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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 3 (July 1, 1929)

The Way We Go

page 9

The Way We Go

Ins and Outs of Life

Of course the way we go is not always the way we should like to go, nor the way that mother and auntie predicted when we were infant prodigies. But, perhaps, after all, we have more joy and fun and real life in the way that we are going than if we had become the statesmen, King's counsellors, bishops or Charlie Chaplins of our own or other people's hopes in the dim long ago.

“The average man is an average ass, an average blockhead,” sneers the cynic falsely. Yet it is true that the average man is regarded by many reformers and uplifters as a creature with less intelligence than a rabbit. If he listens to the lectures (which he does not), or reads the reports (which he does not), the average man will learn that he does not know what to eat, nor how or when to eat it; he does not know how to breathe, walk, sit down, or stand up; he is apathetic about local and general government and Imperial affairs, and altogether is sadly in need of incessant attention from innumerable societies and leagues for the improvement of the human race.

* * *

What surprises come from many of the persons who were regarded as average, or even below average, at school! Many of the tortoises have turned into hares that do not sleep, but bound along the ways and byways of success and money. The ability which was supposed to be absent was merely dormant—waiting to become rampant or rampageous.

* * *

The average boy at school may make some unholy hashes of lists of kings and queens and their offspring, rivers, lakes, capes, and counties, but when he becomes the average man he has a marvellous memory for the names and pedigrees of horses and their performances under various weights on wet and dry courses. He puts as much ability into this memorising as would give him a working knowledge of ancient Greek or an unworkable knowledge of modern psychology.

* * *

Many young folk, when they first become keenly conscious of currents of thought about men and affairs, are apt to imagine that the flow is altogether new and wonderfully “live”—powerful enough to give new turns to the world's wheels. They go through a period of “not-understoodness”—go into the garden and eat a few worms, and have some tantrums. They seek their kind, and have arguments and debates and demonstrations in a frenzy of impulsive energy—a great theoretical righting of wrongs and the total abolition of injustice. They let off plenty of steam, but it is about as ineffective as the spurts from a boiling kettle. A young man in that mood is like a donkey-engine at a loose end, with more donkey than engine in the outfit.

* * *

The traditional negative obstructive state of age—the kind of age which runs to beefiness of brain and a drying up of the vital juices—is notable throughout the world in large establishments, public or private, for big organisations tend to be very cautious and conservative. Beginning his career in one of these folds, a young man may be overflowing with initiative and simply buzzing with progressive thoughts and impulses, which are an affront to his seniors. They throw cold water upon him, and beset his path with entanglements, and club him occasionally until he gets into the mood to let time and tide take their course, carrying him in his turn to the top, from which he will be able to repeat history for the beginners far below. But in these cases it is not so much the age of the individual as the age of the institution which makes things difficult for the young man.

* * *

A cynic has alleged that women are more inclined to be snobbish than men, but he did not prove his case. Probably that splurge of assertion was based on woman's keener interest than a man's in keeping up appearances, but that is feminine instinct, no more connected with snobbery than it is with savagery, although it call easily slide into snobbery. If a modern page 10 Diogenes was allowed by the police to parade the streets with a tub and little else, he might manage to get married somehow some day, but his wife would not accompany him to a cabaret or to Church until the tub had been turned into a bungalow with the usual fittings and furnishings.

* * *

How much of the feline is inseparable from the feminine? A circus magnate once said that women had proved remarkably successful as trainers of animals, particularly those of feline species, such as lions, tigers and leopards—which are all big cats. The circus person was not affecting to be cynical; he was not a hen-pecked husband, nor a widower; he was just a simple philosopher. Truly, man liketh not the catty woman, but he is pleased by a little kittenishness—but where there is much kitten there must be some cat. As long as the claw is kept within the velvet paw things are all right.

* * *

A proverb which alleges that “all things come to him who waits” has two words missing—“and works.” The things which come to him who waits, without working, are the common and the uncommon cold, very large doses or douches of hope deferred, and the order of the boot and the sack. With that proverb you have to take about a dozen others, of which one is: “Patience and perseverance conquer all things,” or in the modern vernacular: “Persistence gets there,” or “Hustle does it.”

Inter-Island Farmers' Tours. The South Island Farmers' Party which recently toured the North Island, photographed on the station platform at Paekakariki, Wellington Province.

Inter-Island Farmers' Tours.
The South Island Farmers' Party which recently toured the North Island, photographed on the station platform at Paekakariki, Wellington Province.

Books and Reading.

Were I to pray for a taste which should stand me in stead under every variety of circumstances, and be a source of happiness and cheerfulness to me during life, and a shield against its ills, however things might go amiss, and the world frown upon me, it would be a taste for reading. Give a man this taste and the means of gratifying it, and you can hardly fail of making him a happy man; unless, indeed, you put into his hands a most perverse selection of books. You place him in contact with the best society in every period of history—with the wisest, the wittiest, the tenderest, the bravest, and the purest characters who have adorned humanity. You make him a denizen of all nations, a contemporary of all ages.

—Sir J. Herschel.