( Originally Published 1916 )
THE secret of health is the elimination of waste.
The first thing the physician prescribes usually is a physic. No matter what ails the patient if hardly ever can be a mistake to see that the body is well rid of its waste. If the organs of excretion go on a strike it is fatal.
The same law holds in affairs. Every business man knows what pains he must take to keep his desk clean, and how papers will accumulate on the table and get choked into pigeonholes and obstipate letter files and pile up in drawers and cases. There are so many things we are not quite ready to do to-day, and tomorrow finds us still indecisive, and so the documents drift into forgotten holes and before long the desk is a jungle of undone matters.
It takes moral courage to use the waste basket vigorously.
Some men can work in litter, with papers on their desk like snowdrifts, papers stuffed bulging full into boxes, papers on the floor about them "thick as autumnal leaves that strew the vale of Vallombrosa," but I don't understand how they do it. An unanswered letter haunts me like the ghost of Banquo. An unpigeonholed receipt on my table irritates me like a fly.
The art of life is to discard.
Progress is clogged by the persistent remnants of the outworn past.
Clogged! clogged! clogged! That is the story of the Church, the School, the State.
Clogged with moth-eaten ideas, with traditional passions, with antiquated ideals, with petty moralities !
The past makes the present; the bracts protect the flower, but if the bracts persist and the blossom cannot throw them off they become throttling instruments of death.
The curse and weakness of the law is precedent, of which it boasts.
All unjust privilege is but the constipation of life. When justice refuses to flow, is dammed up by custom, and will not follow in the new channels of reason, there we find the iniquitous, stagnant pools of privilege, full of poison, parasitic lives.
What a world it would be if we could swing forward unhampered by the past!
The past is to teach us, not to bind us. It is a bane and not a blessing if it does not invigorate us to go on.
The world keeps sweet and sound, young and green, because plants die and rot, and th, waters flow forever by, and institutions crumble, and old ideas fade, and Nature is strong enough to throw away continually her waste, bring us every Spring new flowers, and every Autumn new fruits.
Swords and books and Bishops' rings!