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- Essays On Work And Culture - 15/15 -

of self-consciousness. No man of conscience can do easily and instinctively that which he knows he cannot do well. The worker must have, therefore, the serenity which comes from confidence in the adequacy of his preparation. A man can even fail with a clear conscience, if he has taken every precaution against the possibility of failure. Adequate training being assumed, a man must cultivate the habit of self-surrender. This is sometimes difficult, but it is rarely, if ever, impossible.

To take a further illustration from the experience of the speaker, who is, perhaps, as often as any other kind of worker, burdened and limited at the start by self-consciousness: it is entirely possible to lose consciousness of self for the time in the theme or the occasion. Assuming that the preparatory work has been thorough, a man can train himself to fasten his thought entirely on his subject and his opportunity. If his theme is a worthy one and he has given adequate thought or research to it, he can learn to forget himself and his audience in complete surrender to it. Companionship with truth invests a man with a dignity which ought to give him poise and serenity; which will give him calmness and effectiveness if he regards himself as its servant and messenger. An ambassador is held in great honour because of the power which he represents; a man who is dealing in any way with truth or beauty has a right to repose in the greatness and charm of that for which he stands. This transference of interest from the outcome of a personal effort to the sharing of a vision or the conveyance of a power has often made the stammerer eloquent and the timid spirit heroically indifferent to self. The true refuge of the artist is absorption in his art; the true refuge of the self-conscious worker is complete surrender to the dignity and interest of his work.

Chapter XXV


If the conception of man's relation to the world set forth in these chapters is sound, work is the chief instrumentality in the education of the human spirit; for it involves both self-realisation and the adjustment of self to the order of life. Through effort a man brings to light all that is in him, and by effort he finds his place in the universal order. Work is his great spiritual opportunity, and the more completely he expresses himself through it the finer the product and the greater the worker. There is an essential unity between all kinds of work, as there is an essential continuity in the life of the race. The rudest implements of the earliest men and the divinest creations of the greatest artists are parts of the unbroken effort of humanity to bring into clear consciousness all that is in it, and all that is involved in its relationship with the universe. The spiritual history of the race is written in the blurred and indistinct record of human energy and creativeness, made by the hands of all races, in all times, in every kind of material. Work has emancipated, educated, developed, and interpreted the human spirit; it has made man acquainted with himself; it has set him in harmony with nature; and it has created that permanent capital of force, self-control, character, moral power, and educational influence which we call civilisation.

Work has been, therefore, not only the supreme spiritual opportunity, but the highest spiritual privilege and one of the deepest sources of joy. It has been an expression not only of human energy but of the creativeness of the human spirit. By their works men have not only built homes for themselves in this vast universe, but they have co-operated with the divine creativeness in the control of force, the modification of conditions, the fertilisation of the earth, the fashioning of new forms.

In his work man has found God, both by the revelation of what is in his own spirit and by the discovery of those forces and laws with which every created thing must be brought into harmony. The divine element in humanity has revealed itself in that instinct for creativeness which is always striving for expression in the work of humanity; that instinct which blindly pushes its way through rudimentary stages of effort to the possession of skill; slowly transforming itself meanwhile into intelligence, and flowering at last in the Parthenon, the Cathedral at Amiens, the Book of Job, Faust, Hamlet, the Divine Comedy, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, Wagner's Parsifal, Rembrandt's portraits. This ascent of the spirit of man out of the mysterious depths of its own consciousness to these sublime heights of achievement is the true history of the race; the history which silently unfolds itself through and behind events, and makes events comprehensible. In the sweat of his brow man has protected and fed himself; but this has been but the beginning of that continuous miracle which has not only turned deserts into gardens and water into wine, but has transformed the uncouth rock into images of immortal beauty, and the worker from the servant of natural conditions and forces into their master. Men still work, as their fathers did before them, for shelter and bread; but the spiritual products of work have long since dwarfed its material returns. A man must still work or starve in any well-ordered society; but the products of work to-day are ease, travel, society, art,-- in a word, culture. In that free unfolding of all that is in man and that ripening of knowledge, taste, and character, which are summed up in culture, work finds its true interpretation. A man puts himself into his work in order that he may pass through an apprenticeship of servitude and crudity into the freedom of creative power. He discovers, liberates, harmonises, and enriches himself. Through work he accomplishes his destiny; for one of the great ends of his life is attained only when he makes himself skilful and creative, masters the secrets of his craft and pours his spiritual energy like a great tide into his work. The master worker learns that the secret of happiness is the opportunity and the ability to express nobly whatever is deepest in his personality, and that supreme good fortune comes to him who can lose himself in some generous and adequate task.

The last word, however, is not task but opportunity; for work, like all forms of education, prophesies the larger uses of energy, experience, and power which are to come when training and discipline have accomplished their ends and borne their fruit.

Essays On Work And Culture - 15/15

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