The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 7 (November 1, 1929)
The Way We Go — Ins and out of life
Of course, most of the world's writing is for love—not for love of woman (although she inspires much free prose and verse), but sheer love of writing, love of uplifting, love of explaining, love of advising the other fellow how to mind his p's and q's, cross his t's and dot his i's in matters of this world and the next.
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“Profession: A calling superior to a mere trade or handicraft, as that of medicine, law, architecture, etc. A vocation.” That is what my little three-and-sixpenny dictionary has to say about that vague word “profession,” which is harder to define than drunkenness, public place, politics, or gilt-edged investment. The conclusion of that quotation—“a vocation”—is very upsetting. Cannot a boy have a vocation to be a plasterer or a bricklayer? What is a vocation? That same dictionary (a fairly respectable one) defines it as “a calling or designation to a particular state or profession; a summons; a call; employment; calling; occupation; trade.” If a vocation can be a profession and a trade can be a vocation, cannot a trade be a profession? What is the difference in principle between plumbing and surgery?
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Deep in the mind of the average man is a belief that he is more of a philosopher than the average woman is, and he is apt to be annoyed when woman regards his flow of comment as a mere bubbling of talk. Who could not sympathise with the scolding Xanthippe who had to suffer the absent-mindedness of the philosophic Socrates? Edith Wilner has stated a good case for Mrs. Socrates in these lines:—
If you worked all day with river rushes and sand Scrubbing the atrium,
And cleaning between the tiles of the impluvium, And coaxing fresh air and sunshine through the compluvium,
And then a mere man,
In the name of Philosophy,
Came in from the Agora,
Without even wiping the mud from his sandals,
And refused to eat his dinner while it was hot— Perhaps you, too,
Would have brightened up the corner where you were
With a few scintillating remarks.
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History cries to modern man from countless ages in all countries that he must work out his salvation—not talk it out, not resolve it out by bare majority in open voting or secret ballot— but work it out. This is written in the Old and New Testaments in plain words that go to the root of the matter. “Work out your own salvation,” wrote the Apostle Paul to the Philippians, and he gave a similar message to the Galatians and others.
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All attempts to make human happiness by the elimination of work have failed. When the patricians of ancient Rome dodged work they ran into decay and death. If a man does not believe in God or in a law of God, he has to believe in Nature and a law of Nature, which is: “Man, work out your salvation.” “Give us this day our daily work” must be the necessary preliminary to “Give us this day our daily bread” if the human race is to remain healthful and happy.
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The joy of living is largely the joy of action. Some men and women, freaks of Nature, find contentment in a cabbage-like existence. They page 15 are rooted to a spot that suits them, and are as calm as the kine with which Walt Whitman once yearned to live because they were “so placid and self-contained.” However, the perpetually placid person is likely to prove flaccid on acquaintance, and the wise may shun him as they would dodge the “boiled-rag” cabbage or the flabby blanc-mange of a backblocks inn.
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“Those who have searched into human nature,” Addison wrote “observe that nothing so much shows the nobility of the soul as that its felicity is in action.” Does anybody go to a race-meeting for “go-slow”—except the occasional person who tries to arrange a “stiff”? How bored people become at a football match on a muddy ground when the play is a mere mess of jumbled scrums and tangled line-outs! Not enough visible action—though the players have their own notions about some of the unseen action. The great ruling spirit of British sport is action and it will be the ruling spirit again some day in work as it is now in play. When that day comes the peace will be won. Each person whether employer or employee, will have a conscience about those words, “social service.” Each in his place will give honest value—and then all will be well—but it must be honest value for each and all.
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A poet may believe that it takes more power of the mind and soul to write a good poem than a piece of prose, and yet it may be easier to write a sonnet on a sunset than a popular proclamation about a pork-pie or a sausage. The poet does not have to sell the sunset, but the ad.-writer is expected to create a clamour for the pork-pie or the sausage. The poet enjoys a license to please himself with that sunset, which he may serve up as fancifully as he likes, but the modern apostle of truth, the ad.-writer, has not license to play pranks with the pork-pie or the sausage. Pushing that pie upon the public calls for much sublety of though and skill in expression.
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According to the comments of various philosophers throughout centuries, conversation has always been a lost art—and, of course, the gramophone, radio, and other things will stop the world as a whole from regaining the soulful chattiness of the Stone Age. Yet wherever else conversation may vanish or lose itself in a medley of ejaculations and interjections as in big “at homes” and other social assemblies it will always have strongholds in men's clubs and inns.page break page break