Energy Must Be Controlled
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
This energy of will is not the blind counterfeit which we sometimes see in stubborn wilfullness. There is an obstinate recklessness, a willing against all reason, willing prompted by the ruling power of selfishness. Such manifestations of will often exhibit energy enough, but energy of uncontrolled force—the energy of the spoiled child in adult years. This is the energy of passion, the energy of reason enslaved, dethroned, degraded. Let no man mistake the obstinacy of reigning selfishness for the high executive power of a well regulated will. Energy of this description is a source of weakness and not power. It is destructive in its tendencies, because it is uncontrolled. Men tell us that machines, which are made for heavy work must be made of the finest materials to stand the strain of energy put upon them. It is also true that such machines wear out rapidly and have to be repaired at short intervals. If, for any reason, some part of the machinery becomes impaired, or out of place, the immense power that should be directed to the accomplishment of work, is exerted to the destruction of the machine. So with uncontrolled energy in man. Instead of being an assistance, it becomes a great hinderance. The vast power which might be utilized in useful labor is squandered upon indulgence or allowed to escape along the lines of misdirected effort. Imagine a perfect locomotive just new from the shops, standing ready for work upon the track. The great machine is capable of doing useful work for years in the hands of a skilled engineer. But a madman mounts the cab, pulls the throttle, piles in the fuel, puts the engine to its greatest speed. The telegraph announces ahead that a madman is coming. Clear the track ! Away flies the splendid engine, past town and wood and field. The crazy man at the throttle, "pulls on more steam," shovels in more coal, just to see her run. And run she does a hundred miles ! A hundred and fifty! Two, three, five hundred miles, perhaps, until the pinions are worn and " heated ; " until the fine machinery is ruined, and the glorious engine is destroyed by the terrible strain that has been put upon it. A few hours before it stood in the shops a miracle of creative skill. Now it stands steaming and sputtering, broken and ruined, after one terrible trip of unrestrained flight. The energy developed by the madman has torn the great engine to pieces. How often have we seen this exemplified in the lives of men, whose reigning selfishness or willful indulgence has consumed the fine powers with which they were endowed !
Few men have exhibited greater energy than Lord Byron. Born in high station, with wealth and power at his disposal, possessed of unrivaled talent, this overgrown boy wrote verses at twelve, published his first volume at fifteen, directed his scorn at the Edinburg Review at seventeen, and became famous at twenty, by the publication of the first two cantos of Childe Harold. Stung to fierce anger, by the sharp criticisms of his country, unfortunate in his marriage with Miss Millbanke, he went to the continent to spend the few remaining years of his life, in unspeakable infamies. After leaving England, his literary activity was enormous, his debaucheries unlimited. He flung back to his native shores the resentful scorn of his passionate, uncontrolled will. The madman mounted the engine; and after one brilliant, exhaustive trial of those splendid abilities, one of the greatest of England's poets met an untimely death at the age of thirty-six. Those fine powers were not yet at the zenith of their activity, when his body, weakened by long dissipation, broke down at Missolonghi. Manfred was but a prophecy of better work to come had Byron lived to the full age of manhood. The misdirected energies of a passionate, uncontrolled nature consumed the physical powers of this celebrated man, and he died before the sober sense of age had had time to atone for tile follies and weakness of youth.
