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- Essays On Work And Culture - 5/15 -

degree of freedom in consequence, that the keys of all doors are open to them. We call such men masters, not to suggest subjection to them, but as an instinctive recognition of the fact that they have secured emancipation from the limitations from which most men never escape. In a world given over to apprenticeship these heroic spirits have attained the degree of mastership. They have not been carried to commanding positions by happy tides of favourable circumstance; they have not stumbled into greatness; they have attained what they have secured and they hold it by virtue of superior intelligence, skill, and power. They possess more freedom than their fellows because they have worked with finer insight, with steadier persistence, and with more passionate enthusiasm. They are masters because they are free; but their freedom was bought with a great price.

Chapter VIII

The Larger Education

The old idea that the necessity of working was imposed upon men as a punishment is responsible, in large measure, for the radical misunderstanding of the function and uses of work which has so widely prevailed. In the childhood of the world a garden for innocence to play in secured the consummation of all deep human longings for happiness; but there is a higher state than innocence: there is the state to which men attain through knowledge and trial. Knowledge involves great perils, but it is better than innocuous ignorance; virtue involves grave dangers, but it is nobler than innocence. Character cannot be secured if choice between higher and lower aims is denied; and without character the world would be meaningless. There can be no unfolding of character without growth, and growth is inconceivable without the aid of work. The process of self- expression through action is wrought, therefore, into the very structure of man's life; it is not a penalty, but a spiritual opportunity of the highest order. It is the most comprehensive educational process to which men are subjected, and it has done more, probably, than all other processes to lift the moral and social level of the race.

Instead of being a prison, the workshop has been a place of training, discipline, and education. The working races have been the victorious races; the non-working races have been the subject races. Wandering peoples who trust to what may be called geographical luck for a living often develop strong individual qualities and traits, but they never develop a high degree of social or political organisation, nor do they produce literature and art. The native force of imagination which some semi-civilised races seem to possess never becomes creative until it is developed and directed by training. Education is as essential to greatness of achievement in any field as the possession of gifts of genius. An untrained race, like an untrained man, is always at an immense disadvantage, not only in the competition of the world, but in the working out of individual destiny. The necessity for work is so far from being a penalty that it must be counted the highest moral opportunity open to men, and, therefore, one of the divinest gifts offered to the race. The apparent freedom of nomadic peoples is seen, upon closer view, to be a very hard and repulsive bondage; the apparent servitude of working peoples is seen to be, upon closer view, an open road to freedom.

There is no real freedom save that which is based upon discipline. The chance to do as one pleases is not liberty, as so many people imagine; liberty involves knowledge, self-mastery, capacity for exertion, power of resistance. Emerson uncovered the fundamental conception when he declared that character is our only definition of freedom and power. Now, character is always the product of an educational process of some kind; its production involves tests, trials, temptations, toils. It does not represent innocence, but that which is higher and more difficult of attainment, virtue. Innocence is the starting-point in life; virtue is the goal. Between these two points lies that arduous education which is effected, for most men, chiefly by and through work. In comparison with the field, the shop, the factory, the mine, and the sea, the school has educated a very inconsiderable number; the vast majority of the race have been trained by toil. On the farm, in the innumerable factories, in offices and stores, on sea-going craft of all kinds, and in the vast field of land transportation, the race, as a rule, has had its education in those elemental qualities which make organised society possible. When the race goes to its work in the morning, it goes to its school; and the chief result of its toil is not that which it makes with its hands, but that which it slowly and unconsciously creates within itself. It is concerned with the product of its toil; with soil, seed, or grain; with wood, paper, metal, or stone; with processes and forces; but in the depths of the worker's nature there is a moral deposit of habit, quality, temper, which is the invisible moral result of his toil. The real profit of a day's work in the world can never be estimated in terms of money; it can be estimated only in terms of character.

The regularity, promptness, obedience, fidelity, and skill demanded in every kind of work, skilled or unskilled, compels the formation of a certain degree of character. No worker can keep his place who does not develop certain moral qualities in connection with his work. Honesty, truthfulness, sobriety, and skill are essential to the most elementary success,--the getting of the bare necessities of life; and these fundamental qualities, upon which organised society rests as on an immovable foundation, are the silent deposit of the work of the world. Through what seems to be the bondage of toil the race is emancipated from the ignorance, the licence, and the dull monotony of savagery; through what seems to be a purely material dealing with insensate things men put themselves in the way of the most thorough moral training.

