Group 5 Essays

Thinking as a Hobby & What Life Means to Me Presentation

Thinking as a Hobby by William Golding

Thinking as a Hobby
by William Golding


While I was still a boy, I came to the conclusion that there were three grades of thinking and since I was later to claim thinking as my hobby, I came to an even stranger conclusion – namely, that I myself could not think at all.

I must have been an unsatisfactory child for grownups to deal with. I remember how incomprehensible they appeared to me at first, but not, of course, how I appeared to them.   It was the headmaster of my grammar school who first brought the subject of thinking before me – though neither in the way, nor with the result he intended. He had some statuettes in his study. They stood on a high cupboard behind his desk. One was a lady wearing nothing but a bath towel. She seemed frozen in an eternal panic lest the bath towel slip down any farther, and since she had no arms, she was in an unfortunate position to pull the towel up again. Next to her, crouched the statuette of a leopard, ready to spring down at the top drawer of a filing cabinet labeled A-AH.  My innocence interpreted this as the victim’s last, despairing cry.

Beyond the leopard was a naked, muscular gentleman, who sat, looking down, with his chin on his fist and his elbow on his knee. He seemed utterly miserable. Some time later, I learned about these statuettes. The headmaster had placed them where they would face delinquent children, because they symbolized to him the whole of life. The naked lady was the Venus of Milo. She was Love. She was not worried about the towel. She was just busy being beautiful. The leopard was Nature, and he was being natural. The naked, muscular gentleman was not miserable. He was Rodin’s Thinker, an image of pure thought.

It is easy to buy small plaster models of what you think life is like. I had better explain that I was a frequent visitor to the headmaster’s study, because of the latest thing I had done or left undone. As we now say, I was not integrated. I was, if anything, disintegrated; and I was puzzled. Grownups never made sense. Whenever I found myself in a penal position before the headmaster’s desk, with the statuettes glimmering whitely above him, I would sink my head, clasp my hands behind my back, and writhe one shoe over the other. The headmaster would look opaquely at me through flashing spectacles. “What are we going to do with you?”

Well, what were they going to do with me? I would writhe my shoe some more and stare down at the worn rug. “Look up, boy! Can’t you look up?”  Then I would look at the cupboard, where the naked lady was frozen in her panic and the muscular gentleman contemplated the hindquarters of the leopard in endless gloom. I had nothing to say to the headmaster. His spectacles caught the light so that you could see nothing human behind them. There was no possibility of communication.

“Don’t you ever think at all?”  No, I didn’t think, wasn’t thinking, couldn’t think – I was simply waiting in anguish for the interview to stop. “Then you’d better learn – hadn’t you?”  On one occasion the headmaster leaped to his feet, reached up and plonked Rodin’s masterpiece on the desk before me. “That’s what a man looks like when he’s really thinking.”  I surveyed the gentleman without interest or comprehension. “Go back to your class.  “Clearly there was something missing in me.  Nature had endowed the rest of the human race with a sixth sense and left me out.  This must be so, I mused, on my way back to the class, since whether I had broken a window, or failed to remember Boyle’s Law, or been late for school, my teachers produced me one, adult answer: “Why can’t you think?” As I saw the case, I had broken the window because I had tried to hit Jack Arney with a cricket ball and missed him; I could not remember Boyle’s Law because I had never bothered to learn it; and I was late for school because I preferred looking over the bridge into the river. In fact, I was wicked.  Were my teachers, perhaps, so good that they could not understand the depths of my depravity?  Were they clear, untormented people who could direct their every action by this mysterious business of thinking?   The whole thing was incomprehensible.  In my earlier years, I found even the statuette of the Thinker confusing. I did not believe any of my teachers were naked, ever.  Like someone born deaf, but bitterly determined to find out about sound,

I watched my teachers to find out about thought.  There was Mr. Houghton. He was always telling me to think. With a modest satisfaction, he would tell that he had thought a bit himself.  Then why did he spend so much time drinking? Or was there more sense in drinking than there appeared to be?  But if not, and if drinking were in fact ruinous to health – and Mr. Houghton was ruined, there was no doubt about that – why was he always talking about the clean life and the virtues of fresh air?  He would spread his arms wide with the action of a man who habitually spent his time striding along mountain ridges. “Open air does me good, boys – I know it!”  Sometimes, exalted by his own oratory, he would leap from his desk and hustle us outside into a hideous wind.

