Are We in the Hands of Fate?
MAN IS HIS OWN FATE
By JOHN HAYNES HOLMES, Minister of The Community Church, New York City
Delivered at Lehigh University, October 5, 1941
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VIII, pp. 81-86.
IT WAS just forty years ago, in September, 1901, that I entered the Harvard Divinity School, and therewith started my career as a minister of religion. To go back to that time in memory is like going back to some very remote period of history. If a person, before the days of 1914, had tried to return to the ancient days of the Caesars and the Christ, he would not have had a longer journey, psychologically and historically speaking, than I would have if I tried to return to the first year of this present century. To move from 1941 to September, 1939 (the invasion of Poland), back through the postwar years to 1919 (the Versailles Treaty), 1918 (the Armistice), 1917 (the Russian Revolution), then back to August, 1914 (the opening of the first World War), and then into these idyllic pre-war years and
back to September, 1901—this is like moving from the 19th century to 1789 (the French Revolution), to 1492 (the discovery of America), to 476 (the fall of Rome), and then back through the declining years of the Empire to the opening of the Christian era. So long it seems since I was a young man going from the college to the theological school. So stupendous have been the events within that period of a single life-time! So vast have been the changes from that old world, in which I was born and reared, to this new world, in which I stumble and stagger toward my old age. These changes are complete—as fundamental, perhaps, as any that have taken place in any comparable period of history.
Professor Whitehead, of Harvard University, one of the
greatest philosophers of our day, has summed up the whole transformation of these decades in the significant comment that, in the years before 1914 and back into the 19th century, we lived in a society that had a sense of continuity. There was a connection, or continuum, between things, as between the multitudinous stitches of a woven cloth. Event followed event in a living sequence. Life was a process of unfolding, as the seed unfolds into the leaf and bud, and the bud in turn into the blossom. We spoke in those days of the stream of history—as though society were a smoothly flowing river which moved as serenely toward "the Sea where it goes" as from "the Hills where (it) rose." What it all meant was that we could count upon things happening in natural and normal ways, without undue disturbance and certainly without serious interruption. We could thus anticipate and plan for the future as accurately as we could read and record the past . . . But now all this is gone! There is no continuity any more in human events. Things happen today which defy anticipation or even understanding. Order has suddenly become chaos, and our whole society a confusion of broken fragments. The stream of history is now a raging flood, which sweeps the landscape with devastation and death. We are in the midst of a vast upheaval of the social cosmos, and "no man knoweth what a day or an hour may bring forth."
Another way of expressing this same transformation of the world is to say that, a generation ago, we believed in progress. When I was a boy in the Sunday School, I was taught a statement of the five points of Unitarian doctrine, of which the last was—"the progress of mankind onward and upward forever." We were so sure about this idea that we used to talk about a Law of Progress, which bound mankind as surely as the law of gravitation binds the stars. Man couldn't be lost, even though he wanted to be. He was doomed to be saved, as in the old Calvinistic days he was doomed to be damned. The science of evolution seemed to substantiate this fateful reading of reality—the development of life from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous, from the simple to the complex and of course from the lower to the higher. It was thus that we thought of the course of history as the running of an unbroken line from civilization to civilization—a line swerving now and then, and on occasion turning back, but on the whole mounting straight onward into the future. Sometimes we pictured this line as a spiral, which moved downward only to sweep upward to a higher level. Each generation stood on the shoulders of the generation preceding it, and thus saw a wider vision and breathed a purer air. . . . This was the Progress which was the great fetish of the 19th century. But now we are not so sure of progress any more! In the very moment of our greatest pride, we have been flung, as down a precipice, from civilization to barbarism. The whole fabric of our achievements, for centuries gone by, seems tumbling into ruin. Where this prosperity of which we boasted, this peace which we declared that we had won, this progress which we proclaimed as the very law of life? We thought we were getting somewhere in the good old days. But we were deceived. We were not really getting anywhere. When have men ever gotten anywhere? Look at this line of history which we seemed to be climbing, like a mountain trail, to the gleaming summits of man's golden dream! It is not a straight nor an unbroken line at all. On the contrary, it goes down quite as much as it goes up, and it is broken in a hundred places. Egypt and Babylon, Ninevah and Tyre, Greece and Rome! Man has tried here to get ahead, and he has tried there—and always, sooner or later, he has failed. Like a fountain or a rocket, humanity
goes up, only to come down again. There is no progress. There is only struggle—and a struggle which in the end seems to lead only to defeat and not to victory.
