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Last Letters From The Living Dead Man
looked in on you occasionally during the last few weeks, pleased with your
resting for a time.
The ambitious and energetic are prone to underestimate the value
of occasional idleness. You cannot run even a machine all the time without
oil and rest. Neither can the most vigorous engineer-soul run its brain and
body too long without letting them cool. The farmer knows when to let a
field lie fallow.
“After the war” it is to be hoped that the soldiers who have
worked so long at one labor—that of war—may be given a period of
compensatory play, doing nothing, before being replaced in the hive of
industry. Let them enjoy the breezes and the perfume of idleness for a
little time; the reaction from that rest will send them back into the
workshops with renewed desire for activity. If the world has to get along
with less for a few weeks, that will not hurt the world.
In the years to come there will be more
rest and recreation in America. In Europe there is going to be some degree
of fatigue after this war, and America can easily hold her own if she
carries a lower steam-pressure.
The idle hours are sometimes as valuable as those that are spent
in labor. It is in so-called idle hours that we meditate, get acquainted
with ourselves, build air castles, which are working- plans for our edifice
of the future. Day dreams are good. I had a day dream during my life, and it
was really the working-plan for the future I am building now. I wanted to
get back something I had lost, and I have got it back. You wonder what it
was? I do not mind telling you. In a former life I went far along the road
towards mastership. Then once upon a time I slipped back a long way. My day
dream was to recover that lost ground, and I have recovered much of it out
If I had not left the world with that day
dream vivid in my consciousness, I should not have made the progress and the
recovery I have made.
I was talking the other day with an old friend—a very dear old
friend—who came out here a year or two ago, and she and I agreed that the
day dreams we had dreamed together were among the most valuable products of
our recent life.
She is reveling in the recovery of her own lost ground, and she
will run me a good race as the years go on. Yes, one can race across
recovered ground of adeptship.
My friend said laughingly the other day
that she had made more plans since coming out here than she could execute in
a long while.
“Take your time,” I advised, “in the execution. You have all
She looked at me in the old way I remember so well, and said:
“Time may be made for slaves, but eternity is made for masters.”
She too is glad that she came out. She had done one kind of work
long enough, and is now enjoying another.
Is she helping me, you wonder? Well, no, unless you count the
pleasure of our renewed association as help. Why should she help me, or I
her? Our work is our own.
You in the world should help each other
when you can; but out here we of equal stature help each other by being.
That is a good help, though, the being together sometimes.
What a wonderful expression, by the way, “being together”! What
poetry! Not working together, nor playing together, but simply being. You
must often have felt that joy when with a loved friend. Words are not
necessary for that enjoyment. Words often lessen that enjoyment by the very
effort of uttering them. Effortless being! Even the birds enjoy it, and the
rose could give you valuable secrets of that joy.
In the world I have heard busybodies say of
a beautiful woman that she did nothing. What of it? A rose does not run a
sewing-machine, or write books.
Joy is coming back to the world. It has been long absent. Being
for its own sake has taken on new meanings in the minds of those who are
glad to be still alive.
To have passed through all the perils of a long war and still to
“be” a living man is something to make the soul wonder.
The men who have fought in this war from the beginning should
not be crowded too hard when at last they can stretch their limbs in the
hammocks of peace. They have earned the right. As they spin their soldier
yarns, gaze at them with respect. They passed through the shadow of death
for you. That God has retained them among the active cells of His body is
because He has need of them still; but it does not mean that they should go
on working for you every minute. Suppose you work for them for a while. When
they are rested they will join you in your labor.
Last night I listened to two soldiers
talking, and this is what they said to each other:
“What will you do, John, when it’s all over?”
“I’ll lie in the bath tub an hour every morning, in the warm,
soft, soapy water; and in the afternoon I’ll call on one dear girl after
another, and drink tea, and listen to their talk. And what will you do?”
“Oh, I’ll just look at my wife and hold her hand.”
Idle talk, you think? That depends upon what you mean by idle
talk. To me that talk was immensely significant.
Soon after our little skirmish with Spain I remember hearing an
active woman say of her husband that he had never been good for anything
since he came back from Cuba.
“Well,” I said, “he was good for a lot in Cuba.”
The Spanish-American war! A fly beside an elephant, as compared
with this war.
And the German is tired, too. You may not have to overwork
yourself to keep up with him after the war.