“Now, boys! Deep breaths! Feel it right down inside you – huge droughts of God’s good air!”  He would stand before us, rejoicing in his perfect health, an open-air man.  He would put his hands on his waist and take a tremendous breath.  You could hear the wind trapped in the cavern of his chest and struggling with all the unnatural impediments.  His body would reel with shock and his ruined face go white at the unaccustomed visitation. He would stagger back to his desk and collapse there, useless for the rest of the morning. Mr. Houghton was given to high-minded monologues about the good life, sexless and full of duty.  Yet in the middle of one of these monologues, if a girl passed the window, tapping along on her neat little feet, he would interrupt his discourse, his neck would turn of itself and he would watch her out of sight.  In this instance,  he seemed to me ruled not by thought but by an invisible and irresistible spring in his nape.  His neck was an object of great interest to me.  Normally it bulged a bit over his collar. But Mr. Houghton had fought in the First World War alongside both Americans and French, and had come – by who knows what illogic? – to a settled detestation of both countries.  If either country happened to be prominent in current affairs, no argument could make Mr. Houghton think well of it. He would bang the desk, his neck would bulge still further and go red.  “You can say what you like,” he would cry, “but I’ve thought about this – and I know what I think!”  Mr. Houghton thought with his neck.

There was Miss. Parsons. She assured us that her dearest wish was our welfare, but I knew even then, with the mysterious clairvoyance of childhood, that what she wanted most was the husband she never got.  There was Mr. Hands – and so on.  I have dealt at length with my teachers because this was my introduction to the nature of what is commonly called thought. Through them I discovered that thought is often full of unconscious prejudice, ignorance, and hypocrisy.  It will lecture on disinterested purity while its neck is being remorselessly twisted toward a skirt.  Technically, it is about as proficient as most businessmen’s golf, as honest as most politician’s intentions, or – to come near my own preoccupation – as coherent as most books that get written.  It is what I came to call grade-three thinking, though more properly, it is feeling, rather than thought.  True, often there is a kind of innocence in prejudices, but in those days I viewed grade-three thinking with an intolerant contempt and an incautious mockery.  I delighted to confront a pious lady who hated the Germans with the proposition that we should love our enemies.  She taught me a great truth in dealing with grade-three thinkers; because of her, I no longer dismiss lightly a mental process which for nine-tenths of the population is the nearest they will ever get to thought.  They have immense solidarity.  We had better respect them, for we are outnumbered and surrounded.  A crowd of grade-three thinkers, all shouting the same thing, all warming their hands at the fire of their own prejudices, will not thank you for pointing out the contradictions in their beliefs.

Man is a gregarious animal, and enjoys agreement as cows will graze all the same way on the side of a hill.  Grade-two thinking is the detection of contradictions.  I reached grade two when I trapped the poor, pious lady.  Grade-two thinkers do not stampede easily, though often they fall into the other fault and lag behind.  Grade-two thinking is a withdrawal, with eyes and ears open.  It became my hobby and brought satisfaction and loneliness in either hand.  For grade-two thinking destroys without having the power to create.  It set me watching the crowds cheering His Majesty the King and asking myself what all the fuss was about, without giving me anything positive to put in the place of that heady patriotism.  But there were compensations.  To hear people justify their habit of hunting foxes and tearing them to pieces by claiming that the foxes like it.  To her our Prime Minister talk about the great benefit we conferred on India by jailing people like Pandit Nehru and Gandhi.  To hear American politicians talk about peace in one sentence and refuse to join the League of Nations in the next.   Yes, there were moments of delight. But I was growing toward adolescence and had to admit that Mr. Houghton was not the only one with an irresistible spring in his neck.  I, too, felt the compulsive hand of nature and began to find that pointing out contradiction could be costly as well as fun.