The necessity of working gives society steadiness and stability; when large populations are freed from this necessity, irresponsible mobs take the place of orderly citizens, and the crowd of idlers must be fed and amused to be kept out of mischief. A man can never be idle with safety and advantage until he has been so trained by work that he makes his freedom from times and tasks more fruitful than his toil has been. When work has disciplined a man, he may safely be left to himself; for he will not only govern himself, but he will also employ himself. There are few worse elements in society than an idle leisure class,--a body of men and women who make mere recreation the business of living, and so reverse or subvert the natural order of life.

On the other hand, there is no more valuable element in society than a working leisure class,--a body of men and women who, emancipated from the harder and more mechanical work of the world, give themselves to the higher activities and enrich the common life by intelligence, beauty, charm of habit and manners, dignity of carriage, and distinction of character and taste. So long as men need other food than bread, and have higher necessities than those of the body, a leisure class will be essential to the richest and completest social development. What society does not need is an idle class.

Chapter IX


The comradeship of work is an element which is rarely taken into account, but which is of great importance from many points of view. Men who work together have not only the same interests, but are likely to develop a kinship of thought and feeling. Their association extends beyond working hours, and includes their higher and wider interests. There seems to be something in the putting forth of effort upon the same material or for the same end which binds men together with ties which are not wholly the result of proximity. Those who have given no thought to the educational side of work, and who are ignorant that it has such a side, are, nevertheless, brought within the unifying influence of a process which, using mainly the hands and the feet, is insensibly training the whole nature.

There is a deeper unity in the work of the world than has been clearly understood as yet; there is that vital unity which binds together those who are not only engaged in a common task, but who are also involved in a common spiritual process. The very necessity of work carries with it the implication of an incomplete world and an imperfectly developed society. The earth was not finished when it was made ready for the appearance of man; it will not be finished until man has done with it. In the making of the world man has his part; here, as elsewhere, he meets God and co- operates with him; the divine and the human combining to perfect the process of unfolding and evolution. Until the work of men has developed it, the earth is raw material. It is full of power, but that power is not conserved and directed, it is full of the potentialities of fertility, but there are no harvests; all manner of possibilities both of material and spiritual uses are in it,--food, ore, force, beauty,--but these possibilities must await the skill of man before they can be turned into wealth, comfort, art, civilisation. God gives the earth as a mine, and man must work it; as a field, and man must till it; as a reservoir of force, and man must make connection with it; as the rough material out of which order, symmetry, utility, beauty, culture may be wrought, and men must unfold these higher uses by intelligence, skill, toil, and character. At some time every particle of the civilised world has been like the old frontier on this continent, and men have reclaimed either the desert or the wilderness by their heroic sacrifices and labours. It is a misuse of language, therefore, to say that the world is made; it is not made, because it is being made century by century through the toil of successive generations.

Now, this creative process, in which God and men unite, is what we call work. It is not a process introduced among men as an afterthought or as a form of punishment; it was involved in the initial creative act, and it is part of the complete creative act. The conception of a process of development carries with it the idea, not of a finished but of an unfinished world; it interprets history not as a record of persons and events separate from the stage upon which they appear, like actors on the boards, but as the story of the influence of an unfinished world upon an undeveloped race, and of the marvellous unfolding through which the hidden powers and qualities of the material and the worker are brought into play. Work becomes, therefore, not only a continuation of the divine activity in the world, but a process inwrought in the very constitution of that world. Growth is the divinest element in life, and work is one of the chief factors in growth.

The earth is, therefore, in its full unfolding and its final form, the joint product of the love and power of God and of the toil and sacrifice of men; the creative purpose is not accomplished in a single act; it is being wrought out through a long progression of acts; and in this continuous process God and men are brought together in a way which makes the labour of the hand the work also of the spirit. If one reflects on all that this intimate cooperation of the divine and the human in the fields, the factories, and the shops means, the nobility of work and its possibilities of spiritual education become impressively clear. In this fellowship men are trained in ways of which they are insensible; spiritual results are accomplished within them of which they are unconscious. The Infinite is nowhere more beneficently present than in the strain and anguish of toil; and the necessity of putting forth one's strength in some form of activity is not a hardship but a divine opportunity.

To well-conditioned men work is a joy; under normal conditions, for healthful men, it is always a joy. The spiritual meaning behind the hard

Essays On Work And Culture - 5/15

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