Page images

proved as well by history as by our observations of ourselves and our surroundings. The historical examples of Greece and Rome are familiar to all. A generally hopeful state of mind existed there precisely at the epoch of the most intensive elaboration of different problems or of the most extensive growth of territory, and not at the period when inventions and discoveries had already been made or territories acquired; in other words, not at the time when the people could enjoy the goods already acquired; on the contrary, just at this epoch a feeling of discontent and pessimism prevailed.

It is interesting to note that nations instinctively feel this. It is always at a definite stage of progress that regrets commence about a pastoral life, about a past golden age, etc. All this is only a reminiscence of times when progress was more rapid and when every day brought something new into life.

Similarly individuals like to remember their youth, although they were then, no doubt, less intellectual and probably poorer than at a later age. But their "progress curve" formed a large angle with the abscissæ axle, the quantity of goods they possessed increased very rapidly, and this overcame all. One learns in his youth that the square of the hypothenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the two other sides of the triangle; he learns wonderful laws of the movement of celestial bodies, beautiful chemical formulas, the principle of evolution of living creatures. A youth feels for the first time the emotions of love; for the first time he tries to say "yes" and "no" in his own business affairs, insignificant though they be. But all this passes quickly in a few years.

Later the individual learns more about the laws of nature. He is now able to love better women than before, to accomplish more important and more difficult tasks. But, in spite of this, there is at this stage no such intensity of life; the curve ascends slowly, and there is thus less contentment than before. Every


dG signifies the relative increase of the quantity G with the time t; the dt symbol ƒ means function or dependence; so that the above formula can be expressed in words as follows: The degree of life-satisfaction (S) is depending (ƒ) upon the relative growth of the goods possessed (dG) with the time (dt).

one likewise knows from his own vocation that, after the first self-evident improvements have been made, the following ones are not so easy; the work progresses slowly and does not bring the same satisfaction as before.

The example of a person making money may be quoted as a further proof of my proposition. A merchant experiences a higher degree of satisfaction the better his business is going; i. e., the more interest he is making on his capital. Suppose he received 20 per cent. on his capital five years ago, and is receiving only 5 per cent. this year. He was undoubtedly more cheerful five years ago than he is today, although his capital, absolutely speaking, is considerably greater now than then. But he is enjoying, not the capital itself, but the rapidity of its growth; and that is a case under my proposition.

Of course, such a general sociological law is very rarely met with, in reality, in its pure aspect. Many other causes and factors are constantly interfering, all together composing, in their complexity, what we call "life." Religion is one of these important factors. It changes considerably the aspect of the "progress curve," in that it planes it. Were it allowable to compare a man or a human society to a machine, religion might be likened, in some respects, to the fly wheel preventing the machine from going either too fast or too slowly. Thus when progress tends to become too rapid, religion will prevent this by its conservatism. But coming, through this very struggle, in contact with progress, religion itself thus takes a step forward. A fly wheel, however, sometimes absorbs a part of the useful work of the machine itself. The church put under its ban the men who asserted that the earth is round; but today this is being taught even in parochial schools and seminaries, and bad marks are given to pupils who do not know the proofs of the earth's roundness.

Conversely, when an individual or a human society becomes tired, progress begins to slacken, and apathy and pessimism result. Here the church steps in to console by its dogmas and by promises of other joys than those obtainable in this life; or to convince the sufferer that worldly pleasures are not worth

seeking. In this way religion has helped many individuals and nations to overcome periods of depression in their lives, and prevented their "progress curve" from falling too low. While thus religion, as a fly wheel, by its opposition, takes much joy away from progress, it returns it later, in the form of stored energy, to joyless people.

If my proposition be true, the following consequences must be drawn:

I. If you wish to give pleasure to someone-to a people, a group of persons, a friend, or even to yourself- always try to do it in the shortest possible time. Otherwise, if you do it slowly or step by step, the result will be imperceptible. It is better to increase the ordinate of the "progress curve" little and quickly than much and slowly.

2. Notwithstanding the immense progress to be expected in the future, humanity will never be very happy, or, more precisely, its happiness will never be commensurate with the reached results, because, to be satisfied, it constantly requires new progress, and because every new step tends to make people more exacting.

