to be or not to be
outside the bible, these six words are the most famous in all the literature of the world. they were spoken by hamlet when he was thinking aloud, and they are the most famous words in shakespeare because hamlet was speaking not only for himself but also for every thinking man and woman. to be or not to be, to live or not to live, to live richly and abundantly and eagerly, or to live dully and meanly and scarcely. a philosopher once wanted to know whether he was alive or not, which is a good question for everyone to put to himself occasionally. he answered it by saying: "i think, therefore am."
but the best definition of existence ever saw did another philosopher who said: "to be is to be in relations." if this true, then the more relations a living thing has, the more it is alive. to live abundantly means simply to increase the range and intensity of our relations. unfortunately we are so constituted that we get to love our routine. but apart from our regular occupation how much are we alive? if you are interest-ed only in your regular occupation, you are alive only to that extent. so far as other things are concerned--poetry and prose, music, pictures, sports, unselfish friendships, politics, international affairs--you are dead.
contrariwise, it is true that every time you acquire a new interest--even more, a new accomplishment--you increase your power of life. no one who is deeply interested in a large variety of subjects can remain unhappy; the real pessimist is the person who has lost interest.
bacon said that a man dies as often as he loses a friend. but we gain new life by contacts, new friends. what is supremely true of living objects is only less true of ideas, which are also alive. where your thoughts are, there will your live be also. if your thoughts are confined only to your business, only to your physical welfare, only to the narrow circle of the town in which you live, then you live in a narrow cir-conscribed life. but if you are interested in what is going on in china, then you are living in china~ if you’re interested in the characters of a good novel, then you are living with those highly interesting people, if you listen intently to fine music, you are away from your immediate surroundings and living in a world of passion and imagination.
to be or not to be--to live intensely and richly, merely to exist, that depends on ourselves. let widen and intensify our relations. while we live, let live!
an october sunrise
i was up the next morning be fore the october sunrise, and away through the wild and the woodland. the rising of the sun was noble in the cold and warmth of it peeping down the spread of light, he raised his shoulder heavily over the edge of grey mountain and wavering length of upland. beneath his gaze the dew-fogs dipped, and crept to crept to the hollow places; then stole away in line and column, holding skirts, and clinging subtly at the sheltering corners where rock hung over grassland, while the brave lines of the hills came forth, one beyond other gliding.
the woods arose in folds, like drapery of awakened mountains, stately with a depth of awe, and memory of the tempests. autumn’s mellow hand was upon them, as they owned already, touched with gold and red and olive, and their joy towards the sun was less to a bridegroom than a father.
yet before the floating impress of the woods could clear it self, suddenly the gladsome light leaped over hill and valley, casting amber, blue, and purple, and a tint of rich red rose; according to the scene they lit on, and the curtain flung around; yet all alike dispelling fear and the cloven hoof of darkness, all on the wings of hope advancing, and proclaiming, “god is here!” then life and joy sprang reassured from every crouching hollow; every flower, and bud and bird had a fluttering sense of them; and all the flashing of god’s gaze merged into soft beneficence.
so, perhaps, shall break upon us that eternal morning, when crag and chasm shall be no more, neither hill and valley, nor great unvintaged ocean; but all things shall arise, and shine in the light of the father’s countenance, because itself is risen.
on motes and beams
it is curious that our own offenses should seem so much less heinous than the offenses of others. i suppose the reason is that we know all the circumstances that have occasioned them and so manage to excuse in ourselves what we cannot excuse in others. we turn our attention away from our own defects, and when we are forced by untoward events to consider them, find it easy to condone them. for all i know we are right to do this; they are part of us and we must accept the good and bad in ourselves together.
but when we come to judge others, it is not by ourselves as we really are that we judge them, but by an image that we have formed of ourselves fro which we have left out everything that offends our vanity or would discredit us in the eyes of the world. to take a trivial instance: how scornful we are when we catch someone out telling a lie; but who can say that he has never told not one, but a hundred?
there is not much to choose between men. they are all a hotchpotch of greatness and littleness, of virtue and vice, of nobility and baseness. some have more strength of character, or more opportunity, and so in one direction or another give their instincts freer play, but potentially they are the same. for my part, i do not think i am any better or any worse than most people, but i know that if i set down every action in my life and every thought that has crossed my mind, the world would consider me a monster of depravity. the knowledge that these reveries are common to all men should inspire one with tolerance to oneself as well as to others. it is well also if they enable us to look upon our fellows, even the most eminent and respectable, with humor, and if they lead us to take ourselves not too seriously.