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HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF LIFE.
SOME persons make a great deal of life; others
very little. To some it is intensely interesting; to others, very vapid. Some are tired of life before they have begun to live. They seem, as has been said, to have been born fatigued. Nothing interests them. This is a species of affectation with some persons to whom it seems a mark of genius to be weary of life. They think it argues an enormous experience and that they have exhausted everything. Wherever it is an affectation it is a very shallow
Noble and manly natures seldom fall into this pit of satiety. They are full of hope and energy. To them life has inexhaustible charms. It is ever more rich, full, and varied. Each day dawns with new expectations, and closes with fresh hopes for to-morrow. And it is these living men
who keep the rest of us alive. Whenever we meet them more sunshine comes into the day. only share their enthusiasm, and we too cannot help making a great deal of life.
How full and rich was the character of the Apostle Paul! How much he made out of his years! He stands, like the Nilometer in Egypt, to tell how high the river of Thought, Love, and will may rise. He changed Christianity, before only a Jewish sect, into a universal religion, a faith for mankind. Though he had never seen Jesus on earth, and never heard his teaching, he understood the Master better than those who had been with him. Paul could not write a gospel, but he comprehended the Gospels more truly than those who wrote them. He labored more abundantly than they all. He passed through more trials than any of the other apostles. He planted more churches, took more journeys, wrote more letters; his life was outwardly full of work. But besides this, it was a life of thought, of deep reflection. His discussions about spiritual and moral truths, as recorded in the Epistle to the Romans, take us down to the roots of things. He grappled with the primary problems of thought. He soared upward, like a flame, to the highest heaven of devotion, to the presence of God, where angels and archangels veil their faces. But this did not content him; perpetual progress was his life. “One thing I do: forgetting what is behind, and reaching out to that which is before, I press toward the mark.” If we ask how it was that Paul made so much of his life, - omitting the questionable point of his inspiration, - I think we may say it was the enthusiasm of his love, which took him out of himself in devotion to his great Master.
This, then, is the first rule for making the most of life: Forget yourself in some interest outside of yourself. He who is turned inward, thinking of himself, admiring himself, complaining that he is ill-treated; he who thinks he ought to have more of the rewards of life, he is the one who does not begin to live. Life is born out of communion, communion with God, Nature, man. “We only live,” says the profound thinker, the philosopher Fichte, — " we only live when we love!” How true that is ! We must be interested in something in order to be alive, and no one can take a great deal of interest in himself. Looking in the glass is an unprofitable occupation. Socrates, indeed, taught, “Know thyself ;” but the self-knowledge which he advised did not consist in minute self-inspection, but in testing thought and work by that which other men think and do. Socrates did not occupy himself with self-study, but went about the streets of Athens taking an interest in all that was thought, said, and done. He was interested in others, - in the condition of the State, the progress of truth, the diet of the soul, the stimulus of goodness, the restraints on evil. How men could be made better and wiser, - that was what engaged
his whole thought, and this made his life one which has been the inspiration of mankind.
But, you may say, we cannot all be inspired apostles or great philosophers. No; but the motive, the principle which made their lives rich, we can have in ours. This principle is, to be interested in something good; to have an object, an aim, a purpose outside of ourselves.
In the great storms which have lately swept over the north Atlantic, a steamer from our shores discovered another, dismasted and rudderless, drifting before the gale, its decks swept by terrible seas. The sailors volunteered to man a boat, and go to save those on the wreck. The labor was appalling, the dangers frightful; but they succeeded, and saved the lives of their fellow-men. Which has made the noblest use of life, the self-indulgent epicurean, who amuses himself with a little art, a little literature, a little criticism and a little vapid social pleasure, or these rugged, brave hearts, who bade defiance to storm and sea, and brought salvation to those in despair? To forget yourself is the secret of life; to forget yourself in some worthy purpose outside of yourself.
The poor steamer foundered because it drifted; because its steering apparatus was lost. The man who has no aim higher than himself also drifts; he has nothing by which to steer, nothing toward which to direct his life. Do not drift, but steer; that is the second rule.
Consider the life of a man like Agassiz, filled with an enthusiastic desire to know all the secrets of Nature. He, also, like Paul, never counted himself to have apprehended. He forgot what was behind, and reached out to that which was before. His life was full and rich, and he made the most of it. He worshipped God in the temple of creation. How happy he was in this immense love for Nature! Nothing in her works was too minute to interest him, for everything was significant. At one end of the scale of human existence stands the blasé man of the world, to whom nothing seems of much importance. At the other end is a man like Agassiz, to whom nothing is unimportant. To him, everything which has been made has a meaning; thus he lives in a world in which he sees nothing insignificant.
These men, however, it may be said, were enthusiasts; they had enthusiasm for some pursuit, to which they devoted themselves. But most of us are of a more plain, common-sense, practical nature. They are no models for us. They are inimitable.
Then let us look at a man of another type, who certainly was not an enthusiast, yet who made more of his life, did more, learned more, than any man of his generation. I mean Benjamin Franklin. He was clear-headed and sagacious; but that is not the key to his remarkable career. I think the secret of his vast success was that he did everything as well as it could be done. He put his mind into