Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 71.djvu/259

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ETHICAL ASPECTS OF MENTAL ECONOMY

from his neighbor's pocket does not possess honesty of a very high type. It is only the one who possesses no impulse to pick his neighbor's pocket and who does possess an instinct of abhorrence against such an act that is really honest. The one who is tempted evinces disease of will.

Independence of thinking is a rare but thoroughly economical mode of activity. Many people are so unused to thinking for themselves that they would be frightened at the appearance in consciousness of a thought really their own. It has been said that "animals think not at all and some men a little." Most of the thinking of the world is carried on by a few individuals. The rest of the world are mere echoists. This is a terribly wasteful process, and sinful. If more people were independent thinkers there would not be a yearly output of millions of barrels of patent medicines, the main ingredients of which are alcoholic preservatives. Soothing syrups with opiates are fed to children because they are said to cry for them. The children are quieted, oftentimes so effectually as to be stupid through life. "Harmless vegetable remedies" is a magical phrase. Perhaps this is why so many take extract of hops and barley, spirits of corn, nicotine and opium!

Because of lack of independence of thought, superstitions have always hindered the world's progress. Even to-day the number 13 is so ominous that you can not get a room number 13 at a hotel, can scarcely have 13 at table. Friday is still considered so unlucky that steamship companies hesitate to make sailing dates on Friday. Farmers still plant their potatoes in the moon, and men carry potatoes in their pockets to cure rheumatism. Only a few days ago I saw a man in this city who had a rattlesnake's tail in his hatband to ward off rheumatism. Clairvoyants and fortune-tellers apparently find plenty of dupes, if we are to Judge by the wealth of their advertising. Thus on every hand we find ample evidence that people are sinning and being sinned against simply because of slothfulness in thinking.

In ancient times and in the middle ages the scholars shut themselves away from the world, quiet as it was, in order to avoid the distractions against thinking. While they erred in not recognizing that the senses are the source of all knowledge, were they not wise in recognizing that to think effectively demands solitude?

I wonder if there is not much in modern student life that militates against the deepest thinking. With the multiplication of student activities, of themselves in no way secondary to any others in importance, have not the opportunities for sequestered contemplation decreased? With football, baseball, basketball, tennis, rowing, skating, the literary society, the dramatic club, the freshman banquet, the sophomore cotillion, the junior prom, the senior hop, numberless fraternity, sorority, and various other house parties, the various church,