Another way of describing this change which has come over our attitudes in recent years is in terms of what I may call the future. When I was a young man there was a future. We counted upon it. We planned for it. We never doubted of its coming—this happy day when prosperity and peace should be scattered over all the earth! Our one concern was that it should be enjoyed in equal measure by all the sons of men. So we worked for larger opportunities and equitable privileges—that, when our dreams came true, there should be no disinherited to suffer and be ashamed. . . . But now this future seems to have disappeared. Our vision of the coming day can no more be found. It is as though a lovely landscape, stretching out before our enraptured gaze, had suddenly been shut off by fogs, and tempests, and black night. We can no longer see where we are going. We are not even sure of our direction. Therefore, the next step, and not any distant goal, is our prime concern. So far from thinking about distributing tomorrow the good things of this earth, we are wondering today if there will be any good things to distribute. Our problem, in other words, has been completely changed from one of enjoyment to one of sheer survival. How impressively this was shown in the Joint Declaration published by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill after their famous Atlantic conference some weeks ago! This Declaration was not a constitution. It was no plan for a new world—least of all, a blue-print for the future. In all the document, there was not a promise nor a guarantee of any kind. On the contrary, there was only a confession of profound conviction by two harassed statesmen, and of the desperate hopes that were founded upon this conviction. We "desire," we "believe," we "hope to see," we "will endeavor"—these were the modest phrases used by these two leaders of our great democracies. They did not dare say anything more, for all depended, in their minds, upon "the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny." But how is that going to be done? What is it going to cost? What, if anything, will there be left? These are the immediate questions—so dark and terrible that they shut out all futures whatsoever. So we live in the present, and understand, as we have never understood before, that "sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."
The realization of these changed times which affects us most is in the matter of security—our own personal security! When I was a young men, security was as much taken for granted as the light of day. What a man had, he held; and what a man wanted, he could earn. Granted any position in the economic world, and any brains and any character—then safety was assured. I remember my father saying to me—"There are three things, my boy, which you must do. You must buy a house, and thus have a home. You must keep a small bank account, as protection against a rainy day. And you must take out some life insurance, to guard your wife and family from the hazard of your sudden death. Do these three things—and there is nothing in the world can touch you." Well, I did those things. But what does anyone of them mean today in terms of the security which my father wanted me to have, and felt certain that I could have? I own a house in which I have lived for a quarter of a century—and I suppose that if I could sell it today for half of what I paid for it, I should be lucky. I have a bank account which I have tried to keep at a certain figure for many years—and any day now it may be borrowed, appropriated, or confiscated by the government, or reduced to nothing at all by the process of inflation. I have carried
life insurance ever since I was married—and I am wondering today if my policies will be worth the paper they are printed on when, in the natural course of events, I die. There is no such thing as security any more. There is as little permanency in values as stability in institutions. For years the preachers of religion have proclaimed "the deceitfulness of riches," and the emptiness of all merely material possessions. Well, here they are—the prophecies come true! Now we know that the things of the spirit alone endure. In our time, as in times before, there has come the moment described by Prospero, in Shakespeare's play, The Tempest, when
". . . all which (we) inherit shall dissolve, And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind."
These, now, are various ways of describing the change which has come over the minds of men in my time. We have lost the sense of continuity, as we see the order of the world reduced to chaos. We no longer believe in a law of progress to lead us on our way. We miss the future in our absorption in the perils of the passing moment. And we look in vain for any vestiges of the security which once was ours. What is the explanation of this change? Were we wrong yesterday, or are we wrong today? One fact is certain, and that is that, in my youth, we did not see things as they really were. We were either hopelessly deceived by the nature of the world and the process of man's life and the trends of history, or else we deliberately fooled ourselves as to what was going on. The late John Buchan (Lord Tweedsmuir), in the autobiography which he composed shortly before his death, declared that the besetting sin of the Victorian Age was its complacency." It had everything settled to its own advantage. It knew that everything was coming out all right. Where did this complacency come from? From what roots did it spring? What, if anything, was the secret of a period which was more sadly deluded than any other period that man has ever known?