There was Ruth, for example, a serious and attractive girl.  I was an atheist at the time. Grade-two thinking is a menace to religion and knocks down sects like skittles.  I put myself in a position to be converted by her with an hypocrisy worthy of grade three.  She was a Methodist – or at least, her parents were, and Ruth had to follow suit.  But, alas, instead of relying on the Holy Spirit to convert me, Ruth was foolish enough to open her pretty mouth in argument.  She claimed that the Bible (King James Version) was literally inspired. I countered by saying that the Catholics believed in the literal inspiration of Saint Jerome’s Vulgate, and the two books were different. Argument flagged.  At last she remarked that there were an awful lot of Methodists and they couldn’t be wrong, could they – not all those millions?  That was too easy, said I restively (for the nearer you were to Ruth, the nicer she was to be near to) since there were more Roman Catholics than Methodists anyway; and they couldn’t be wrong, could they – not all those hundreds of millions?  An awful flicker of doubt appeared in her eyes.  I slid my armround her waist and murmured breathlessly that if we were counting heads, the Buddhists were the boys for my money.  But Ruth has really wanted to do me good, because I was so nice.  The combination of my arm and those countless Buddhists was too much for her. That night her father visited my father and left, red-cheeked and indignant.  I was given the third degree to find out what had happened.  It was lucky we were both of us only fourteen.  I lost Ruth and gained an undeserved reputation as a potential libertine.  So grade-two thinking could be dangerous.

It was in this knowledge, at the age of fifteen, that I remember making a comment from the heights of grade two, on the limitations of grade three.  One evening I found myself alone in the school hall, preparing it for a party.  The door of the headmaster’s study was open.  I went in. The headmaster had ceased to thump Rodin’s Thinker down on the desk as an example to the young.  Perhaps he had not found any more candidates, but the statuettes were still there, glimmering and gathering dust on top of the cupboard.  I stood on a chair and rearranged them.  I stood Venus in her bath towel on the filing cabinet, so that now the top drawer caught its breath in a gasp of sexy excitement.  “A-ah!”  The portentous Thinker I placed on the edge of the cupboard so that he looked down at the bath towel and waited for it to slip.  Grade-two thinking, though it filled life with fun and excitement, did not make for content.  To find out the deficiencies of our elders bolsters the young ego but does not make for personal security. I found that grade two was not only the power to point out contradictions.  It took the swimmer some distance from the shore and left him there,  out of his depth. I decided that Pontius Pilate was a typical grade-two thinker. “What is truth?” he said, a very common grade two thought, but one that is used always as the end of an argument instead of the beginning.

There is still a higher grade of thought which says, “What is truth?” and sets out to find it. But these grade-one thinkers were few and far between.  They did not visit my grammar school in the flesh though they were there in books.  I aspired to them partly because I was ambitious and partly because I now saw my hobby as an unsatisfactory thing if it went no further.  If you set out to climb a mountain, however high you climb, you have failed if you cannot reach the top.

I did meet an undeniably grade one thinker in my first year at Oxford.  I was looking overa small bridge in Magdalen Deer Park, and a tiny mustached and hatted figure came and stood by my side.  He was a German who had just fled from the Nazis to Oxford as a temporary refuge.  His name was Einstein.  But Professor Einstein knew no English at that time and I knew only two words of German.  I beamed at him, trying wordlessly to convey by my bearing all the affection and respect that the English felt for him.  It is possible – and I have to make the admission – that I felt here were two grade-one thinkers standing side by side; yet I doubt if my face conveyed more than a formless awe. I would have given my Greek and Latin and French and a good slice of my English for enough German to communicate.  But we were divided; he was as inscrutable as my headmaster.  For perhaps five minutes we stood together on the bridge, undeniable grade-one thinker and breathless aspirant.

