Story type: Essay
“Discontent is the want of self-reliance; it is infirmity of will.”
Another individual, at least as solemn if not as wise as Emerson, says:
“Discontent is the foundation of all human effort.”
Both are right, for there are two kinds of discontent.
Almost everybody is afflicted with one kind of discontent or the other.
It would be well for you, Mr. Reader, to decide what kind of discontent afflicts you. If you have the wrong kind, hurry and get the other as fast as possible.
THE DISCONTENT THAT WHINES
This is the kind of discontent which Emerson refers to when he says that “discontent is the want of self-reliance.”
The WHINING discontent ruins many lives; it is used as the excuse for much foolish conduct, much neglect of duty.
It is the discontent which reflects the feeble soul, the self-indulgent, worthless being.
A young man who gets drunk or dissipates otherwise, who offers as an excuse, “Well, I was feeling kind of DISCONTENTED and had to do something,” is afflicted with the wrong kind of discontent in its most virulent form.
The office boy with small wages who is caught smoking cigarettes, or evading his duties, or undermining his moral character by gambling, will also say, “I was discontented and had to do something.”
If you have THAT discontent, try to get rid of it and get the other kind.
THE DISCONTENT THAT MEANS AMBITION
Alexander the Great lived and died discontented, but Emerson would scarcely have attributed that gentleman’s discontent to lack of self-reliance.
Alexander was discontented, first, because he could not conquer the whole world, and, second, because there were no others that he could conquer. He was a vast genius, almost humorous in his ambitious discontent sometimes–especially when he looked at the stars and said, as alleged, that he was ashamed to look at all those other worlds when he had barely conquered this one little world that he lived on.
If you have in you Alexander’s brand of discontent you may well be grateful.
You are still more to be envied if you have the discontent which has impelled thousands of great men to devote their lives ceaselessly to the discovery of truth, working for others. —-
When Taglioni, the great ballet dancer, was a little girl, with skinny legs and a skinnier future, being extremely homely and with no prospects of success, she was discontented.
Other skinny-legged little ballet dancers of her class were discontented also.
But Taglioni’s discontent impelled her to spend every spare moment whirling on her big toe, practicing her entrechat, or laboring over the art of smiling, naturally, with aching toes, aching back, aching thighs, and solar plexus almost exhausted from the unnatural strain.
The other skinny-legged discontented ones exercised their discontent on their patient mothers, instead of exercising it on their own big toes. THEY never were heard of, whereas Taglioni pranced on HER big toe before every court in Europe, and her smile, which ultimately became natural, attracted the opera glasses of all the great men.
There are thousands of young musicians, young business men, young singers, young electricians–thousands and hundreds of thousands of human beings engaged in all kinds of effort in all directions.
ALL OF THEM ARE DISCONTENTED. Those that have the right kind of discontent will go at least as far as their natural capacity can take them, and those that have the wrong kind will collapse, achieve nothing and devote wasted lives to wasting pity on themselves. —-
Try to acquire the discontent of Alexander, Carlyle, Pagallini, Taglioni, or even that of the honest bootblack who “shines them up” so hard that the perspiration comes through his check jumper in cold weather.