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of our individual or collective, our inborn or inherited, shortcomings.
So far we have no proper manners, intellectual or moral, about such things; no sense of fitness and decorum. We apologize for upsetting a cup of coffee on our host’s carpet; but we do not feel humiliated, when we have accepted, even when we have claimed, that the blood of martyrdom should be poured out for our advantage and at our bidding. Instead of diminution in our own esteem, we feel that this sacrifice brought by others has added a cubit to our stature; “On les persecute, on les tue,” as Bérenger rhymed, “Sauf après un lent examen, d leur dresser une statue pour la gloire du genre humain.” The same applies, I mean the filching a part of the martyr's CrOWn to d.o. the collective, and sometimes misshapen, skull, equally when there has been no need for a lent examen, a slow revision of the cruel sentence; indeed when, instead of being persecuted as heretics and warlocks, the lesser brothers and sisters of Joan of Arc have been urged and cheered to selfimmolation, and the commemorative slab been set up within the twelvemonth.
This is a strange and by no means seemly matter, hence worth examining for possible correction. To understand it we must realize that it is part of the excellent grace of all feelings of admiration that they make him who admires participate, to that extent, in the quality which awakens them, so that the crowning munificence of beauty, purity, gentleness or power, is that it beautifies, cleanses, makes gracious, and raises out of mediocrity, if but for an instant, the soul delighting in its contemplation. This, to my thinking, is one of the noblest, the most consoling, facts of our nature. The greater is my disgust and indignation at our allowing Satan to turn just this to his unchaste purposes. For ever since mankind began (though let us trust not everlastingly till mankind comes to an end!) we have turned canonizations of martyrs into public rejoicings, and lapped up the wine of self-conceit from the libations poured on the pyres where demi-gods and saints have suffered for our sakes. Have I not, in that land of France which she delivered, eaten civet de lièvre or pickled walnuts off plates adorned with the trial and burning of Joan O
of Arc, accompanied by descriptive couplets : A pardonable concrete bit of hero-worship, which, however childish and grotesque, may furnish an appropriate symbol, and, who knows? perhaps a tiny sample, of what nine-tenths of hero worship are made of. Like primaeval savages, we identify ourselves with the victim killed for our hunger, bodily or spiritual. We swell with the pride of Kinship, almost of participation, where it would be more fitting to grovel in self-abasement, or at least lower our eyes, in the presence of the holocausts brought to our often unlovely lives, our suspicions and panics, to our shoddy myths and worm-eaten ideals; to all the years and centuries of our commissions and omissions. Satan, that obscene aesthete, is greatly tickled. And before all the Belligerent Peoples set to fortifying their self-esteem at the sight of this war's miles of heroic, youthful graves, it might be well that someone should repeat the warning to Claudio when about to claim self-sacrifice from Isabella :
“. . . Thou art not noble;
“No wonder you chose Satan for your spokesman. Like him you cast doubt upon good. Like §. you would leave us nothing to admire, nothing to praise, nothing to look up to.” Nay, what I would cast doubt upon, or rather ask you to question, before making over sure, are those things typified by self-sacrifice, which are called, and sometimes really are, good; but which require for their existence ignorance, violence, selfishness, or slackness, and whose essence is suffering; which is what I mean by evil. As regards the second accusation, my answer is as follows: I leave, I exhort you to set up, for your admiration and veneration, for your loving, wondering piety, a thing which has hitherto not received its due share of honours: the happiness, bought at no price of suffering and entailing no debt thereof. Life is so set round with causes of misery, that we have need to be vigilant and resolute against all waste and desecration of its possibilities of joy. In the world as it is, how few are the things, people, moments, which can be safe, clean, strong, innocent of harm, fertile of good, satisfying, consummate, even in the humblest fashion | Hence everything which is so, be it plant or animal or work of art, be it half-hour or halfminute of the commonest happiness, should be precious and honourable in our eyes, approached with reverent hands and thoughts, and, more than the virtue tortured for our pride or profit, held sacred in our disinterested remembrance. October, 1918.
“1'ou, ever-disembodied Ages-to-Come, represent the no less needed assistance of a no less apocryphal Future.”—p. 27.
