Story type: Essay
If you live in the suburbs you devote perhaps two hours each day to travel. Two hours per day means practically one-fifth of your active life.
How many readers make any use of those two hours, and feel each day that they have been well spent? —-
Instead of being wasted, those hours should be among your best. Never mind if you are clinging to a strap because companies are licensed to exploit you. Never mind if you are tired and weary when the day is ended. The tired brain often thinks better than the fresh one. And man, so recently descended from the monkey who had to think while hanging head down, ought to have no trouble thinking as he hangs from his strap–head up. —-
Some in the cars play cards as they travel homeward. Others talk gossip, and tens of thousands waste too much time on this and other newspapers.
Try this experiment: Make up your mind to devote your hours of travel to thinking. The brain, like the muscles, needs definite and well-planned exercise. It must be methodical and regular. There is no limit to its possible results. You would be glad to spend your two travelling hours in a gymnasium on wheels. Make of your homeward car a mental gymnasium. Each night or morning, take up some one line of thought and follow it to its end–or as far as your mind can take you. Learn to observe, to study, to reflect. Don’t look at your fellow passengers as calves look at each other on the way to the slaughter house.
Look, as a human being, at other human beings. There they sit or stand or hang. Some chatter, others scowl, fret, fume, complain, brag, grin or otherwise express the strange emotions that move us here.
They are all ghosts, as Carlyle tells you, imprisoned for a time in coverings of flesh, and a car packed full of real ghosts passing over the earth on their quick journey to the grave ought to stir you. —-
The giggling shopgirls whose life of misery is still a joke to them–blessed youth!–should interest you deeply. And the negro, too, with a tired black face, resting for the next day’s slavery–slavery on a wage basis, but slavery all the same. Possibly you despise his thick lips. But those lips are carved on every sphinx in Egypt’s sand, and if you could go back far enough you would find the ancestors of that negro, before the days of the Pharaohs, laying the foundations of your religion and locating the stars in heaven. At that time your forbears were gibbering cave savages, sharpening bones and gnawing raw flesh. When you see the negro on the opposite seat, the ill-starred one who has gone down in the human race while we have gone up, think about him, study him, speculate as to his ultimate end–and your own. Don’t merely say to yourself, “That’s a plain negro,” and go on chewing gum. —-
The pictures that flash by your car windows should help you to think.
The train rumbles over the switches, and in the dusk a swinging lantern tells you that a man is at work, guiding you safely when your work is done. Can’t you take an interest in that human atom, representing the Power that swings our tiny sun in space, lighting us on our journey toward the constellation Hercules? —-
A black steeple is outlined against the dark-blue sky of the evening. That is a finger of stone, built by man to point everlastingly toward Infinite Power. It now points “upward.” In twelve hours–as the earth slowly turns–it will be pointing “downward.” But there is no upward or downward in the carpentry of the universe. In the twenty-four hours, as it turns round with the earth, that steeple points toward all the corners of space, and constantly it points toward Eternal Wisdom and Justice in every corner. —-
This is tiresome? All right, then we’ll stop. But whether we tire or interest you, remember:
As a man thinks, so he grows. Think, study, use all the hours that separate your croupy cradle from your gloomy grave. Those hours are few.
Was this helpful?
0 / 0