Monday, December 21, 2009

Thoughts on Work and Culture by Hamilton Wright Mabie

As a matter of fact, in most cases, it is the community, not the
individual, which is selfish; for communities are often ruthless
destroyers of promising youth.

The gifted young preacher must clearly discern the needs of his own nature
or he will miss the one thing which he was probably sent into the world to
accomplish, the one thing which all men are sent into the world to
secure,--free and noble self-development. He must be wiser than his parish
or the community; he must recognise the peril which comes from the too
close pressure of near duties at the start. The community will
thoughtlessly rob him of the time, the quiet, and the repose necessary for
the unfolding of his spirit; it will drain him in a few years of the
energy which ought to be spread over a long period of time; and at the end
of a decade it will begin to say, under its breath, that its victim has
not fulfilled the promise of his youth. It will fail to discern that it
has blighted that promise by its own urgent demands. The young preacher
who is eager to give the community the very greatest service in his power
will protect it and himself by locking his study door and resolutely
keeping it locked.

The young artist and writer must pass through the same ordeal, and must
learn before it is too late that he who is to render the highest service
to his fellows must be most independent in his relations to them. He
cannot commit the management of his life to others without maiming or
blighting it. The community insists upon immediate activity at the expense
of ultimate service, upon present productivity at the cost of ultimate
power. The artist must learn, therefore, to bar his door against the
public until he has so matured his own strength and determined his own
methods that neither crowds nor applause nor demands can confuse or
disturb him. The great spirits who have nourished the best life of the
race have not turned to their fellows for their aims and habits of work;
they have taken counsel of that ancient oracle which speaks in every man's
soul, and to that counsel they have remained steadfastly true. There is no
clearer disclosure of divine guidance in the confusion of human aims and
counsels than the presence of a distinct faculty or gift in a man; and
when such a gift reveals itself a man must follow it, though it cost him
everything which is most dear; and he must give it the largest opportunity
of growth, though he face the criticism of the world in the endeavour.

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