The Will - A Source Of Energy
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
The true source of energy is the human will ; that faculty of our being known to philosphers as the executive function of the mind. That power which commands and the other powers obey. That truly regal part of our nature which controls all forms of activity, be they of body or mind, except perhaps, intuition and involuntary muscular action. And even. these are thought by some to be in a measure, under the control of the will. The mind in and of itself can entertain a motive; can choose between two possible lines of conduct and can execute a volition. The power of choosing what we will do is called the will.
The exercise of that power we call willing, and the result reached a volition. It is popularly supposed that a person cannot control his thought, his inclination, his emotion nor his appetite. And yet no greater folly can be entertained by a reasonable creature. Thought, busy as it is, flying from one subject to another, the whole day through, can be controlled and made to obey the will. All the restless activities of the mind can be directed, centered and applied to any line of thought that we may choose. Our desires and inclinations are in the same way governed and directed by the will. A man may conquer his inclination to any course of conduct. It is easily within the range of possibility. So, too, can our emotions be throttled, and the heart that bears most bitter pain can keep its sorrow out of sight where men shall neither see it nor be conscious of its existence. Appetite can also be conquered and made to obey the behests of a powerful will. Thousands of men have conquered appetite and come to enjoy a dearly bought freedom from the chains- of evil habit.
We believe it to be wrong to preach this doctrine of hopelessness to those lost in drunkenness and vice. A man - can let whiskey alone if he will. A man can give up the tobacco habit or any other vices if he will make a resolute determination to do so and fight his battle of independence through to the bitter end. Such a course is wholly within the bounds of possibility. The same indomitable will force, exercised to resist appetite that is often exercised to indulge it, would save the most hopeless man from an inebriate's grave. Indeed this false notion so often reiterated by our lecturers and agitators, that a man cannot resist physical appetite, is totally false ; and does incalculable harm, in fostering the idea in the minds of unfortunate men, that there is no hope for them, enslaved, as they are, by a thousand temptations. There is hope as long as the frail body remains this side of the grave, and the reformation of such men as John B. Gough proves the truth of the proposition. The will rules. If perverted, it rules in evil ; if inspired by good motives, it rules in righteousness; and a true psychology, as well as a true theory of morals, teaches that a tendency to evil may be overcome by resolute effort of the will.
Some men exhibit a strange weakness of the will. Strong in many respects, with fine abilities perhaps, they show a want of decision and firmness. Character is irresolute, and purpose is wavering. They hesitate in cases of emergency, and pause and wait where they should exhibit decision and energy. They are governed by no fixed purpose. The plans adopted to-day are abandoned tomorrow. Opposition turns them from their course and difficulties drive them to the verge of despair. Easily persuaded, easily turned aside, they become as leaders, led, and have no fixed value in the world.
Others, again, stand "four square to every wind that blows, " as Tennyson said of the Duke of Wellington. Firm as a rock, they bow neither to tempest nor wave ; but preserve their position unshaken as the eternal hills. Difficulties are only so many fresh inspirations to renewed exertion. Opposition is only an occasion for a fuller display of decision and energy. Hard to be persuaded : it is impossible to drive them ; and when their decision is once made, their complete success is only a question of time and means. There are, of course, difficulties which the human will and human strength cannot overcome. A man may be so surrounded with adverse circumstances that he cannot work his way through them, nor over them, nor around them ; but such combinations of opposition and difficulty are quite rare in human life. A stern determination, formed after a careful survey of the situation, is half of the battle, and patience, industry and pluck furnish the remaining elements of success. An intense desire is often the beginning of triumphant achievement. An eager wish, of itself, transforms seeming impossibilities into possibility and it into reality. While the weak-willed, doubting man finds high attainment impossible, because he thinks it is so, the man of iron determination can win, simply because he thinks he can. " And the fact," says Matthews, that mountains so often dwindle into mole-hills, when we once resolutely determine to cross them, shows that after every allowance is made for extraordinary cases, the old Saxon law is still generally true, and he who intensely wills to do a thing will find a way."
Our desires, therefore, become but the precursors of the things which we are capable of performing. And in a large sense, we are what we wish to be. Making due allowance for the natural limitations of human endeavor, a man may literally become what he wishes to be. There is practically no limit to the improvement of the mind, none to the development of moral graces, and almost none to the growth of physical power and exertion. It is therefore true that the man who wills it, can put forth effort in any line of legitimate activity. He may also back that effort with energy, patience and faith.
The world's great generals have all been men of indomitable energy of will. Their brilliant exploits have been, in most cases, the direct result of stern determination, followed by persistent labor. Hannibal marched a thousand miles, through trackless forests, across deep rivers, over high mountains and finally over the Alps, to harass Italy defended by powerful armies, skilled generals and countless treasure. For years he maintained that splendid career of invasion in the face of difficulties that would have discouraged any man of lesser will than the great Carthagenian; leader.
Among the Romans, Julius Caesar stands pre-eminent as a man of courage, cool determination and unrivalled greatness. In his conquest of Gaul he exhibited something of the tyranny of that early age, but much bravery in the face of peril. He determined to smite the Helvetians and lead his conquering legions to victory. He determined to subdue all Gaul and add it to the Roman dominions. He strengthened his hold upon the states as he conquered them; subdued insurrections as they arose ; forced his way into all the strong-holds of his enemies ; crossed the Rhine upon a bridge of his own building; passed into Britain and penetrated to the Thames. After eight years of continuous war, in which he never lost a battle, he returned to Italy to fight, with equal firmness, one of the bloodiest of civil wars, marked by the victories of Pharsalus, Alexandria and Thapsus. Rising from one grade of public place to another, he glorified all with brilliant accomplishments and arose at last to the high honor of martyrdom for the liberty of Rome's down-trodden people.