Fear Of Events - Old Age
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
"Pleasures are feelings that seem to accompany states in which the organism is being built up, or prevailingly refreshed, so that its vitality is for the moment heightened. Pain or displeasure, on the other hand, is such feeling as is predominant at moments when the organism is breaking down, or is being lowered in vitality."— Royce.
COURAGE in regard to events may spring from two varieties of temperament: that of the animal, incapable of real thought about the future, and that of the consciously superior man who thinks adequacy to meet events because he feels adequate in the present. This type of people may be described thus :
"In their minds the consciousness of power is ever present. Above all things they strive to avoid a show of weakness, whether it takes the form of in-efficiency or of a too-easy yielding to passion or emotion. They never sink exhausted into a chair. On the train, when the vulgar try to make themselves comfortable these higher folk avoid reclining. They do not seem to get tired after hours of standing at court. To a provoking speech they reply with politeness and self-possession and not as if horrified, crushed, abashed, enraged or out of breath, after the manner of plebeians. The aristocrat knows how to preserve the appearance of ever-present physical strength, and he knows, too, how to convey the impresion that his soul and intellect are a match to all dangers and surprises, by keeping up an unchanging serenity and civility, even under the most trying circumstances." You are invited to be that sort of aristocrat — and no other.
WILL AND THE COURAGE-HABIT.
The voluntary formation of any habit demands effort in proportion to its need. This fact is significant. Our activities, both physical and psychic, run naturally to the easiest way, and tend to "set" in habits that resist alteration, especially resist breaking up in any thorough-going fashion. The most of our fears disclose this mental tendency. Fear-feeling is a race-habit because man has always entertained fear-thought under the influence of imagination. One who is "naturally" fearful simply takes up and carries on this racial fear-habit.
If we wish to reverse such habit, we must proceed to cultivate the courage-habit. It is useless merely to kill fear — and impossible. Reversing the fear-habit is really accomplished by developing courage.
It is evident that habit can only be arrested, or changed, when some contrary or modifying force is brought to bear upon the activities of which it is composed. Such opposition may arise in external circumstances, or it may spring up within the individual. (a) In the former case, the result may occur instantly, as in the event of some great accident, or it may only appear under long-continued modifying conditions, as in general education conducted by schools and colleges.
But at the heart of this common run of things in body and mind, the animal bent of initiative is always at work to prevent a total "set" of personal activities, and to inaugurate new activities and tendencies so essential to human career. Such initiative is due to psychic restlessness. This factor builds the Universe. The spirit of restlessness, if properly controlled by the self, is the psychic power which ever forsakes settled things, ever pushes out into new territories, ever calls backward to the old and pulls life forever on toward advanced ground. Therein lies its value. Not the control of Sleepy Hollow wins success and breeds courage; rather, bold restlessness curbed by practical sense — building the strenuous soul, forcing a place in the march of events. (b) It is chiefly this inner power that must be enlisted both for the overcoming, and for the development, of habits. Oftentimes the mere operations of mind accomplish the results. We form habits because we are restless, and for the same reason we modify them, and form new ones. When the opposition to "set" tendencies is not immediately caused by restlessness, the will has come to the fore. The will is the master power by which we intelligently utilize both habit and restlessness for building soul and winning life's success.
We cannot here go into a discussion of the nature of will, referring the reader to "Practical Psychology" for an elaborate analysis of the subject, but take the common conception of the "faculty" as sufficiently correct for these pages. Now, the essence of will, as so conceived, is courage. We may say that will is idea-impulse-pusher and director in our rational life. In fact, the least tincture of fear in will means just so much less will. (This is a contradiction, of course, but that is exactly the point). The very nature of will makes it fearless. Technically speaking — to go into the matter thus much — will is dynamic idea — that is, action-idea inducing action. Idea cannot become dynamic so long as it is fear-idea of action — though the fear-idea does become dynamic for action. But you see, when you fear-act, you do not fear that act. We do not consciously will fear-action; the idea merely becomes dynamic and forces action. If we assume 100° as the standard of will — here taken for mind as expressing will — then 10° of will involves 10° of courage, and so on, up to, say, 30°, 50°, 75°, 100° of each. Always there are in any act as many degrees of courage as of will — inevitably.
It should be observed, however, that we do not confuse fear-thought with fear-feeling. In company with the best of will, fear-thought may occur. If we express this matter as in the above suggested equation, we may say that 50° of fear-thought may accompany 60° of will, courage thus being the real fact; but that if 50° of fear-feeling obtain with 40° of will (a contradiction, again), defeat is inevitable. The 60° in the first instance could not be 40°, and the 40° in the second instance could not be 60°. Will never contains in itself the smallest degree of fear, for real fear is always feeling, and fear-feeling induces action not because we immediately and consciously will that action, but because we lack will to refuse it. If we possess will to refuse fear-action, this is because the courage-idea has become regnant in place of the fear-feeling.
Remembering, now, that general physical and psychic activities tend to "set," but that our native restlessness nevertheless keeps mind open to new variation of action, we see that conscious will operates (a) both in the overcoming of habit injurious, or the development of habit beneficial, and also (b) in that psychic restlessness which, no less than habit, is so characteristic of life. Now, satisfaction of some sort must follow the "set" of mental activity and the initiation of new forms of actions. Hence appear two great laws, and from their operation result two of the most sovereign habits of human life.