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THOUGHTS AND GUESSES ON HUMAN
CONFUSION OF MODES OF BEING.
EOPLE undertake to settle what ideas they shall have
under such and such circumstances of being, when it
is nothing but their present state of being that enables them to have those ideas.
VARIETY OF THE COLOURS OF PERCEPTION.
There is reason to suppose that our perceptions and sensations are much more different than we imagine, even upon the most ordinary things, such as visible objects in general, and the sense of existence. We have enough in common for common intercourse ; but the details are dissimilar, as we may perceive in the variety of palates. All people are agreed upon sweet and sour; but one man prefers sour to sweet, and another this and that variety of sour and sweet. “What then is the use of attempting to make them agree ?” Why, we may try to make them agree upon certain general modes of thinking and means of pleasure: we may colour their existence in the gross, though we must leave the particular shades to come out by themselves. We may enrich their stock of ideas, though we cannot control the items of the expenditure.
“But what if we cannot do even this?" The question is answered by experience. Whole nations and ages have already been altered in their modes of thinking. Even if it were otherwise, the endeavour is itself one of the varieties; one of the modes of opinion and means of pleasure. Besides, CANNOT is the motto neither of knowledge nor humility. There is more of pride, and ignorance, and despair, in it, than of the modesty of wisdom. It would settle not only the past, but the future; and it would settle the future, merely because the past has not been influenced by those that use it.
Who are these men that measure futurity by the shadow of their own littleness? It is as if the loose stones lying about a foundation were to say, “ You can build no higher than our heads."
SUPERSTITION AND DOCTRINE. Superstition attempts to settle everything by assertion ; which never did do, and never will. And, like all assertors, even wellinclined ones, it shows its conscious feebleness in anger and threatening It commands us to take its problems for granted, on pain of being tied up to a triangle. Then come its advocates, and assert that this mode of treatment is proper and logical : which is making bad worse. The worst of all is, that this is the way in which the finest doctrines in the world are obstructed. They are like an excellent child, making the Grand Tour with a foolish overbearing tutor. The tutor runs a chance of spoiling the child, and makes their presence disagreeable wherever they go, except to their tradesmen. Let us hope the child has done with his tutor.
SECOND THOUGHT ON THE VARIETY OF THE COLOURS OF
PERCEPTION. We may gather, from what we read of diseased imaginations, how much our perceptions depend upon the modification of our being. We see how personal and inexperienced we are when
we determine that such and such ideas must take place under other circumstances, and such and such truths be always indisputable. Pleasure must always be pleasure, and pain be pain, because these are only names for certain results. But the results themselves will be pleasurable or painful according to what they act upon. A man in health becomes sickly; he has a fever, is light-headed, is hypochondriacal. His ideas are deranged, or re-arrange themselves; and a set of new perceptions, and colourings of his existence, take place, as in a kaleidoscope when we shake it. The conclusion is, that every alteration of our physical particles, or of whatever else we are compounded with, produces a different set of perceptions and sensations. What we call health of body and mind is the fittest state of our composition upon earth; but the state of perception which is sickly to one state of existence, may be healthy to another.
DEATH, Of all impositions on the public, the greatest seems to be death. It resembles the threatening faces on each side the Treasury. Or rather, it is a necessary bar to our tendency to move forward. Nature sends us out of her hand with such an impetus towards increase of enjoyment, that something is obliged to be set at the end of the avenue we are in, to moderate our bias, and make us enjoy the present being. Death serves to make us think, not of itself, but of what is about us.
CHILDHOOD AND KNOWLEDGE. When children are in good health and temper, they have a sense of existence which seems too exquisite to last. It is made up of clearness of blood, freshness of perception, and trustingness of heart. We remember the time when the green rails along a set of suburb gardens used to fill us with a series of holiday and rural sensations perfectly intoxicating. According to the state of our health, we have sunny glimpses of this feeling still; to say nothing of many other pleasures, which have paid
us for many pains. The best time to catch them is early in tlie morning, at sunrise, out in the country. And we will here add, that life never, perhaps, feels such a return of fresh and young feeling upon it as in early rising on a fine morning, whether in country or town. The healthiness of it, the quiet, the consciousness of having done a sort of young action (not to add a wise one), and the sense of power it gives you over the coming day, produce a mixture of lightness and self-possession in one's feelings, which a sick man must not despair of, because he does not feel it the first morning. But even this reform should be adopted by degrees. The best way to recommend it is to begin with allowing fair-play to the other side of the question. To return to our main point. After childhood comes a knowledge of evil, or a sophisticate and unhealthy mode of life; or one produces the other, and both are embittered. Every. thing tells us to get back to a state of childhood, -pain, pleasure, imagination, reason, passion, natural affection or piety, the better part of religion. If knowledge is supposed to be incompatible with it, knowledge would sacrifice herself, if neces. sary, to the same cause, for she also tells us to do so. But as a little knowledge first leads us away from happiness, so a greater knowledge may be destined to bring us back into a finer region of it.
KNOWLEDGE AND UNHAPPINESS. It is not knowledge that makes us unhappy as we grow up, but the knowledge of unhappiness. Yet, as unhappiness existed when we knew it not, it becomes us all to be acquainted with it, that we inay all have the chance of bettering the condition of our species. Who would say to himself, " I would be happy, though all my fellow-creatures were miserable?" Knowledge must heal what it wounds, and extend the happiness which it has taken away. It must do by our comfort as a friend may do by one's books ; enrich it with its comments.
One man grows up, and gets unhealthy without knowledge; another, with
it. The former suffers, and does not know why. He is unhappy, and he sees unhappiness ; but he can do nothing either for himself or others. The latter suffers, and discovers why. He suffers even more, because he knows more ; but he learns also how to diminish suffering in others. He learns, too, to apply his knowledge to his own case; and he sees that, as he himself suffers from the world's want of knowledge, so the progress of knowledge would take away both the world's sufferings and his own. The efforts to this end worry him, perhaps, and make him sickly ; upon which, thinking is pronounced to be injurious to health. And it may be so, under these circumstances. What then, if it betters the health of the many? But thinking may also teach him how to be healthier. A game of cricket on a green may do for him what no want of thought would have done ; and, on the other hand, if he shows a want of thought upon these points, then the inference is easy : he is not so thinking a man as you took him for Addison should have got on horseback, instead of walking up and down a room in his house, with a bottle of wine at each end of it. Shakspeare divided his time between town and country, and, in the latter part of his life, built, and planted, and petted his daughter Susanna. Solomon in his old age played the Anacreon ; and, with Milton's leave, “ his wisest heart” was not so much out in this matter as when his royal impatience induced him to say that everything was vanity.
CHILDHOOD-OLD AGE--OUR DESTINY. Th appears to be something in the composition of humanity like what we have observed in that of music. The musician's first thought is apt to be his finest : he must carry it on, and make a second part to his air ; and he becomes inferior. Nature, in like manner (if we may speak it without profaneness), appears to succeed best in making childhood and youth. The symphony is a little perturbed; but in what a sprightly manner the air sets off! What purity! What grace! What touching simplicity ! Then comes sin, or the notion of it, and " breaks the fair music."