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Paying the Price

BY CHAS. W. LANDON.
 
Savage and uncivilized peoples live only in the present. To-day they feast, to-morrow they starve. They depend on luck and chance for the means of existence, therefore they never become wealthy, they never grow in knowledge, nor do they develop and grow to a nation of power and influence. But the individuals of a civilized nation look into the future and plan for to-morrow and next year; and whoever is especially successful in fortune, influence and honor has planned for the future with the most wisdom, and followed his plans with the most careful fidelity. He has sacrificed no future good for a present gratification. To-day's pleasure and ease has had to give way for to-morrow's good. If he has gained wealth it is because he denied himself of everything but the bare necessities of life. If he has become learned and known for his knowledge it is because he has worked and studied when other men idled and slept. If he is a man of far-reaching influence for good it is because he has put down the evil in himself with a high hand and subdued self and lived a life of self-denial, and so developed the good and spiritual part of his nature. Any one who has the ambition can become rich or learned, or a person of wide influence, if he will deny himself present gratification for the sake of future conquest; if he will pay the price in self-denial.
 
If the parent will spare the money and use his influence and sometimes his authority, his child may become skilled in music, in a profession, or become what the world calls a scholar. If the child will sacrifice sports and self-indulgence in his youth and study hard, he may become a leader in the professional world. If the teacher will study and practice all that his time and strength will allow, deny himself of recreation and the pleasure of society, he can become eminent and enjoy all the honor that this may bring. Parents must deny themselves if their children ever become anything more than common. Pupils must deny themselves if they ever attain any more than ordinary skill; they must give up the pleasure of the moment for future good. The teacher must work for the future till the brain and nerves cry out, if he would be anything more than a hack and charlatan. We may become all that our highest ambition can desire if we are willing to pay the price in self denial.
 
Fortunately, there is another side to this great question; for "The chief requisite for success is a love for the thing, which will create an undying zeal." The Earl of Derby, in an address recently given, said :—
 
"Having known men of many professions, I should say that the happiest lives are those which have been devoted to science. Every step is interesting, and the success of those who do succeed is lasting.
 
"What general, what orator, what statesman, what man of letters can hope to leave a memory like that of Darwin? An invalid in health, a man who seldom stirred from home; a man until his later years very little known to the outer world, but who from his quiet study revolutionized the thought of Europe, and will be remembered as long as Newton or Bacon.
 
"If fame be ever worth working for (I do not say it is) that kind of fame is surely the most durable, and the most desirable of all."
 
The Youth's Companion, in comments on the above, says:—
 
"These words are true of the disinterested men of science. We have never had in this country men more uniformly cheerful and good-tempered than Franklin, Rittenhouse and Jefferson, who spent most of the leisure of their lives in the pursuit of knowledge; and Professor Agassiz was noted for the buoyancy of his spirits in every company where he felt at home. But we can say something similar of every person who has a pursuit suited to his talents and circumstances.
 
"The happy people are they who have an occupation which they love, apart from any advantage it may bring them, one that they pursue with generous ardor. It is the element of disinterestedness that cheers their lives, whether they are engaged in ordinary or extraordinary avocations; and this is the reason why earnest students have such a keen enjoyment of existence."
 
Coleridge has written in a similar vein :—
 
"I expect neither profit nor fame from my writings, and I consider myself as having been amply repaid without either. My work has been to me its own exceeding great reward: it has soothed my afflictions; it has multiplied and refined my enjoyments; it has endeared solitude, and it has given me the habit of wishing to discover the good and the beautiful in all that meets and surrounds me."
 
Ruskin gives to the thought a new light when he says:—
 
"Pleasure comes through toil, and not by self-indulgence or indolence. When one gets to love work, his life is a happy one."
 
Ease is not happiness; for since the mandate was given, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread," man's greatest happiness has been in a fruitful activity.
 
Frau von Goethe wrote —
 
"Happiness depends more on an inward contentment with God, with myself, and with the rest of mankind, than directly on outward circumstances."
 
But how can one enjoy "inward contentment," if he knows that he is not doing the best that his talents make him capable of accomplishing? Can one be happy while consenting to a lazy self-indulgence of ease and indolence ?
 