There may be various answers to these questions. One answer is certainly fundamental—that, for one reason or another, we all slipped into the attitude of fatalism. It should be remembered that fatalism is of two kinds—the optimistic as well as the pessimistic. Its essence is a belief in blind, impersonal forces which control our lives and therefore determine our destinies. These forces are usually thought of as subversive or destructive forces, which sweep man away to some dreadful doom of futility and despair, since fate is a denial of freedom which is man's highest attribute! But, in the logic of things, these blind impersonal forces may be quite as well beneficent as bad. If we believe in such forces at all, and have any kind of an optimistic approach to life, we may see them as shaping our ends to good and not to evil. And that is precisely what happened in an age when man was optimistic beyond all bounds of reason. Largely under the influence of a science which expanded the cosmos to enormous magnitude, and reduced everything therein to a reign of iron law, we came to feel that we were in the hands of forces infinitely greater than ourselves which were moulding the destinies not only of the stars but of the human race. These destinies, in that confident and happy age, seemed themselves to be happy, and we welcomed their control. Forces of improvement, progress, and fulfilment had seized upon us, and were carrying us on to the golden age of which all the centuries had dreamed, and which we at last were to behold. It was as though, after much drifting and futile struggle, we had been caught in the current of some mighty stream which was lifting us
up and bearing us on. The hand of fate was upon us, to our salvation and not our doom.
The illustrations of this fatalism, which underlay the complacency of the 19th century, are numerous. One of the most effective is Karl Marx, the most formidable thinker of this modern age, whose writings had a larger influence, in a shorter space of time, and to more dire consequences, than those of any other man who has ever lived. Marx, like his philosophical master, Hegel, was a fatalist, and interpreted all the life of society in terms of fatalism. He saw man in the control of certain economic forces which were weaving the pattern of a destiny which was his whether he wanted it or not. Under the operations of this "economic determinism," as he called it, the rich were growing richer, and the poor poorer. In due course, the necessary struggle between these two classes would result in a cataclysmic revolution which would destroy capitalism and bring in the new socialistic order. All this was a process, or a fate. In its intermediate stages, it was disastrous and terrible, but in the end beneficent. It marked at last the fulfilment of all man's dream of happiness and peace upon the earth.
Another illustration is that of evolution. The great masters of this science were not fatalists. But it was inevitable that a theory of ordered development, in the blind and unheeding realm of organic life, should be carried over philosophically into the conscious life of man, and be made the revelation of a progress which was written in the stars. The human race was evolving, psychologically, sociologically, ethically, as well as biologically—and this was enough to suggest that the race was moving onward and upward, under cosmic influences, to a destiny greater than it could conceive, or could itself achieve. It is difficult to say just where the line was crossed, in this evolutionary thinking, into the field of fate, but that it was crossed there can be no doubt. Take our own great American evolutionist, John Fiske, for example! In 1884, he published a book, supremely typical of the times, which was entitled, The Destiny of Man. In this book, he declared dogmatically that "on the earth there will never be a higher creature than man," and of man he prophesied the certain consummation of his fondest desires. "The future is lighted for us," he wrote, "with the radiant colors of hope. Strife and sorrow shall disappear. Peace and love shall reign supreme. The dream of poets, the lesson of priest and prophet, the inspiration of the great musician, is confirmed in the light of modern knowledge; and as we gird ourselves up for the work of life, we may look forward to the time when in the truest sense the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever, king of kings, and lord of lords."
Even religion fell into this fatalistic tendency of which I speak. The essence of fatalism, as I have said, is a belief in blind, impersonal forces, implicit in the cosmos, which determine the destiny of man altogether apart from his own interference or control. It is doubtful if religion, in our time, ever surrendered to the idea of these blind, impersonal forces. It always proclaimed and magnified the thought of God as an intelligent and loving ruler of the universe. But religion went far in the direction of placing in the hands of this deity a determination of man's destiny in which he had little or no participation. It was a curious revival of the doctrine of predestination as applied to this world instead of to the next, and as weighted on the side of joy instead of woe. Thus, in the old theology, the human race, with a few exceptions, was predestined to endless wretchedness in hell. But in the 19th century theology, in its more liberal phases at least, the human race was predestined to eternal happiness in a heaven set up here upon the earth. This op-
timistic fatalism was given immortal expression by Robert Browning, in his famous couplet,
"God's in his heaven, All's right with the world."
