Pillars Of Peace
( Originally Published 1912 )
Add to your faith courage and to courage patience.—Peter.
Patience and resignation are the pillars of human peace on earth.-Young.
When viewing a fine result of nature or art, at first it is not seen how many and what varied qualities combine in producing it. It is after a prolonged view or after repeated visits, subjecting it to the test of all his changing moods, that one fully realizes the presence of all the elements which, meeting, make it so attractive. To the lover of nature it sometimes occurs that it is at his last interview with some favorite spot there is fully revealed the secret charm that has so enthralled him. As a shadow or a gleam falling across a maiden's eyes or a tremulous half-pressure of the hand may reveal to the departing youth the meaning of all former meetings and partings, so it is when we are about to turn away from our communion with nature that her meaning is made plain to us. Nor is this meaning found in any single element of a landscape. It is not found alone in the rugged sublimity of rock or crag or cliff, nor in the stately trees, nor quiet lake or flowing stream, nor in the fusing of earth and sky in
One blue-gray, far-distant line."
The perfection and charm of the scene are in all these combined,
The same thing is true of great works of art. It is not the physical beauty of the Sistine Madonna that is so attractive. There are many finer displays of material form. It is not merely in the look of resignation lurking in the eyes. Neither is it alone in the mystery of a sacred motherhood. It is in these united,—in physical and spiritual qualities running from the beauty of lip and cheek and fore-head to the suggested, but indescribable beauty of the soul of ideal womanhood, that lies the unfading attraction. The Vatican Apollo, at first sight, is symbol of physical perfection. No defect is visible. After a time something else manifests itself to the beholder. The power, the noble, but negligent superiority, the majestic serenity, and the balancing of strength and benevolence, of austerity and compassion are revealed. The form seems to be in transition from the actual to the ideal, from the human to the Divine. Bending over it, the unknown sculptor saw a block of marble; but, as he worked he thought of a God. Thus every single element of beauty or good is a part of the complete beauty and goodness. It is a round in the ladder by which, as in Jacob's dream, not the angels alone, but we may mount from earth to sky.
Like a landscape or a picture, a character is composed of many qualities. The proverb says: "One swallow does not make a summer." It is just as true that one virtue does not make a noble character.
The Cologne Cathedral was six hundred years in rising from its foundation to its completion. From the thirteenth to the nineteenth century many workers of many kinds, in turn, toiled without and within it. Kings made contributions. Saints encouraged by their wishes and prayers. Architects, stone-cutters, masons, artists, sculptors, workers in metal, makers of stained glass, collectors of myths and legends were all present. Not all were equally needed, but all helped make the wonderful structure.
It is thus character is made. The toilers are many and their activity must be continuous. A New Testament writer once gave a partial list of these builders. They are Faith, Courage, Godliness, Temperance, Charity, Gentleness, Brotherly Kindness, and Patience. For this hour let the last one become a favorite.
Many words have been carried away from their original significance. The term spirit originally meant air. In its root form virtue signified strength. Error meant to wander from a path. Wrong was applied to things twisted out of their proper shape. Sorrow signified weight, something pressing heavily upon the heart. In the Latin language, the place at which three roads converged was called Trivium. At this point a tavern was usually built. Travelers, meeting there, would often indulge in light conversation and foolish conduct. Hence came the word trivial.
The term patience has undergone a similar change. Its earliest application was to things extended for a great distance either in space or time. One of its meanings was to journey over a well-known road. A traveler following a long, uninteresting way, or a sentinel walking many times over the same path, without finding any variety of surrounding or scenery, was the passing or patient man.
But it was seen that there is an inner state of which these outward acts are manifestations. Many persons were seen constraining their lives within narrow banks; passing frequently over the same monotonous road, resisting all temptation to turn aside into ways more diversified and offering freer expanse to mind and heart, lavishing all the blessed gift of existence upon wearying details. Not from unrestricted choice, but from a kind of sacred necessity and without murmuring they fastened their lives to a tread-mill circle,—like Sampson turned the heavy stones that grind corn for heart-less Philistines. Sometimes conscious of possessing unused powers, conscious of desire and ability to perform nobler tasks, yet, with resignation, accepting and, discharging the common duties of each day; capable of flights into far upper worlds, but resolutely staying upon earth, postponing and postponing the things they wish to do for the things they must do; not advertising their self-sacrifice, but unostentatiously and almost impersonally moving through the years, it is to characterize these the word patient is demanded.