Carl Merz gave utterance to a great truth in these words—   
 
"Religion asks for the whole heart, and so does the work of teaching. Neither the Christian nor the teacher can serve two masters."
 
A most notable illustration of this truth was given by the great artist, Michael Angelo.
 
"Whenever Michael Angelo, that 'divine madman,' as Richardson once wrote on the back of his drawings, was meditating on some great design, he closed himself up from the world. 'Why do you lead such a solitary life?' asked a friend. 'Art,' replied the sublime artist, 'is a jealous god; it requires the whole and entire man.'During his mighty labor at the Sistine chapel, he refused to have any communication with any but his own house."—Disraeli.
 
This is as true of the study of music as of the profession of teaching, for the whole heart must be given to one's best endeavors, and that with a singleness of purpose, like Buxton, who attributed his great success in life to his being a whole man to one thing at a time. "This one thing I do," was his motto. In fact, if we make a mark in the world we must do as Professor Henry said of himself; "I train all my guns on one point until I make a breach." But all of this singleness of aim will be lost unless those who are stirred with ambition do as Confucius said of himself; "If I am building a mountain, and stop before the last basketful of earth is placed on the summit I have failed." "Aim high," said James Russell Lowell, "for —
 
"Life is a leaf of paper white Whereon
each one of us may write His word or
two, and then comes night:
Though thou have time
But for a line, be that
sublime; Not failure, but low
aim, is crime."
 
"Success treads on the heels of every right effort," says Smiles; so if not at first successful, "Do not lay your misfortune at the door of Fate. Look well to yourself"; says Thomas Tapper; and he also says: "We must take the current as it serves, or lose our venture." Here we will do well to remember, with William Mathews, that—
 
"A pound of energy with an ounce of talent will achieve greater results than a pound of talent with an ounce of energy."
 
But the one with "an ounce" of talent can say with Buckle that "I would rather be first as a shoe-black than second in anything else," if he has the pluck and grit to overcome all obstacles. When these come to him he can remember that "A smooth sea never made a skillful mariner," and that "Sweet are the uses of adversity;" or—
 
"The good are better made by ill, As odors crushed are sweeter still."
 
If he shrinks from the difficulties in his path he should remember what Beecher said; "If the ore dreads the furnace, the forge, the anvil, the rasp, and the file, it should never desire to be made a sword." But it is hard to believe that "He who wants to make his mark in the world has reason to rejoice that everything seems against him in the line of his endeavors," as Henry Clay Trumbull has said.
 
But when are you going to begin to make something of yourself? To-morrow, after another day of ease, or now? The Wise man said; "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily therefore the heart of men is set fully in them to do evil;" and so it too often is. "Hell is paved with good intentions," remember, but to do a good thing it must have a beginning, and now is the time to begin.
 
Perhaps no feeling is more common with those who have neglected their opportunities than the wish to be placed back to their younger days again. The following, a conversation between two college chums upon meeting after a separation of twenty years, one a successful man, although a man of "the ounce of talent" and the other a man of unusual talents but a lover of ease, who had come to see the reason of his failure:—
 
"'What a fine thing it would be if we could get back into the past in very deed,' Seldon said, his voice still husky. 'I would like to be setback twenty years, in our old college annex, and be allowed to try again. I think I would make a very different record.'
 
"The busy, successful, earnest man looked over at his friend, who was gnawing his lips under his moustache to keep them from trembling, with a thoughtful, half pitiful air: 'Yes,' he said, 'we could improve on the record, no doubt, each of us; but after all, a great many interests which are dear to us would be left in the lurch if we were to desert them and go back. Would it not be better for us to take a fresh stand now, and go forward, making vigorous effort to right all the mistakes, and at the close of the next twenty years, when we are on the home stretch, come out in the triumph of those who overcome? It is the life before us which is full of possibilities, my dear Seldon, not the past.'"
 
Haste not, rest not, calmly wait; Meekly bear the storm of fate, Duty be thy polar guide, Do the right, whate'er betide! Haste not! rest not! conflicts past God shall crown thy work at last.
 
Finally, while the price to be paid for success is a stern self denial and much hard work, yet besides the honor of ultimate success there is a great and perpetual joy in this labor of love. It may be put down as a fact, that no man ever attained distinction in any profession, science or art to whom work in his favorite pursuit was not a constant delight.

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