It was into a fatalism of this type that we drifted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This is the explanation of the "complacency" of which John Buchan speaks as the characteristic of this age. Everything was all right—or would be all right. If anything was wrong, it was in process of change to the better, and ultimately to the best. And so men felt the sense of continuity, and talked of progress, and planned for the future, and felt secure. And now everything has crashed—and straightway we have fallen into another fatalism. This time the more familiar fatalism of despair and not of hope, of darkness and not of light!
Surely, to any sensitive person, it must be apparent that a cloud of fatalistic foreboding is sweeping over our world like a storm across the sky. There is good reason for this feeling today that we are in the clutch of forces set upon our undoing. The very measure of our confidence and hope in the last century is the measure of our fear and despair in this. Everything that we have built has been destroyed. All that we have trusted has proven vain. Into our proud civilization and across our beautiful world have swept the tides of barbarism which we thought had been subdued forever. It is true that all is not lost—not yet! These tides may be swept back again, and the world delivered. But the dreadful thing is that, for the first time in conscious memory, we face an enemy we are not sure that we can beat. And if we do beat him, there is the further dreadful fact that, in the struggle for victory, we are destroying ourselves as well as him. We are in a way to repeat the achievement of the Roman conqueror, described by Tacitus, who "made a desert and called it peace." All of which means, or seems to mean, that we are being annihilated by destructive forces inherent in the social process itself I After all, this experience of ours is not new. The passing of a world, in bloodshed and terror, has happened before. There is a fate upon us—a grim and ghastly fate—that the price of victory is defeat, and the logic of life is death!
This pessimistic fatalism, so different from the old optimistic type, is set forth in two judgments upon this age—and upon all ages, for that matter!—which are characteristic products of our time.
One is the judgment of Oswald Spengler, as set forth in his tremendous book, The Decline of the West. This work is not so much a history as it is a philosophy of history. According to Spengler, there is no such thing as continuity in human affairs, and certainly there is no such thing as progress. History simply discloses a succession of civilizations which are not so many steps in the onward march of man, but rather so many bubbles upon an eternal sea of nothingness. Civilizations are simply phenomena which come and go. They appear only to disappear, they rise only to fall—and transmit nothing to the future. Our own civilization at this moment is declining, and must soon go the way of all other civilizations before it—and there is nothing that we can do about it. We are caught, like so many fingers, in the wheels of fate. In the most helpless and hopeless statement of fatalism I have ever read, Spengler declares that, in this moment of catastrophe, we are like the Roman soldier in Pompeii who, when the awful Vesuvian eruption fell upon the city, was left at his post and remained steadfastly to perish. "An honorable end," says Spengler, as a kind of final confession of faith, "is the one thing that cannot be taken away from a man."
A second judgment, characteristic of these times, is found in the neo-Calvinism which is today creeping into so many of our more orthodox Christian churches. This neo-Calvinism has as its chief exponent in Europe the great Karl Barth, and in this country Dr. Reinhold Neibuhr, of the Union Theological Seminary. This theology presents a pessimism of the blackest type. Man is under the curse of original sin. Since he is in birth and character a sinner, he can do nothing good. He is thus unable to save himself in eternity or the world in time. His society, inwrought with the sinfulness of his own nature, is doomed to perish. Man's only hope is the ever-present, ever-forgiving grace of God. Which reminds me, I trust not irreverently, of the story of the woman, in a great storm at sea, who asked the captain if the ship was going to be saved! "Madam," he replied, "we must trust in God." "Oh," she exclaimed in dismay, "is it as bad as that?"
