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not exclusively pertaining to the young, is most strong at an early period of life-to cherish desires and expectations incompatible not only with the condition of the individual indulging them, but with man's probationary state. There is in this nothing positively sinful, I admit; it is simply unfortunate, erroneous; but it is very possible that such a temper of mind may eventually lead to sin; and that it is productive of much misery is unquestionable. To check these aspirations after a felicity existing only in imagination, and at variance with the design of the Almighty relative to his creatures, ought to be one of the aims of education.
When that discontent, which must inevitably result from unreasonable expectations, is the discontent of mortified pride and vanity, we feel more inclined to censure than to pity the victim of it, though, in reality, pity ought to be the predominant sentiment, because an ill-conducted education is the cause whence the mischief has arisen. Had the inherent principle of self-love been early combated, and habits of self-examination been induced in place of it, no such unreasonable expectations would ever have taken root.
It has probably, at one time or other, happened to all of us to meet with persons apparently bowed down by the weight of some great calamity, but who, upon being questioned as to the nature and cause of their unhappiness, have no other answer to give, than that their pretensions have never been properly recognized by the world; they have
not been treated with the degree of respect they merited, either on the score of birth, beauty, or talents. Their efforts to exact this tribute have been incessant, but ineffectual; consequently, they have sunk into a state of despondency and habitual murmuring, from which they can alone be roused by ministering to the morbid appetite consuming their hearts, or by holding out to them some visionary hope, only calculated still further to mislead them. Instead of benevolent affections, persons under this unfortunate delusion feel only envy, suspicion, and dislike; all with whom they come in contact appear to them intent on humbling and depressing them. Whatever means of enjoyment may be open to them they reject with peevishness; disdaining every blessing, save that upon which their desires are fixed, and end by becoming ungrateful to God, and unsocial in their dispositions towards their fellow-creatures.
The cases just described are examples of disappointments ensuing from the delusions of vanity and self-love; but there are other delusions less unamiable, it is true, but equally treacherous, equally inimical to rational happiness. Among these, I know of none more to be guarded against than the unwise practice of always looking forward to some perspective good, while present opportunities are suffered to slip away unenjoyed. The bard who has sung most sweetly of Hope, says, with truth,
6. Thus, from afar, each dim, discovered scene, More pleasing seems than all the past hath been.”
Hope is a bright, a celestial beam, when tempered by moderation; but when suffered to usurp dominion over our reason, it becomes a mere Will-o'the-whisp, leading us away from every substantial comfort into a visionary world peopled with phantoms.
This mode of thinking and acting must be numbered amongst the dangers attending upon a vivid imagination. It is a weakness to which minds formed of the most ethereal elements are peculiarly liable. The gross and the sensual lapse into the opposite extreme-living only in the enjoyment of the present moment. Still it were doing egregious wrong to inculcate the notion that an inaptitude to enjoy the present, and a feverish grasping at the future, is the indication of a lofty and superior nature. The highest order of philosophers, both in their lives and writings, afford us indubitable proof to the contrary. Listen to Goëthe. “What is it,” he asks, “that keeps men in continual discontent and agitation? It is that they cannot make realities correspond with their conceptions; that enjoyment steals away from their hands; that the wished-for comes too late, and nothing reached or acquired produces on the heart the effect which their longing for at a distance led them to anticipate.”
Much of the unhappiness of this world arises from our attempting to analyze and define happiness too distinctly; thus forming to ourselves an erroneous estimate of it; so that we recognize it
not when actually within our grasp. We neglect to gather up those minute particles of pleasure which every moment offers to our acceptance. “What would a blind man give,” exclaims old Izaak Walton, that eloquent moralizer of sylvan shades and running brooks, “to see the pleasant rivers, and meadows, and flowers, that we have met with since we met together? I have been told that if a man that was born blind could obtain to have his sight for but only one hour during his whole life, and should at the first opening of his eyes fix his sight upon the sun when in its full glory, either at the rising or setting, he would be so transported and amazed, that he would not willingly turn his eyes from that first ravishing object to behold all the other various beauties the world could present to him. And this and many other blessings we enjoy daily; and for most of them, because they are so common, most men forget to pay their praises."
In like manner, do we often under-rate the blessing of health, till sad experience of sickness teaches us its value. Then are we ready to acknowledge that it much behoved us to be grateful and happy while health was ours, and that we should be so in earnest, were the boon restored.
I have elsewhere observed that the young are prone to undervalue their friends: I here repeat the opinion, and fear that I may include many of maturer years
in the accusation. While friends are present with us, while we are accustomed to
their acts, and words, and looks of kindness, it seems to us a matter of course that we should have them. We do not sufficiently consider either how much they contribute to our daily and hourly comfort, or how much unhappiness would result to us from their removal. But let the trial come, and then, alas ! we feel too late the full value of the blessing of which we have been deprived. Yes, we would then give worlds, were worlds ours to give, could we but hear once again, only for a moment, the voices, see the looks of affection that kindled in us scarcely any emotion, when the privilege to hear and see them was uninterruptedly
Of all the modes we take to fritter away happiness, this is the most reprehensible, the most productive of regret.
Happiness is entirely a possession of the mind; but if not cherished, and guarded with the utmost vigilance, it will elude our grasp.
We cannot perhaps, under all circumstances, command it; but we may, under most, cultivate a spirit congenial to it; and let us remember that it always flourishes most when nourished with the simplest food. Where Luxury is suffered to intrude, Happiness dies of starvation; for Luxury is “ Artificial Poverty.” If “the world is too much with us”if, in “getting and spending, we lay waste our powers” - Happiness will wither in the sordid gripe of care. The atmosphere of sensual pleasure and gairish dissipation is equally destructive to it. It cannot exist in proximity with aught that