With true greatness, Professor Einstein realized that any contact was better than none.  He pointed to a trout wavering in midstream.  He spoke: “Fisch.” My brain reeled.  Here I was, mingling with the great, and yet helpless as the veriest grade-three thinker.  Desperately I sought for some sign by which I might convey that I, too, revered pure reason.  I nodded vehemently.  In a brilliant flash I used up half of my German vocabulary.  “Fisch. Ja. Ja.” For perhaps another five minutes we stood side by side.  Then Professor Einstein, his whole figure still conveying good will and amiability, drifted away out of sight.

I,  too, would be a grade-one thinker. I was irrelevant at the best of times. Political and religious systems, social customs, loyalties and traditions, they all came tumbling down like so many rotten apples off a tree.  This was a fine hobby and a sensible substitute for cricket, since you could play it all the year round.  I came up in the end with what must always remain the justification for grade-one thinking, its sign, seal, and charter.  I devised a coherent system for living.  It was a moral system, which was wholly logical.  Of course, as I readily admitted, conversion of the world to my way of thinking might be difficult, since my system did away with a number of trifles, such as big business, centralized government, armies, marriage… It was Ruth all over again.  I had some very good friends who stood by me, and still do.  But my acquaintances vanished, taking the girls with them. Young women seemed oddly contented with the world as it was.  They valued the meaningless ceremony with a ring.  Young men, while willing to concede the chaining sordidness of marriage, were hesitant about abandoning the organizations which they hoped would give them a career.  A young man on the first rung of the Royal Navy, while perfectly agreeable to doing away with big business and marriage, got as red-necked as Mr. Houghton when I proposed a world without any battleships in it.  Had the game gone too far?  Was it a game any longer?  In those prewar days, I stood to lose a great deal, for the sake of a hobby.  Now you are expecting me to describe how I saw the folly of my ways and came back to the warm nest, where prejudices are so often called loyalties, where pointless actions are hallowed into custom by repetition, where we are content to say we think when all we do is feel.  But you would be wrong.  I dropped my hobby and turned professional.

If I were to go back to the headmaster’s study and find the dusty statuettes still there, I would arrange them differently.  I would dust Venus and put her aside, for I have come to love her and know her for the fair thing she is.  But I would put the Thinker, sunk in his desperate thought, where there were shadows before him – and at his back, I would put the leopard, crouched and ready to spring


What Life Means to Me BY: Jack London


Source: Revolution and Other Essays (Published by Macmillan, 1909)
November, 1905

I was born in the working-class. Early I discovered enthusiasm, ambition, and ideals; and to satisfy these became the problem of my child-life. My environment was crude and rough and raw. I had no outlook, but an uplook rather. My place in society was at the bottom. Here life offered nothing but sordidness and wretchedness, both of the flesh and the spirit; for here flesh and spirit were alike starved and tormented.

Above me towered the colossal edifice of society, and to my mind the only way out was up. Into this edifice I early resolved to climb. Up above, men wore black clothes and boiled shirts, and women dressed in beautiful gowns. Also, there were good things to eat, and there was plenty to eat. This much for the flesh. Then there were the things of the spirit. Up above me, I knew, were unselfishnesses of the spirit, clean and noble thinking, keen intellectual living. I knew all this because I read “Seaside Library” novels, in which, with the exception of the villains and adventuresses, all men and women thought beautiful thoughts, spoke a beautiful tongue, and performed glorious deeds. In short, as I accepted the rising of the sun, I accepted that up above me was all that was fine and noble and gracious, all that gave decency and dignity to life, all that made life worth living and that remunerated one for his travail and misery.

But it is not particularly easy for one to climb up out of the working-class — especially if he is handicapped by the possession of ideals and illusions. I lived on a ranch in California, and I was hard put to find the ladder whereby to climb. I early inquired the rate of interest on invested money, and worried my child’s brain into an understanding of the virtues and excellencies of that remarkable invention of man, compound interest. Further, I ascertained the current rates of wages for workers of all ages, and the cost of living. From all this data I concluded that if I began immediately and worked and saved until I was fifty years of age, I could then stop working and enter into participation in a fair portion of the delights and goodnesses that would then be open to me higher up in society. Of course, I resolutely determined not to marry, while I quite forgot to consider at all that great rock of disaster in the working-class world — sickness.

