Story type: Essay
We have lots of ways of expressing that a man is in a “rut” without ever giving the real reason of our adverse criticisms. An author who has “written himself out,” an artist whose pictures we can recognise without ever looking at the catalogue, the “conventional,” the “dull,” the lovers who have fallen out of love–these are all so many victims of the “rut” in life. It is not their fault either. “Ruts” seem so safe, so delightful–at the beginning. We rush into them as we would rush into Heaven–and Heaven surely will be a terrible “rut” unless people have described it wrongly! But, although “ruts” may often mean a comfortable existence, they are the end of all progress. We dig ourselves in, and make for ourselves a dug-out. But people in dug-outs are only safe; they’ve got to come out of them some time and go “over the top” if they want to win a war. Unfortunately, in everyday life, the people who deliberately leave their dug-outs generally get fired at, not only by their enemies but also by their friends. But they have to risk that. So few people can realise the terrible effect which “staleness” has upon certain minds. Staleness is the breeding ground for all sorts of social diseases which most people attribute to quite other causes. There is a staleness in work as well as in amusement, in love as well as in hate. Variety is the only real happiness–variety, and a longing for the improbable. What we have we never appreciate after we have had it for any length of time. Doctors will tell you that an illness every nine years is a great benefit to a man. It makes him appreciate his health when it returns to him; it gives his body that complete rest which it can only obtain, as a rule, during a long convalescence, while “spiritually” it brings him face to face with death–which is quite the finest thing for clearing away the cobwebs which are so apt to smother the joy and beauty of life. In the same way a complete change in the mode of living keeps a man’s sympathies alive, his mental outlook clear, his enthusiasms bright; it gives him understanding, and a keener appreciation of the essentials which go to make up the real secret of happiness, the real joy of living. The people we call “narrow” are always the people whose life is deliberately passed in a “rut.” They may have health, and wealth, and nearly all those other things which go to make a truce in this battle we call Life, but because they have been used to all these blessings so long, they have ceased to regard them. And a man who is not keenly alive to his own blessings is a man who is neither happy nor of much good to the world in which he lives. You have to be able to appreciate your own good fortune in order to realise the tragedy of the less fortunate.