in love, or in life.
Failure starts in infancy when no one teaches us how to gain what is necessary to health, vigor and purpose. Failure comes when we are ignorant of what to do and how to give ourselves with wisdom and fervor. Nor is this a principle of human life only. Every plant that achieves maturity brings each day of its future to pass by taking the moisture, sunlight, nitrogen and humus it needs. It must reach for them or die. It gives us nothing if it has taken nothing. It gives, too, according to its kind, from blades of grass to perfumed blossoms and ripened fruits. The art of taking and giving according to its nature is the secret of its life. It is no less so with yours.
In every situation there are things, valuables, loves, knowledges, powers that you can take. In each event and all environment there are things, sympathies, attentions, thoughts you can give. Only as both these aspects of your relation to experience are developed can you attain a successful future, or even protect the present. For some part of every setting you are in belongs to you. Something from you is demanded quite as essentially. If you do not learn to discover what is yours in your contacts with experience, your will weakens, your mind starves, your body sickens, your spirit wanes. Your future becomes inauspicious and unhappy.
Likewise, if you do not learn what to give of yourself and from within yourself, of love and wisdom, of service and stimulus, for coöperation and security, your friends withdraw, your intimates languish, your life loses its security and your future becomes an empty husk.
The secret, then, isn’t only a matter of knowing what to take and what to give, but how to take and how to give, on the basis of your own endowments. You’ve been taught to give what was demanded of you, to take what your class, sex, or situation permitted. That way lies ruin. For centuries women were given meager privileges. They died under abject privations. Then they rebelled, organized a “woman’s movement” and took their place in life as human beings. There had been no future for them so long as they believed their place was in the home as the sexual plaything of man. There is no future for you so long as you accept your particular bondage.
In fact, until you reject the many false standards by which you were reared, and write a new Magna Carta of personal liberty, there is no future for you worth bothering about. Take what nature offers you, what nature says you need, whether human ignorance and petty platitudes agree or not. Give only what is natural for you to give, and do only what is true and healthful for your organism, no matter what decadent dogmas stand in the way. Discard, now and forever, those artificial and inane ideas that compromise your future, else nobody can keep you from following other failures, suicides, paralytics and the insane. You may not come to their end, but the one you get won’t be pleasant.
Realize that in every situation there are things you can take without injuring anyone’s natural and true privilege of life. First on the list is your personal freedom. Second, the right to your own ideas. Third, the privilege of being yourself, of doing no duty whatsoever that is contrary to the normal expression of that self. And if, along with this, you take all the joy you can get out of comradeship, sunshine, food, a swim, or a dance, or the million other delights that free men know, then you’ll not be so badly off–while able to become a great giver of joy and goodness to all who come near you.