But the life that was in me demanded more than a meagre existence of scraping and scrimping. Also, at ten years of age, I became a newsboy on the streets of a city, and found myself with a changed uplook. All about me were still the same sordidness and wretchedness, and up above me was still the same paradise waiting to be gained; but the ladder whereby to climb was a different one. It was now the ladder of business. Why save my earnings and invest in government bonds, when, by buying two newspapers for five cents, with a turn of the wrist I could sell them for ten cents and double my capital? The business ladder was the ladder for me, and I had a vision of myself becoming a baldheaded and successful merchant prince.

Alas for visions! When I was sixteen I had already earned the title of “prince.” But this title was given me by a gang of cut-throats and thieves, by whom I was called “The Prince of the Oyster Pirates.” And at that time I had climbed the first rung of the business ladder. I was a capitalist. I owned a boat and a complete oyster-pirating outfit. I had begun to exploit my fellow-creatures. I had a crew of one man. As captain and owner I took two-thirds of the spoils, and gave the crew one-third, though the crew worked just as hard as I did and risked just as much his life and liberty.

This one rung was the height I climbed up the business ladder. One night I went on a raid amongst the Chinese fishermen. Ropes and nets were worth dollars and cents. It was robbery, I grant, but it was precisely the spirit of capitalism. The capitalist takes away the possessions of his fellow-creatures by means of a rebate, or of a betrayal of trust, or by the purchase of senators and supreme-court judges. I was merely crude. That was the only difference. I used a gun.

But my crew that night was one of those inefficients against whom the capitalist is wont to fulminate, because, forsooth, such inefficients increase expenses and reduce dividends. My crew did both. What of his carelessness he set fire to the big mainsail and totally destroyed it. There weren’t any dividends that night, and the Chinese fishermen were richer by the nets and ropes we did’ not get. I was bankrupt, unable just then to pay sixty-five dollars for a new mainsail. I left my boat at anchor and went off on a bay-pirate boat on a raid up the Sacramento River. While away on this trip, another gang of bay pirates raided my boat. They stole everything, even the anchors; and later on, when I recovered the drifting hulk, I sold it for twenty dollars. I had slipped back the one rung I had climbed, and never again did I attempt the business ladder.

From then on I was mercilessly exploited by other capitalists. I had the muscle, and they made money out of it while I made but a very indifferent living out of it. I was a sailor before the mast, a longshoreman, a roustabout; I worked in canneries, and factories, and laundries; I mowed lawns, and cleaned carpets, and washed windows. And I never got the full product of my toil. I looked at the daughter of the cannery owner, in her carriage, and knew that it was my muscle, in part, that helped drag along that carriage on its rubber tires. I looked at the son of the factory owner, going to college, and knew that it was my muscle that helped, in part, to pay for the wine and good fellowship he enjoyed.

But I did not resent this. It was all in the game. They were the strong. Very well, I was strong. I would carve my way to a place amongst them and make money out of the muscles of other men. I was not afraid of work. I loved hard- work. I would pitch in and work harder than ever and eventually become a pillar of society.

And just then, as luck would have it, I found an employer that was of the same mind. I was willing to work, and he was more than willing that I should work. I thought I was learning a trade. In reality, I had displaced two men. I thought he was making an electrician out of me; as a matter of fact, he was making fifty dollars per month out of me. The two men I had displaced had received forty dollars each per month; I was doing the work of both for thirty dollars per month.

This employer worked me nearly to death. A man may love oysters, but too many oysters will disincline him toward that particular diet. And so with me. Too much work sickened me. I did not wish ever to see work again. I fled from work. I became a tramp, begging my way from door to door, wandering over the United States and sweating bloody sweats in slums and prisons.