With our North American inherited and acquired tendencies to restlessness, and our love of aggressive rather than repressive force, this form of passive and simple life is not likely to receive too much praise. Things must be quickly beaten into utilitarian shape or else hurled out of the way. We love forced marches; impetuous assaults; immediate victory; strength, armed with the hammer of Thor, smiting events and 'forging them into the form our wills decree and, if they refuse to be thus formed, then shatter them. Every one is infected with the malady of hurry. In such surroundings this quiet, half-passive virtue, the power to wait, to repress, to be self-contained, to be happy if fame and fortune do not come today nor tomorrow nor even the ,day after,—this virtue may be underestimated or entirely ignored.
Looking at a mountain, whose rugged sublimity pierces the clouds, we may forget the beauty of the quiet glen. Listening to a rushing stream, we may neglect the tarn reposing among the fastnesses, like a mirror reflecting towering peaks, yea, and some-thing higher than they,—stars and azure beyond the stars. In orchestral music one should not al-ways seek the brilliant passages nor wish for start-ling effect of drum and brass and recurrence of those motives which unveil battlefields and deeds of daring. It is better to receive all the fine results of music into the inner soul ; to pay respect to each, but not too much to any motive ; to confess that all inspire the hour and cleanse it of its dross ;—just as the soul is refined and exalted by the almost ineffable beauty of starlight falling upon snow, but never inquires which one of all the glittering host sends earthward the most or brightest beams. It is not prayer alone, nor praise alone, nor thought seeking choicest words for expression, nor incense, nor benediction that is the essence and constitutes the value of worship. It is rather that something, refusing to be named affirmatively, interwoven with all acts and expressions, proceeding out of the soul of the worshiper making all forms sacred and yielding benefits and blessings.
It is thus with character. We are wise not to exalt one virtue unduly. We should indeed place proper emphasis upon all alert and aggressive powers; but we should be no less careful to appraise all quiet and unobtrusive graces at their true value. Love makes a beautiful face more beautiful. So does patience add a charm to all other virtues. Reflecting whatever strength may be in life, it softens its harsh outlines and gives it a meaning and beauty not its own. It stills many a jarring tumult in the soul and melts discordant notes into harmony. It is justly called one of the pillars of human peace. Balm for sorrow is it; for, to incurable hurts, it gives fortitude and steadiness to endure them. It may not be a key to open fast locked doors or clew to guide out of labyrinths. But, with it, the soul can wait, without petulance or plaint, until time opens all doors and crumbles labyrinths to dust.
This virtue is not brilliant. It does not strive to attract attention. It sounds no trumpet; unfurls no flag; comes without herald or retinue. The great names of mythology are nearly all of those who possessed some commanding quality of dash or aggressive courage. Hercules, Enceladus, Achilles, Ulysses, Arthur, Geraint are famous, not because they could be self-repressed, and could wait, but because they could be furious and by savage strength gain their triumphs. History is composed of the exploits of Alexander and Hannibal and Cæsar and Richard and Omar and Cromwell and Wellington and others of similar mold. Their statues adorn the public square and their graves are most easily found. The earthquake and pestilence find a place in history, but sunshine and health find no one to record their deeds.
Thus, coming without sceptre or sword or herald, but moving gently and unobtrusively among the haunts and homes of mankind, the presence of patience is often unobserved. It is only after it has' passed by and a finer grace of content has taken the place of querulousness that one becomes apprised that he has had a heavenly visitation ;—as the lightly slumbering child, kissed by a mother, awakening, has shadowy reminiscence of a caressing care and providence; or as hermits knew that while they slept an angel had visited their cells by the soft radiance suffusing the darkness and the holy peace that filled their souls. In the evening glow, going from Jerusalem out to Emmaus, the two men were not aware of the treasure carried by the calm-faced stranger who had joined them until after he had gone away, and then only by recalling the genial flame his words had kindled in their hearts. So, sometimes, we are unaware of what it is that has made some life so lovely until it has disappeared over the horizon and alas! it is too late to bare brow and bend knee before it. Often our eyes are holden so that we fail to discern the divinest qualities of our friends until they have gone away from us. In the chamber to which death has lent its solemn. adornment, no words are more frequently heard than those which tell of the patience of that one who has just set out upon another stage of the great journey. There is a belief in the Isle of Man that, at death, two angels come to the house. One comes to carry a soul from the home; the other stays to quiet all fault-finding and bitter recollections in those who are left. The fancy is symbol of a reality. It may be because, chastened by the august presence of Death, we then see all things in truer pro-portions; it may be because then we realize, as never before, the difficulties of life and are more lenient in our judgments; it may be that time, more than distance, is an enchanter and soon weaves a haze of sentiment around those who have gone from us concealing all faults or turning them into virtues,—as, in Indian Summer, dust and chaff and leaves are made glorious when clad in garments woven of yellow sunbeams. But, whatever is its cause, we instinctively find ourselves recalling only good of those whom we have loved. The Latin proverb, "De mortuis nil nisi bonum,"-"Of the dead nothing but good," seems to have been founded upon some necessary law of human experience. In hours of peace we forget what storms have swept through our souls and in health we forget what pangs have shot through our bodies. Thus, in the marble stillness of the form, in the ineffable repose that settles upon the features are forgotten all murmurings that may have been uttered before the soul waved its farewell.