Every man is endowed by nature with a certain amount of energy and power. The direction and use of that energy is given into his own hands. He may use it wisely; he may consume it in a few years in overwork or reckless haste ; he may squander it in useless labor or destructive dissipation. But he can use his vitality or squander his energy only once. The power consumed in the frivolities and vices of youth cannot be regained, even if it is needed in middle life. Energy wasted in idle loafing is forever lost. One of the most valuable lessons for a man to learn is, that the energy spent in youth in carousing, irregular sleep or dissipation of any form, is so much working power taken out of the sum total of his life. No man can safely crowd the pleasures and duties of a score of years into a decade. No man can do the work of two men and maintain a high condition of physical and mental health. In after years, when the burdens of life rest heavily, when the cares of labor do not cease, but rather increase with the advancement of time, he is weakened for the accumulating responsibilities of life and cannot meet them with the fag-ends of wasted energy. A man cannot be successful at fifty who has wasted his best strength at twenty-five. Men are continually breaking down in middle life ; they cannot bear the strain of daily toil ; the labors of early life have been too severe for their strength. The energies consumed while the man is getting his start in life very often imperil the final result of his life-work. When, in the heat and strife of his consuming labors, the reaction comes, he is left hopelessly stranded in the storm, far out on the lone ocean wave. How he longs for the lost energy of youth ! How the powers fail that have been impaired by the bad habits or useless waste of early days! How often the man goes down because his-energy has been exhausted and he has no more force for work! The power of energy is nature's capital ; it has a given value, and each man is in possession of a given quantity. This power should be used for good, and directed to the noble ends of life. It is a crime to use the fine energies of manhood in the cause of evil, or waste them in the cause of selfishness. To squander energy is to squander life, and the hopes, the blessings, the glories of life. To squander energy is to defeat the purposes of right thinking and right living ; to squander energy in bestially or indolence or in overwork is a lesser phase of self-murder. The great majority of men do not realize, as they should, the value and proper use of the powers with which they are endowed. We should give the power which we possess, of whatever kind it is, healthful exercise always. We should put it in the best possible condition for useful work ; but to tax it to its utmost, waste it, let it lie unused, never. Life is too short; its responsibilities are too great; the hopes for the future too glorious for any waste of the precious opportunities or powers which we possess. The wise man will run the engine for years, and it will be the better for his intelligent use and care of its wheels and parts; but the madman, the foolish man, will make one flying trip and destroy the beautiful machine. Energy is power. Overwork, pursuit of pleasure, inertia or idleness, are elements of weakness, wherever seen, wherever exercised. Let the brain-worker or hand-worker of these days husband his energies, for in them he holds the key to unlock the treasure-house of success, excellence a noble living.
Energy generally displays itself in promptitude and quick decision. A machine that has to overcome great resistance at a certain point, is always furnished with a heavy balance-wheel, whose momentum will maintain a constant motion past the point of resistance. Like this is the power of energy. Great difficulty cannot embarrass nor intimidate the man who possesses great energy. He rises equal to every occasion. In proportion to the magnitude of the obstacles that bar his way, do his powers gather strength for the onset and the victory. With perfect patience he endures the maddening vexations of drudgery, with firmness he meets every exigency that arises, plans wisely, acts promptly, uses all his resources to the best possible advantage and wins triumph after triumph, while others fail and break down and sink out of sight in hopeless exhaustion of body and mind. It is energy and power, held in reserve, that enables a man to meet the high responsibility of his calling. It is energy under the control of judgment and wisdom that makes a man's efforts effective. It is energy accumulated in the balance-wheel of will and character that carries a man past "the point of resistance" in his struggle with difficulty.
In the early days when the first mills were built along the streams and run by water-power, it was necessary to dam up the waters to keep sufficient energy in reserve to turn the wheel and put the mill in motion. If for any reason the dam should become impaired, the water in the pond would be wasted, and none would be left to turn the mill. Just so in the life of the worker. Energies wasted in the pursuit of sport or pleasures, or even labors outside the regular pursuits of one's vocation, is so much power subtracted from his ability to accomplish the work of life. He cannot allow his powers to get beyond control and be able to direct them to the real issues of his daily work. Hence the necessity of keeping even energy under the law of self-control. Energy that is grand, even in ruins, is far grander in active exercise under the direction of a 'masterful will ; energy that develops destruction when left uncontrolled, may be made the central force of action, under the control of judgment and reason. We have shown that self-control is one of the highest qualities of character, but it must extend even to the control of this energy of power. A powerful galvanic battery is a dangerous instrument in the hands of a novice, but it is not a whit more so than remarkable genius and grand power of any kind in the hands of a man who has not learned to control himself in all the activities and relations of life. The thunderbolt which blasts the stately oak, in the hands of a Franklin, becomes a quiet messenger and a ready "errand-boy." Under the control of wires and the various implements of telegraphy, it is not only not dangerous, but submissive and quiet.. The most powerful forces known to man are made to do his bidding and obey his will. So the restless energies of the soul may blast the life or ennoble it, according as the law of self-control prevails or not. Thus the control of energy becomes one of the most important considerations in the preparation for active life.