Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

ley's, inspires now and then; a spirit like Milton's, as eager for liberty, and as impatient of bondage, yet forced, by the man it animated, to do his bidding, which rightly or wrongly he believed to be the bidding of God, inspires oftener and deeper. If routine is forced upon us, we are delivered from the great temptation of letting industry become a matter of caprice, and of waiting for perfect mental and physical conditions (Italiam fugientem) before we settle down to our work. If routine is not forced upon us, we must force it upon ourselves, or we shall go to pieces. “Professor X is a dry teacher. Shakspere is the greatest of poets, and hence one of the greatest inspirers of men. Why is n't it better to cut Professor X's lecture and read Shakspere, — or even to read Kipling?” First and obviously, because you can read Shakspere at another time, whereas Professor X's lecture is given at a fixed hour, is part of a course, and a link in an important chain. Next, because attending Professor X's lecture is for the time being your business. The habit of attending to business is a habit you must form | and keep, before you can be regarded as “there.” Moreover this habit does away with all manner of time-wasting indecision. If you take the hour for Shakspere, you may spend half of it in questioning what play to begin, or

whether to read another author after all,

— and meantime a friend drops in. “I know a person,” says Professor James, “who will poke the fire, set chairsstraight, pick dust-specks from the floor, arrange his table, snatch up the newspaper, take down any book which catches his eye, trim his nails, waste the morning anyhow, in short, and all without premeditation, — simply because the one thing he ought to attend to is the preparation of a noon-day lesson in formal logic which he detests — anything but that.” It is astonishing how eagerly men strug

[ocr errors]

gle to escape from the training that prepares them for life, how they labor to convince themselves that what they long to do is worthier and nobler than what they ought to do — and must do if they are to succeed in what they long to do. I once knew a student, against all advice, to leave college in the middle of the Freshman year, because, since he was going into the ministry, he was eager to devote his whole time to the Bible. Later he saw his mistake, and came back. I knew another and a wiser student who, having gone into the ministry without a college education, left it for years of sacrifice in money and of the hardest kind of work, to win that knowledge of books and men without which no modern minister is equipped for efficient service. The efficient people are

* those who know their business and do it

promptly and patiently, who when leisure comes have earned it, and know they have earned it; who when one thing is done can turn their attention squarely and completely to the next thing, and do that. The efficient student." is he who has as nearly as possible fixed time for every part of his work; who, if he has a recitation at ten and another at twelve, knows in advance what he is to study at eleven. He has most time for work and most time for unalloyed play, since he makes use of that invaluable friend to labor, —routine. “Habit,” says the Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, “is a labor-saving invention which enables a man to get along with less fuel,-that is all; for fuel is force, you know, just as much in the page I am writing for you as in the locomotive or the legs which carry it to you.” “Habit,” says Professor James,“simplifies our movements, makes them accurate, and diminishes fatigue.” “Man,” he continues, “is born with a tendency to do more things than he has ready-made arrangements for in his nerve-centres.

Most of the performances of other animals are automatic. But in him the number of them is so enormous that most of them must be the fruit of painful study. If practice did not make perfect, nor habit economize the expense of nervous and muscular energy, he would be in a sorry plight. As Dr. Maudsley says: ‘If an act became no easier after being done several times, if the careful direction of consciousness were necessary to its accomplishment on each occasion, it is evident that the whole activity of a lifetime might be confined to one or two deeds—that no progress could take place in development. A man might be occupied all day in dressing and undressing himself; the attitude of his body would absorb all his attention and energy; the washing of his hands or the fastening of a button would be as difficult to him on each occasion as to the child on its first trial; and he would, furthermore, be completely exhausted by

« AnteriorContinuar »