I had been born in the working-class, and I was now, at the age of eighteen, beneath the point at which I had started. I was down in the cellar of society, down in the subterranean depths of misery about which it is neither nice nor proper to speak. I was in the pit, the abyss, the human cesspool, the shambles and the charnel-house of our civilization. This is the part of the edifice of society that society chooses to ignore. Lack of space compels me here to ignore it, and I shall say only that the things I there saw gave me a terrible scare.

I was scared into thinking. I saw the naked simplicities of the complicated civilization in which I lived. Life was a matter of food and shelter. In order to get food and shelter men sold things. The merchant sold shoes, the politician sold his manhood, and the representative of the people, with exceptions, of course, sold his trust; while nearly all sold their honor. Women, too, whether on the street or in the holy bond of wedlock, were prone to sell their flesh. All things were commodities, all people bought and sold. The one commodity that labor had to sell was muscle. The honor of labor had no price in the market-place. Labor had muscle, and muscle alone, to sell.

But there was a difference, a vital difference. Shoes and trust and honor had a way of renewing themselves. They were imperishable stocks. Muscle, on the other hand, did not renew. As the shoe merchant sold shoes, he continued to replenish his stock. But there was no way of replenishing the laborer’s stock of muscle. The more he sold of his muscle, the less of it remained to him. It was his one commodity, and each day his stock of it diminished. In the end, if he did not die before, he sold out and put up his shutters. He was a muscle bankrupt, and nothing remained to him but to go down into the cellar of society and perish miserably.

I learned, further, that brain was likewise a commodity. It, too, was different from muscle. A brain seller was only at his prime when he was fifty or sixty years old, and his wares were fetching higher prices than ever. But a laborer was worked out or broken down at forty-five or fifty. I had been in the cellar of society, and I did not like the place as a habitation. The pipes and drains were unsanitary, and the air was bad to breathe. If I could not live on the parlor floor of society, I could, at any rate, have a try at the attic. It was true, the diet there was slim, but the air at least was pure. So I resolved to sell no more muscle, and to become a vender of brains.

Then began a frantic pursuit of knowledge. I returned to California and opened the books. While thus equipping, myself to become a brain merchant, it was inevitable that I should delve into sociology. There I found, in a certain class of books, scientifically formulated, the simple sociological concepts I had already worked out for myself. Other and greater minds, before I was born, had worked out all that I had thought and a vast deal more. I discovered that I was a socialist.

The socialists were revolutionists, inasmuch as they struggled to overthrow the society of the present, and out of the material to build the society of the future. I, too, was a socialist and a revolutionist. I joined the groups of working-class and intellectual revolutionists, and for the first time came into intellectual living. Here I found keen-flashing intellects and brilliant wits; for here I met strong and alert-brained, withal horny-handed, members of the working-class; unfrocked preachers too wide in their Christianity for any congregation of Mammon-worshippers; professors broken on the wheel of university subservience to the ruling class and flung out because they were quick with knowledge which they strove to apply to the affairs of mankind.

Here I found, also, warm faith in the human, glowing idealism, sweetnesses of unselfishness, renunciation, and martyrdom — all the splendid, stinging things of the spirit. Here life was clean, noble, and alive. Here life rehabilitated itself, became wonderful and glorious; and I was glad to be alive. I was in touch with great souls who exalted flesh and spirit over dollars and cents, and to whom the thin wail of the starved slum child meant more than all the pomp and circumstance of commercial expansion and world empire. All about me were nobleness of purpose and heroism of effort, and my days and nights were sunshine and starshine, all fire and dew, with before my eyes, ever burning and blazing, the Holy Grail, Christ’s own Grail, the warm human, long-suffering and maltreated, but to be rescued and saved at the last.

And I, poor foolish I, deemed all this to be a mere foretaste of the delights of living I should find higher above me in society. I had lost many illusions since the day I read “Seaside Library” novels on the California ranch. I was destined to lose many of the illusions I still retained.

