The Enthralling Out-Of-Reach by Richard King

Story type: Essay

Everybody knows that they could improve human nature. I don’t mean, of course, that they could necessarily improve their own, nor that of the lady who lives next door, nor that of Mr. Lloyd George, nor of Miss Marie Lloyd, nor even of Lenin and Trotsky; but human nature as it is found in all of us and as it prevents heaven on this earth lasting much longer than five and twenty minutes! I know–or rather I think–that I could improve it. And I should begin at that unhappy “kink” in all of us which only realises those blessings which belong to other people, or those which we ourselves have lost. Nobody really and truly knows what Youth means until they have reached the age which only asks of men and women to subside–gracefully, if possible, and silently as an act of decency. We never love the people who love us, to quite the same extent anyway, until, either they love us no more, or love somebody else, or go out and die. We never realise the splendour of splendid health until the doctor prescribes six months in a nursing home as the only alternative to demise. We never appreciated butter until profiteers and the war sent the price up to four-and-sixpence for a pound. The extra five hundred a year which seems to stand in the way of our complete happiness–when we receive it, we realise that our happiness really required a thousand. Fame is a wonderful and beautiful state, until we become famous and find out how dull it is and what a real blessing it is to be a person of only the least importance. Life, I can understand, is never so sweet as it is to those who, as it were, have just been sentenced to be hanged. Our ideals are always thrilling until one day we wake up to find them accomplished facts; and the only real passion of our life is the woman who went off and married somebody else. I exaggerate, perhaps, but scarcely too much, I believe. For, as I said before, there is a certain “kink” in human nature which casts a halo of delight over those things which we have lost, or, by the biggest stretch of dreaming-fancy can we ever hope to possess. I suppose it means that we could not possibly live up to the happiness which we believe would be ours were we to possess the blessings we yearn for with all our hearts. All the same, I wish that human nature were as fond of the blessings it throws away unheeded, as it would be could it only regain possession of them once it fully realises they are lost. Half our troubles spring from our own fault–though they were not really our own fault, because we did not know what we were doing when we did those things which might have saved us all our tears. That is where the tragedy of it all came in. We never realised. . . we never knew! But Fate pays not the slightest heed to our ignorance. We just have to live out our mistakes as best we may. And nobody really pities us; we only pity ourselves.

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