"They scorned, but the heart of the haughty is cold;
It would be wrong to decry activity. Ambition is a necessity. For everything worth having we must pay the full price in toil and self-sacrifice. But, along with the art of working, man must learn the art of waiting. The second is often the more difficult lesson to learn. One of Shakespeare's characters says: "He that would have a cake out of the wheat, must tarry the grinding." This is true; but, often, without complaining, he must tarry, not only the hours of grinding, but the months of growing. Man must model his method upon that of nature. How nature has toiled, indeed, but how it has waited! "It hardens the ruby in a million years, and works in duration in which Alps and Andes come and go as rainbows." Thus, only by working and waiting, have all the best things come in the career of humanity. Our common truths have ages back of them. Faraday said:
"The world little knows how many of the thoughts which pass through the mind of the scientific investigator are crushed in silence by his own adverse criticism before the true theory is reached,"
Kepler made and destroyed many theories of planetary motion before he discovered, the true one. Opposed, Bruno said:
"I may be put to death, but my high endeavor will live."
"I bide my time, but I shall succeed at last."
Lessing said :
"I will not complain though the footsteps of Providence seem to halt, and even, at times, turn backward."
"Many loved Truth, and lavished life's best oil
Those anecdotes which represent Jesus as having unlimited command over nature are no greater guaranty of his true power than was his willingness to postpone the results of his toil to future ages. He said: Wisdom is justified of her children." To undertake no defense of his course; to move on without hurry and without halt, unmoved by praise, unmoved by blame; to be serenely true to his own convictions in the midst of revilings and go to the scaffold, not so much like a criminal as like a conqueror,—this proclaims his greatness more than raising the dead or stilling the waves of storm-tossed Galilee.
Sometimes to refrain from acting demands as much courage as to act. Halting is as difficult and as noble as going forward. To see evil and good commingled, as, in the parable, tares and wheat grew together, and to pass by the evil for the sake of good; to repress force when expending it might insure a temporary victory; to spare the weak; to bear misunderstanding and misrepresentation rather than crush an opponent; to return a soft answer to wrath ; to withhold the bitter rejoinder to slander; to let time rather than explanation justify conviction and take care of reputation ; to use a foil when the opponent advances with a naked sword; to disarm an enemy when he might be slain,—all this demands rare strength and courage. When battling with rebellious hordes in heaven, of the Arch-angel Milton says:
"Half his strength he put not forth."
Thus, among mortals, noble is that one who can be self-contained, who by expending present rage and fury might gain a temporary triumph, yet bravely represses them and directs all their strength to accomplish great, though far-distant ends.
It must be recalled that patience has an active no less than a passive meaning. Burke once said : "There is a limit at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue." There are conditions in which a noble indignation is eminently fitting. But only he who has long forborne has a right to this grand anger. In nature sometimes storms are necessary. Dull and lifeless atmosphere must be stirred and vivified. So there is a time for moral indignation. But, as back of the tempest must be many still days and nights, when silent, but resistless forces are steadily accomplishing their work, so, to make anger effective, there must be many days and nights of forbearance. Hence the saying: "Beware of the fury of a patient man." A grand indignation. is a flash from a grand forbearance, as a thunderbolt is a sudden display of a constant force.