Such is the fatalism into which we have been betrayed. Before 1914, an optimistic fatalism which assured us that we were floating on a quiet stream into a haven of perfect bliss! After that dreadful date, a pessimistic fatalism which assured us that we were caught in a maelstrom of disaster from which there is no escape! The former fatalism is decidedly more pleasant than the latter, but it is difficult to say which is the more fatal to the higher interests of man's being. Both must be described as maladies of the time. They are like spiritual cancers which eat away the vitality of the soul. In three closely analogous ways, at least, they are disastrous:
In the first place, they rob man of his sense of power. In the ordinary course of events, we feel that we can do things, and are meant to do things, in the world of men. In lieu of being taught otherwise, we seem to be conscious of an original source of strength in our bodies, as of ideas in our minds, which move us to action which seems to be both spontaneous and effective. We rejoice in this power, as a child rejoices in his limbs, and interpret it to mean that we have our part to play in the life of man and in the high purposes of God. Then there comes this fatalism which is like a stroke of paralysis. We have no part to play. It is all done for us. Our strength is but an illusion of activity. Like actors in a theatre, we have no power to change a drama all written before we came upon the stage.
In the second place, the optimistic or the pessimistic type of fatalism—it makes no difference!—robs man of his dignity as a human being. Under the rule of fate, he has no freedom or initiative. He can determine nothing for himself or for humanity. He is like one of the animals who move from day to day under the control of mere blind instinct, and wit not where they are going, or why they live at all. The whole glory of man is to be found in the fact that he is a moral being, capable of making choices, and acting upon these choices. To deny this attribute to man, as fate denies it, is like the dethroning of a king. His power is gone, his dignity lost, and all the splendor of his day departed.
Lastly, and more particularly, there is the denial to man of responsibility. Under the operations of any kind of fate, whether optimistic or pessimistic, man is no longer responsible for anything. Things are decided, outcomes determined, altogether apart from his thought, decision, or activity. It makes no difference what he does, or does not do—the same course of human events will unfold to the same ultimate result. This is the final degradation of man, as it is the worst danger to society. For if fate is in control of things, then anything goes. As anything and everything did go in the years before and the years after the Great War! In
both cases, men's thoughts were fatalistic. Before 1914 everything was all right—so a man did not have anything to worry about, and could do what he pleased. After 1918 and the end of the war, everything was all wrong, so again man did not have anything to worry about, and could do what he pleased. So in the one period as in the other, man divorced himself from responsibility, and there ensued such a reign of moral anarchy and dissolution as the world has not seen in many centuries. If any one thing more than another has brought us to where we are today, it is this irresponsibility which has its roots in fatalism.
All of this means that, if we are to save our world and redeem these times, we must get rid of this fatalism which has been ensnaring us so long. I realize that this is only one of many things that must be done. But I insist that this is the fundamental thing, since it touches upon the moral and spiritual elements of man's being, and thus penetrates to the core of reality. Unless man can be rescued from these binding chains of a bad philosophy and a worse science, and thus made again to be a free and responsible agent of human affairs, then there is little use of trying to do anything. Our military campaigns, our political stratagems, our personal sacrifices will be in vain; for, whether the totalitarian states be beaten or not, we shall be enslaved to a cosmic totalitarianism which denies to us that inner freedom without which no outer freedom whatsoever is worth having. I repeat that we must rescue man from the clutch of fatalism —and I know of only two influences that can do it. Not government or society, or economics or politics, or any reform or revolution! But just those two agencies of man's life which have been from the beginning, and must remain to the end, if the race is ever to be delivered from its woe.
The first of these two influences is religion. We must hear again the proclamation of that truth which is central to all religions—that man is the child of God, and holds within himself the power of his own salvation. Every great prophet of religion has held this faith, and has urged men to be worthy of the divine within them. Every great seer of the spirit has found this spirit in the human soul, and has labored to awaken this soul to a consciousness and use of its divine inheritance. Ye are the children of God! Ye are the light of the world! Ye are the salt of the earth! This does not mean that man is perfect. He has an earthly inheritance as well as a heavenly—is flesh as well as spirit. This does not mean that man's will is final. It is God's will that is supreme, and man's business to find that will and make it his own. This does not mean that man is free in the sense of acting without restriction or restraint. There is a moral order in this universe which man must work with and not against, if he would succeed. But it does mean that man has the divine within him; that he operates creative powers of good and evil; that he can choose, for himself and for his fellows, to be saved or damned; that if the world is to be saved, he must save it, and if the world is to be lost, he will lose it. Man is his own fate. He determines, freely, his own future. In this vast realm of the spirit which is man's home, there is no escaping this august responsibility of destiny.
