After this study of the teachings of the Divine Master let us know this. It is the material that is the transient, the temporary; and the mental and spiritual that is the real and the eternal. We must not become slaves to habit. The material alone can never bring happiness - much less satisfaction. These lie deeper. That conversation between Jesus and the rich young man is full of significance for us all, especially in this ambitious, striving, restless age.
Abundance of life is determined not alone by one's material possessions, but primarily by one's riches of mind and spirit. A world of truth is contained in these words: " Life is what we are alive to. It is not a length, but breadth. To be alive only to appetite, pleasure, mere luxury or idleness, pride or money-making, and not to goodness and kindness, purity and love, history, poetry, and music, flowers, God and eternal hopes, is to be all but dead."
Why be so eager to gain possession of the hundred thousand or the half-million acres, of so many millions of dollars? Soon, and it may be before you realise it, all must be left. It is as if a man made it his ambition to accumulate a thousand or a hundred thousand automobiles. All soon will become junk. But so it is with all material things beyond what we can actually and profitably use for our good and the good of others - and that we actually do so use.
A man can eat just so many meals during the year or during life. If he tries to eat more he suffers thereby. He can wear only so many suits of clothing; if he tries to wear more, he merely wears himself out taking off and putting on. Again it is as Jesus said: " For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and lose his own life? " And right there is the crux of the whole matter. All the time spent in accumulating these things beyond the reasonable amount, is so much taken from the life - from the things of the mind and the spirit. It is in the development and the pursuit of these that all true satisfaction lies. Elemental law has so decreed.
We have made wonderful progress, or rather have developed wonderful skill in connection with things. We need now to go back and catch up the thread and develop like skill in making the life.
Little wonder that brains are addled, that nerves are depleted, that nervous dyspepsia, that chronic weariness, are not the exception but rather the rule. Little wonder that sanitariums are always full; that asylums are full and overflowing - and still more to be built. No wonder that so many men, so many good men break and go to pieces, and so many lose the life here at from fifty to sixty years, when they should be in the very prime of life, in the full vigour of manhood; at the very age when they are capable of enjoying life the most and are most capable of rendering the greatest service to their fellows, to their community, because of greater growth, experience, means, and therefore leisure. Jesus was right - What doth it profit? And think of the real riches that in the meantime are missed.
It is like an addled-brain driver in making a trip across the continent. He is possessed, obsessed with the insane desire of making a record. He plunges on and on night and day, good weather and foul - and all the time he is missing all the beauties, all the benefits to health and spirit along the way. He has none of these when he arrives - he has missed them all. He has only the fact that he has made a record drive - or nearly made one. And those with him he has not only robbed of the beauties along the way; but he has subjected them to all the discomforts along the way. And what really underlies the making of a record? It is primarily the spirit of vanity.
When the mental beauties of life, when the spiritual verities are sacrificed by self-surrender to and domination by the material, one of the heavy penalties that inexorable law imposes is the drying up, so to speak, of the finer human perceptions - the very faculties of enjoyment. It presents to the world many times, and all unconscious to himself, a stunted, shrivelled human being - that eternal type that the Master had in mind when he said: " Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee." He whose sole employment or even whose primary employment becomes the building of bigger and still bigger barns to take care of his accumulated grain, becomes in capable of realising that life and the things that pertain to it are of infinitely more value than barns, or houses, or acres, or stocks, or bonds, or railroad ties. These all have their place, all are of value; but they can never be made the life. A recent poem by James Op-penheim presents a type that is known to nearly every one: " War and Laughter," by James Oppenheim - The Century Company, New York.
I heard the preacher preaching at the funeral: He moved the relatives to tears telling them of the father, husband, and friend that was dead: Of the sweet memories left behind him: Of a life that was good and kind.
I happened to know the man, And I wondered whether the relatives would have wept if the preacher had told the truth: Let us say like this:
"The only good thing this man ever did in his life,
Was day before yesterday:
He died . . .
But he didn't even do that of his own volition . . .
He was the meanest man in business on Manhattan Island,
The most treacherous friend, the cruelest and stingiest husband,
And a father so hard that his children left home as soon as they were old enough . . .
Of course he had divinity: everything human has:
But he kept it so carefully hidden away that he might just as well not have had it . . .
"Wife! good cheer! now you can go your own way and live your own life!
Children, give praise! you have his money: the only good thing he ever gave you . . .
Friends! you have one less traitor to deal with . . .
This is indeed a day of rejoicing and exultation!
Thank God this man is dead! "
An unknown enjoyment and profit to him is the world's great field of literature, the world's great thinkers, the inspirers of so many through all the ages. That splendid verse by Emily Dickinson means as much to him as it would to a dumb stolid ox:
He ate and drank the precious words,
His spirit grew robust, He knew no more that he was poor,
Nor that his frame was dust; He danced along the dingy days,
And this bequest of wings Was but a book! What liberty
A loosened spirit brings!
Yes, life and its manifold possibilities of un-foldment and avenues of enjoyment - life, and the things that pertain to it - is an infinitely greater thing than the mere accessories of life.
What infinite avenues of enjoyment, what peace of mind, what serenity of soul may be the possession of all men and all women who are alive to the inner possibilities of life as portrayed by our own prophet, Emerson, when he said: