"Men have died, from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love"—nor for work. Work of itself never killed anybody nor made anybody sick. Work has caused worry, mental strain, and physical breakdown, only when men while working have been deprived of air, sun, light, exercise, sleep, proper food at the proper time, opportunity to live and work hygienically. Fortunately for human progress, doing nothing brings ailments of its own and has none of the compensations of work. As the stomach deprived of substantial food craves unnatural food,—sweets, stimulants,—so the mind deprived of substantial, regular diet of wholesome work turns to unwholesome, petty, fantastic, suspicious, unhappy thoughts. This state of mind, combined with the lack of bodily exercise that generally accompanies it, reacts unfavorably on physical health. An editor has aptly termed the do-nothing condition as a self-inflicted confinement:
A great deal of the misery and wretchedness among young men that inherit great fortunes is caused by the fact that they are practically in jail. They have nothing to do but eat, drink, and enjoy themselves, and they cannot understand why their lives are dull.
We have had the owner of a great railroad system pathetically telling the public that he is unhappy. That is undoubtedly true, because with all his race horses, and his yachts, and all the things that he imagines to be pleasures, he is not really doing anything.
If he were running one little railroad station up the road, handling the freight, fussing about dispatches, living above the railroad station in two rooms, and buying shoes in a neighboring village for fifteen children he would be busy and happy.
But he cannot be happy because he is in prison,—in a prison of money, a prison that is honorable because it gives him everything that he wants, and he wants nothing.
A New York newspaper that circulates among the working classes where young men and women are inclined to associate health and happiness with doing nothing recently gave two columns to "Dandy Jim," the richest dog in the world. Dandy Jim's mistress left him a ten-thousand-dollar legacy. During his lifetime he wore diamonds. Every day he ate candy that cost eighty cents a pound. The coachman took him driving in the park sunny afternoons. He had no cares and nothing to work for. His food came without effort. He had fatty degeneration of the vital organs. He was pampered, coddled, and killed thereby. Thousands of men and women drag out lives of unhappiness for themselves and others because, like Dandy Jim, they have nothing to work for, are pampered, coddled victims of fatty degeneration. When President Butler of Columbia University finds it necessary to censure "the folly and indifference of the fathers, vanity and thoughtless pride of the mothers" who encourage do-nothing ailments; and when the editor of the Psychological Clinic protests that the fashionable private schools and the private tutor share with rich fathers and mothers responsibility for life failures,—it is time that educators teach children themselves the physical and moral ailments and disillusions that come from doing nothing.
Ten years ago a stenographer inherited two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Her dream of nothing to do was realized. She gave up her strenuous business life. Possessions formerly coveted soon clogged her powers of enjoyment. She imagined herself suffering from various diseases, shut herself up in her house, and refused to see any one. She grew morbid and was sure that every person who approached her had some sneaking, personal, hostile motive. Though always busy, she accomplished little. Desultory work, procrastination, and self-indulgence destroyed her power of concentration. She could not think long enough on one subject to think it out straight, therefore she was constantly deceived in her friends and interests. She first trusted everybody, then mistrusted everybody. Infatuation with every new acquaintance was quickly followed by suspicion. For years she was a very sick woman, a victim of do-nothing ailments.
Doing nothing has of late been seriously recommended to American business men. They are advised to retire from active work as soon as their savings produce reasonable income. It is true, this suggestion has been made as an antidote to greed rather than for the happiness of the business man. What retiring from business is apt to mean, is indicated by a gentleman who at the age of sixty decided to sell his seat on the New York Stock Exchange and to enjoy life. He became restless and very miserable. He threw himself violently into one thing after another; in less than a year he became an ill, broken old man, after trying vainly to buy back his business.