At the very moment I was meditating on my Satan’s remarks upon this subject a friend of mine suddenly broke in upon my thoughts by saying: “People don’t think enough about the future l’”
To me, on the contrary, it seems that people do think enough about the Future; indeed, at this miserable moment of the world’s history (“Last war ! Lasting Peace this must never happen again”—this must be continued ad lib.: to prevent its happening again), a great deal too much.
What people do not think enough about is that side or aspect of the Present which happens not to interest their immediate desires and aversions, hopes and fears; a portion of the present in which, as in an unnoticed seed, the future is sometimes contained. In short, what people do not think enough about is the other, the non-ego, the not-here, the not (to us at this moment) interesting. If we thought habitually of what I have thus called the other (other people, other places, other moments, other qualities, other relations, other everything and anything); if we cared to know it with reference to its own existence, characteristics, causality and necessity, as distinguished from reference to our temporary feeling and convenience, we should hardly require to trouble our heads about the Future, since the Future, or nine-tenths of it, is contained in that not ourself, not here, not interesting, and that whole unattractive other’s present and past. There is deep symbolic truth in Christ’s advice not to give thought to the morrow, once this fragmentary sentence is brought into connexion with that other essential item of Gospel philosophy, namely, to think of the Other in its own terms, or, expressed in a personal manner, to do unto others as we would be done to, which means to think of others as equally real with ourselves. For, thinking of the morrow as preached against by Christ, or at least as practised by H. G. Wells and all the minor prophets of the Press, consists in little besides attributing quite disproportionate importance to our own present needs, preferences and o: turning that mysterious blank space called the Future into a dumping-ground for our own pre-occupation, the “sphere of influence ’’ of our own passionate and imaginative exploitation; instead of regarding it as the open and unknown country where we and our fussy vicarious egotism can, thank the Lord, be escaped from
The friend who complained that people didn't think enough of the future was, by no accidental coincidence, one of those who insist that this war should be continued until we can be sure that it is the last. It was still less a mere accident that another friend, who thinks that if the war continues it will also be repeated, should have made a remark in the contrary sense, viz., “It is rather discouraging that when people or peoples set about being far-sighted, they should nearly always see what does not matter or what cannot exist.”
And naturally. For people's imaginative and ratiocinative inertia is rarely broken except by lively feeling. If they set to thinking about the Future, whether in this world or in the next, ten to one you will find that they are uncomfortable or frightened or annoyed with something in the present. Therefore they think of the Future with reference to that temporary feeling. They set aside what they call the Future as the happy hunting-ground of the Present, making it first and foremost a reversed present; the only unreversed thing about it being, of course, themselves or rather their likes and dislikes. Now there is really no reason why the Future should be a reversed present, or a compensation or retribution for the present, except in so far as the behaviour of the present happens to be conducive to such reversing, compensation or retribution." And this can happen only to a limited extent, because (which we always overlook) the Future is mainly determined by something further back than the present, by something summed up as constitution, nature, possibility, fatality, by which the resent is occasionally humoured but just as often thwarted. n biological, Mendelian, terminology, the Present does not itself exhibit all the hereditary determinants of the Future; and Ages and Civilizations, like babies and foals and green peas, are the offspring as much of forgotten ancestors as of their own, often well-intentioned and fussy, fathers and mothers. It is funny but tragical to watch how all of us think of the Future (and we rarely think at all of it or indeed of anything whatever save under the stress of desire or discomfort or fear) as a nice blank space of the map with no inhabitants diminishing our elbow room, and with no laws or customs of its own, but only such as we colonizers shall introduce. Indeed the Future on Earth, like the Kingdom of Heaven, is not much more than an imaginary colony, Utopia or City of the Sun, sent forth by the discontented, or as we put it, the idealizing present. For since emotion is what makes men think of the Future at all, little addicted as they are to thought which is not “practical,” i.e., concerned with their own immediate likes and dislikes, they cannot help thinking of the Future sub specie not atternitatis but praesentis. . Moreover of the most variable and evanescent of present items: present moods, fears and wants; sub specie, shall we say ephemeriditatis. Thence it so often happens that, as remarked, the more farsighted people set to being, the falser also will their views tend to become. And it is the people who say that their children must not live through a war like this one, who are sending out the boys who were children four years ago, and will be sending the children of to-day three years hence. September, 1918.