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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/513

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THE VALUE OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS.

this originality must appear as recreation after the necessary mechanical work of the day is done. The obstacles tending to check independent action are innumerable, and sometimes absolutely insurmountable. A person may be deficient mentally owing to qualities inherited from a long line of stupid ancestors who manifested what Dickens calls "faint gleams of intelligence." In fact, objective events or objects that sweep into personal relation with us from out of vast extents of time and space are more modifiable by us than the almost unalterable conditions arising from hereditary qualities. The lack of power in a given direction may be practically beyond remedy, because very often there is not time in the life of one person for a form of force to reach anything more than primary stages of development. In special classes such limitation can recede greatly only in the course of generations in descendants who finally realize the ideal of Jean Paul Richter—the happy condition of liberty when sport is of service to the race.

Accomplishments are usually considered sources of amusement, although they must be paid for with a varying proportion of exertion not particularly pleasurable. In those forms of recreation in which we are mere passive spectators—often necessary as a relief from toil—there is an inevitable payment of either money, time, or labor. But, where the labor and sport are one, there is obviously a double reward.

It may be noticed, as a further extension of this truth, that the active or positive amusements are superior to the passive, for the reason that the passive do not stimulate the mind to conscious activity. There may be a high form of amusement as well as valuable mental discipline in the production of ingenious designs—such as articles for decoration, various products of carpentry-work, mechanical devices, chemical experiments, and so on. It is important to remember that some who have thus followed a liking for scientific or other knowledge have been stimulated to undertake tremendous feats of perseverance, whereby their names have lived for centuries.

The language learned and the skill acquired in painting or music seem trivial, but they establish an original habit of thought which incites others by force of example. Accomplishments indicate energy of character, for their pleasurable effect is largely due to a sense of power from having triumphed over obstacles.

In a world in which we are environed by dangers and mischances, every form of perseverance is honorable because it is either directly or indirectly helpful. The advances in enlightenment have come, not from those who are mechanical and passive, but from those of original force, who had ingenuity and other allied qualities by which practical effects are produced.