Thus patience is not a sign of weakness and cowardice. It reveals a soul full of endurance and courage. The myth of Prometheus is one of its illustrations. For trying to befriend mankind, jealous Vulcan chained him to a rock and every day foul birds of prey came to feed upon him. But he would die a thousand times and defy Jove himself rather than be sorry for the good he had done. The Arabian Job stands forth as representative of the same form of greatness. Troubles came in a swarm, but he endured them. He would not yield his convictions to please his friends. They said his misfortunes proved that God was against him. So be it then. He would not forsake his inner sense of right even to please God. In face of all hostile circumstances he held to his ideal of right and waited for the future to justify him. This he did, and conquered. So, in ancient Arabia or modern America, whoever dares plant himself upon his own highest instincts, who steadily maintains his course, neither complaining to himself over his hard lot nor apologizing or explaining to the public when he is misunderstood and opposed, who never loses faith that whatever becomes of him right will prosper, must conquer at last. Wherever he may be and beleaguered by whatever unfriendly circumstances above him he will hear sounding this clarion strain:
"Stainless soldier on the walls,
Patience is not a substitute for work. It is its companion and assistant. What patience the teacher needs to meet the monotonies, the perversities, the stupidities of the recurring days and months and years ! Overhearing his mother trying to teach John Wesley a poem, a friend said to her: "How could you endure to repeat that twenty times?" The reply was: "Because John could not learn it by hearing it nineteen times." What patience is needed by those in charge of household affairs ; purveying for a hundred daily recurring wants ; endless routine of baking, cleaning, mending and no respite from mending and baking and cleaning ever in sight ! What patience the man of business needs among all the littlenesses and artifices and assassin-like competitions incident to his calling! What patience the preacher needs; with, not one, but many masters, each wishing the task performed in a different way; conscious that his own motives are often misread; his purpose discredited; and a thousand eyes ready to detect every shortcoming! A Zulu proverb says: "Every cabin has its mosquito." So every calling has its petty annoyances. One can gird himself to meet great difficulties. Even if he is defeated by them he is comforted by the consciousness that he has matched arms with a foe worthy of his best efforts. To be vanquished by Sir Lancelot brings no sense of shame. But how humiliating to be bound hand and foot by a horde of impertinent Lilliputians and carried off in triumph! There are those who could lead a forlorn hope or confront revolution without blanching who are mastered by the tyranny of trifles. Hercules bravely performed all the great labors imposed upon him. He slew the Nemean lion, destroyed the Hydra, brought Cerberus from the mouth of hell, killed the monster Geryon, and, changing places with Atlas, for a time upheld the world. But he was stung to madness and death at last by a tunic which a jealous wife had anointed with poison. A paraphrase of one of Beranger's stanzas runs thus:
"'Tis heavy odds
The force of the Frenchman's lines appears when it is recalled that, in mythology, the myrmidons were ants turned into men, but retaining their in-sect characteristics. The race is not wholly extinct.
Every earnest soul encounters many perplexing problems; but why should any one become despondent or petulant because he cannot instantly solve them? In his Memoirs Bourrienne relates that Napoleon instructed him to leave certain letters unopened for three weeks. "Then," he says, "it was surprising to see how many of them needed no answer." It is thus with many questions that perplex us to-day. If we go on about our common duties time will take care of the problems. I need not know to-day whether I am to be rich or famous or immortal. For the present my only concern is to earn something and save a part of what I earn; to do my best work and let the future decide whether it is good enough to deserve to be mentioned; to live so nobly that, if there is immortality, I may be worthy to receive it. The Great Spirit is reserved and will not gossip with me nor stop to satisfy my impertinent curiosity. It is mine only to work for the best and wait. What I am fitted to receive, that I shall receive. Therefore I will not complain nor fly into a passion ; but will maintain a cheerful ac-quiescence in a just arrangement of the universe, well assured that what helps, what opportunities, what friendships, what inward satisfactions, what powers, what peace of mind I have earned, some-where, if not near, then afar, will be mine.
All ye who are overborne by a multitude of cares; ye who are haunted by discouragement and world-pain ; ye whose task sometimes seems not worth while; ye who are vexed by uncertainties ; ye who have seen the ideals of early days one by one rudely taken down and ground to dust in the relentless Mill of Things, daily ye must needs summon up all your powers of patient continuance! Fling your hearts into the future; some day you will overtake them and all your toil and waiting will be justified!
According to fairy lore evil spirits cannot cross a running stream. So may mortals find courage and consolation in recalling that nature has set a boundary to all evil. Not very far away is a stream beyond which it is believed no troubles can pursue them.
"A little longer yet, a little longer