Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 11.djvu/706

This page has been validated.

of things, the high and lofty destinies, and all that? Schopenhauer and Bahnsen, earnest thinkers, arrive, after exhaustive examination and mature deliberation, at the conclusion that the world is not the best but the worst conceivable, the best possible issue for it annihilation, man's greatest misfortune birth, his greatest happiness death.

And yet the everlasting impossibility of accepting this as a final statement proves unquestionably its partiality—proves there must be quite a different and broader verdict. Dum spiro spero; respiration is aspiration. Life is hope, is struggle upward and onward. Healthy and robust life can set no final goal to its endeavors and hopes, but carries deep in its bosom the promise of quite an infinity of inheritance—dim and unconscious perhaps, yet latently warm and unquestioning.

Despair is death, declension from once recognized higher ideas is degeneration, violation of principles of honor and justice once recognized is inevitable injury. In the active furtherance of spiritual or universal ends alone has man solid and complete satisfaction. What is the meaning of the universal Jeremiad from the beginning of time till now but "the fall," the declension from the necessary justice and goodness? Down to the last stage of depravity the man is never at home in his depravity. It is always depravity, and not native badness. The man's unsightliness, alienation from himself and his fellows, inward sense of bankruptcy and ruin, is an eloquent, pathetic sermon in behalf of the true. Injustice, selfishness, disavowal of obligations, seizure of others' property, never enriched or profited a man, but has always been so much inward contraction, induration, plethora, deliration—always so much disease involving so much pain, demanding so much expiation.

The subordination of self in the pious recognition of the eternal laws (= religion) and the adequate willing execution of the same (= art)—that alone is life, and a man is more or less according to the measure of his possession of this life. In the name of God, which is our highest expression of the world, is recognized something higher than our utmost sense of the just, good, and beautiful. If, then, our hearts go out in fervent, irrepressible longings of love toward the great men who have met on this planet the most unhandsome reception, if we demand that the heavy debt of love and esteem which was due to Lessing, for example, but never paid, be at last made good to him, that this excellent spirit, which out of a full heart would radiate to the quickening and enlightening of his country and Europe, do not strike his beams into emptiness, but that he himself also be gladdened by the warm reflection of his own light—is there, are we to suppose, nothing in the heart of things, nothing in the primal intellect and heart corresponding to this unsubduable demand on the part of our remote individual consciousness? Shall the mother-sun be less warm