I count it the shame of the church, in ancient times, that it confused or lost this central truth of the divine capacity of man in pagan dogmas of sin, predestination, and eternal punishment. But I count it equally the shame of science and philosophy, of learning generally in our time, that it has obscured or denied this truth in sordid theories of determinism, materialism, and mechanism. That so-called en-
lightened minds have undertaken, with incredible arrogance, to degrade man to the level of the atom and the molecule, in-
stead of lifting the atom and the molecule to the level of man and God! What is the explanation of these times but
the loss of all religion, all spiritual consciousness and will, and the stupid acceptance of force and matter as the secret of life? And what are Fascism, Nazism, and Communism, with their denial of all spiritual truth and their repudiation of all moral values, but the logical conclusion and representation of our thinking? Nothing can save us, in this catastrophic era, but a recovery of religion—a visitation, may I say, of great preaching. Such preaching as Ralph Waldo Emerson had in mind when he said that the true preacher is one who makes man "sensible that he is in an infinite Soul, that the earth and heavens are in his mind. . . . If you please to plant yourself on the side of a Fate," continued Emerson, "and say, Fate is all, then we say, a part of Fate is the freedom of man. Forever wells up the impulse of choosing and acting in the soul. Intellect annuls Fate. . . . Events are our children. The soul of Fate is the soul of us."
If religion is the first of the two influences which can banish the superstition of fatalism, education is the second. And as our present crisis demands of religion great preaching, so it demands of education great teaching. Where are our great teachers these days? We do not hear any more, in our colleges and universities, of great teachers but only of great scholars—as though scholarship were of any worth without its successful impartation! The myth of our time, in educational circles, seems to be the idea that "knowledge is power." Well, it is power; but it is not the greatest power, and it may be used to disgusting and wicked ends, as witness what is going on in our contemporary world. Yet we seek knowledge—for itself alone, apparently—as a kind of summum bonum. What chance has a man to a faculty appointment these days who has not a Ph.D. after his name? What is the supreme qualification to accompany an application for consideration for an academic position if not a bibliography of books and articles which the applicant has written and nobody but his wife and his proof-reader has read? Am I wholly wrong in the suspicion which has crept into my mind in recent years that, in all too many colleges, the student is regarded by the professor not so much as the raison d'etre of his existence, as a kind of aggravating intrusion upon his time in laboratory and study? At any rate, it seems to be the research worker who is wanted today. Not the man who can cultivate the field of knowledge for the instruction and joy of a new generation of eager learners, but the man who can extend that field by a square inch or two for his own academic satisfaction and advancement.
Yet it is to teaching that we must return, if education is to do its work of quickening and guiding the soul of man. For, in the last analysis, it is not knowledge which is power, but personality. Teaching may be defined as the impartation of knowledge through personality. "The spirit only can teach," says Emerson. "Not any profane man, not any sensual, not any liar, not any slave can teach; . . . he only can create who is. The man on whom the soul descends, through whom the soul speaks, alone can teach."
"Soul" is the word—for what is education but a process of spiritual conception, in which soul is born of soul? I think of my own college, Harvard, in the great days of President Charles William Eliot, who filled his faculty with men who were not only scholars but teachers—in certain cases, greater teachers than they were scholars! In any case, their primary business was in the classroom, and not in the laboratory or the study. There, for example, was Professor George Lyman Kittredge, the great authority on Shakespeare in his day. Professor Kittredge had no Ph.D. attached to his name.
He used to ask where was the man who could examine him for the degree. When he died, a few weeks ago, I was amazed to note how few and unimportant were the books which he had published. But what a teacher! His lecture-room was his kingdom, and its platform his throne. Then there was Professor Nathaniel Shailer. I used to suspect, when I was in college, that he was no final authority on his subject, geology. He was hardly what you would call a productive scholar. Perhaps because he was primarily interested not in rocks but in men, and preferred a conference with a student to an excursion along the cliffs, or to the writing of a book about it! The hundreds of boys who swarmed each year into his classroom may not have learned the last word or the minutest fact about geology, but they touched and were inspired by one of the supreme personalities of the time, and thus themselves made men. And Professor George Herbert Palmer! I am sure he was never a great philosopher. I doubt if he ever had an original idea. Certainly he never produced an important philosophical work. But he was the greatest teacher at Harvard in a generation of great teachers, and his famous course, "Phil. 4," an unforgettable experience of the soul.