If, by some miracle, we were transported a hundred years forward, we should undoubtedly be extremely happy, because a great step would have been taken in a short time, corresponding to a large angle on the "progress curve.” But it does by no means follow that people in reality will be very happy after a hundred years. They will have obtained the large quantity of goods in their possession by a long route; the curve will be a slanting one, and the degree of happiness felt will probably be as moderate as our own—perhaps even smaller.

Thus our theorem explains the apparent paradox that, notwithstanding the progress of culture, humanity has not become perceptibly happier. People constantly complain, constantly seek for something better, as they have sought for it in ancient Egypt, in Rome, in the Middle Ages-everywhere and always. The whole paradox is based on a wrong standard of happiness. It is taken for granted that the aggregate amount of goods possessed by a people, and not the rapidity of its increase, constitutes the measure for its happiness.

Let us therefore be calm and not be jealous of posterity. Probably our descendants will fly over the ocean in airships in half an hour; they will possibly and probably make their bread directly from clay; but it is very doubtful whether they will be happier than ourselves. Yet it will be admitted that the final goal of all our activities is happiness; and if this is not attained, what is the good of all the screws and machinery?

3. The third consequence is the most important, because, rightly applied, it reconciles us with life. It may be stated as follows: It lies within the power of each individual, as of each people, to increase his happiness on earth, independently of the quantity of goods possessed. It is enough for that purpose to lead an active life, ever to see and attain new results; in short, to increase the angle of the "progress curve." Precisely here lies the greatest wisdom of our Creator. It would be a great injustice if our happiness were dependent upon the absolute quantity of goods possessed. Were such the case, those born later would have far better chances for happiness than those born earlier; and it might be said, paraphrasing the well-known sentence of Mephisto in Faust: "Weh Dir, dass Du ein Grossvater bist!"

Thus in reality the possibility for happiness is given to everyone as a result of his own efforts, independently of the epoch or the place in which he lives. This has been understood by the great moralists of all ages. "The kingdom of God is within you," said Jesus. Socrates taught this truth by his life and his writings; the same was done by Seneca; in our own day it is expounded by Tolstoi.

Perhaps the life of one man means nothing in the worldeconomy; perhaps he is only a cellule, a link in a great chain, of some great purpose unknown to us, but for which humanity exists. This all may be. But God has given the same possibility for happiness to the cellules, whether living earlier or later; the same possibility for reaching our little final purpose -our personal happiness; the same possibility to all men of all times and all nations. And this possibility is given to us by the property of our nature that our happiness depends principally on the surplus of goods which we possess, not on their absolute quantity. WLADIMIR KARAPETOFF.



THE blind enjoy the compassion of their fellow-men perhaps more than many others that are suffering under the difficulties of life, likely because people consider a blind man a person much more unfortunate than other sufferers. Still this consideration was also the reason why the blind have been thought for such a long time unable to do any work, destined to gain their livelihood by beggary, because it is not much more than a hundred years since the first institution for teaching the blind was established at Paris. But in this short period of a century what great success has been attained! Blind children are not only able now to enjoy the same education as full-sighted ones, but in some countries they are even obliged to visit an institution in order to get the same education as their seeing brethren. It is true, writing and reading is rather a modern invention for the blind, and their books are still expensive, and therefore small in number; but by copying out what they cannot get printed for want of demand, by gathering these copied books into libraries in order to enable a greater number of them to read these books, they have not only been able to acquire a higher education, but the number of those that attend a university, and even pass examinations, increases from year to year.

About a year ago, a small international union was formed under the name "Association des aveugles étudiants," the object of which is not only to establish a scientific library for blind students, but still more to assist each other and to help also the poor among the blind, not only to study, but to get a position after leaving their studies, so that a blind student may no longer be an object of surprise, but that the number of those who have become useful members of society may increase. In these endeavors America is by no means marching behind the European nations.

The author of this article is a blind gentleman in Leipzig, who has won a good position as a teacher of modern languages.

« PreviousContinue »