Great teaching! This is what we need from education, as great preaching from religion, that the spirit of man may come alive again and take possession of its world. Long enough have we been the fools of fate. Before the war, we let the world drift from our control, in the serene conviction that the drifting was in the right direction, and we need not worry. This was complacency—the open door to pride, corruption and decay. Since the war, we have seen the world plunged to ruin, and in despair have given way to the con-
viction that we are doomed, and can do nothing. This is defeatism—the open door to decay, destruction, despair, and death. From this there is no recovery, save in ourselves. We must shake off the shackles of dead necessity, and regain the sense of freedom and of faith. We must dispell the fatalistic delusion that we are bound by forces greater than our own, and assert the soul as the only force that is supreme.
What the world needs this desperate day is not armaments, and war, and fighting, and killing—these are themselves the direst fate that can befall the lot of man. What the world needs is faith!—the faith of man in himself, in his world, and in his God. To do not as he must, but as he will, to master destiny! It was said by Napoleon of his marshal, Massena, that he was not himself until the battle began to go against him. Then, when all seemed lost, "he put on terror and victory as a robe." So in a deeper and truer sense, in this hour of despair, we must put on victory. For "it is in rugged crises, in unweariable endurance, . . . that the angel is shown."
Do you remember Emerson's tremendous lines, fit for this theme and time—
"The sun set, but set not his hope:
Stars rose; his faith was earlier up:
Fixed on the enormous galaxy,
Deeper and older seemed his eye;
And matched his sufferance sublime
The taciturnity of time.
He spoke, and words more soft than rain
Brought the age of gold again:
His action won such reverence sweet
As hid all measure of the feat."
Business Must Go Ahead
IT IS TIME WE LIFTED UP OUR HEADS
By CARLE C. CONWAY, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Continental Can Co.
Delivered at Hotel Muehlebach, Kansas City, Mo., before a luncheon given by the Real Estate Board of Kansas City, and attended also by the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, October 24, 1941
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. VIII, pp. 86-87.
BUSINESS goes ahead for one very definite reason. It has no other way to go! It can never stand still. It must go forward or ultimately it dies. To listen to the outpourings of some of our theorists, one would think that business leaders were soft, indolent, and carefree. They are pictured as spending their winters lolling on the beaches at Miami, and their summers in luxurious ease. So far as my experience goes, that must be a couple of other fellows. One thing we all know, the business man who reaches the top of the ladder is the one man who finds no place to sit down.
Every business man knows when he goes into a venture that there is no old age pension or old age security for him. He has to succeed or he fails. The fact that only five per cent of the businesses which are started succeed should refute this philosophy of an easy life. It certainly does with those of us who have grave business responsibilities.
The free enterprise system is not now and never has been soft. But it has been mighty effective. It has enabled our people to create one-half of the world's wealth in the last century, and the amazing thing is that the greater part of this wealth has been created in the lifetime of the people now living, in the lifetime of the generation now gathered
Our country was discovered by means of adventurous capital when Queen Isabella pawned her jewels to finance Columbus. It has been developed by adventurous capital and indomitable nerve. This very community has been built up by men of courage, imagination and ability. Many of them have operated on "shoe-string" capital. This is not exceptional. Such is the record of the development of our country.
There is an old saying that it is the bad Sunday School boy who gets the attention. Whether business has been bad or not, as adventurous boys sometimes are bad, it certainly has been getting plenty of attention in the recent past. I don't mean friendly attention, either.
To make a bet with capital has been discouraged by taxation, regulation and what not. It is considered almost immoral to make a bet for capital appreciation in the creation of something new or the preservation of something trust-worthily old. But it has again been made almost moral to bet on horse races.
It is the tremendous purchasing power of the American market which has made big business essential, and vice versa. Yet bigness, serviceable or not, has been attacked as something almost sinful and wrong. Criminal indictments have been used as a club over men of integrity on matters