As a brain merchant I was a success. Society opened its portals to me. I entered right in on the parlor floor, and my disillusionment proceeded rapidly. I sat down to dinner with the masters of society, and with the wives and daughters of the masters of society. The women were gowned beautifully, I admit; but to my naive surprise I discovered that they were of the same clay as all the rest of the women I had known down below in the cellar. “The colonel’s lady and Judy O’Grady were sisters under their skins” — and gowns.

It was not this, however, so much as their materialism, that shocked me. It is true, these beautifully gowned, beautiful women prattled sweet little ideals and dear little moralities; but in spite of their prattle the dominant key of the life they lived was materialistic. And they were so sentimentally selfish! They assisted in all kinds of sweet little charities, and informed one of the fact, while all the time the food they ate and the beautiful clothes they wore were bought out of dividends stained with the blood of child labor, and sweated labor, and of prostitution itself. When I mentioned such facts, expecting in my innocence that these sisters of Judy O’Grady would at once strip off their blood-dyed silks and jewels, they became excited and angry, and read me preachments about the lack of thrift, the drink, and the innate depravity that caused all the misery in society’s cellar. When I mentioned that I couldn’t quite see that it was the lack of thrift, the intemperance, and the depravity of a half-starved child of six that made it work twelve hours every night in a Southern cotton mill, these sisters of Judy O’Grady attacked my private life and called me an “agitator” — as though that, forsooth, settled the argument.

Nor did I fare better with the masters themselves. I had expected to find men who were clean, noble, and alive, whose ideals were clean, noble, and alive. I went about amongst the men who sat in the high places — the preachers, the politicians, the business men, the professors, and the editors. I ate meat with them, drank wine with them, automobiled with them, and studied them. It is true, I found many that were clean and noble; but with rare exceptions, they were not alive. I do verily believe I could count the exceptions on the fingers of my two hands. Where they were not alive with rottenness, quick with unclean life, they were merely the unburied dead — clean and noble, like well-preserved mummies, but not alive. In this connection I may especially mention the professors I met, the men who live up to that decadent university ideal, “the passionless pursuit of passionless intelligence.”

I met men who invoked the name of the Prince of Peace in their diatribes against war, and who put rifles in the hands of Pinkertons with which to shoot down strikers in their own factories. I met men incoherent with indignation at the brutality of prize-fighting, and who, at the same time, were parties to the adulteration of food that killed each year more babies than even red-handed Herod had killed.

I talked in hotels and clubs and homes and Pullmans and steamer-chairs with captains of industry, and marvelled at how little travelled they were in the realm of intellect. On the other hand, I discovered that their intellect, in the business sense, was abnormally developed. Also, I discovered that their morality, where business was concerned, was nil.

This delicate, aristocratic-featured gentleman, was a dummy director and a tool of corporations that secretly robbed widows and orphans. This gentleman, who collected fine editions and was an especial patron of literature, paid blackmail to a heavy-jowled, black-browed boss of a municipal machine. This editor, who published patent medicine advertisements and did not dare print the truth in his paper about said patent medicines for fear of losing the advertising, called me a scoundrelly demagogue because I told him that his political economy was antiquated and that his biology was contemporaneous with Pliny.

This senator was the tool and the slave, the little puppet of a gross, uneducated machine boss; so was this governor and this supreme court judge; and all three rode on railroad passes. This man, talking soberly and earnestly about the beauties of idealism and the goodness of God, had just betrayed his comrades in a business deal. This man, a pillar of the church and heavy contributor to foreign missions, worked his shop girls ten hours a day on a starvation wage and thereby directly encouraged prostitution. This man, who endowed chairs in universities, perjured himself in courts of law over a matter of dollars and cents. And this railroad magnate broke his word as a gentleman and a Christian when he granted a secret rebate to one of two captains of industry locked together in a struggle to the death.

It was the same everywhere, crime and betrayal, betrayal and crime — men who were alive, but who were neither clean nor noble, men who were clean and noble but who were not alive. Then there was a great, hopeless mass, neither noble nor alive, but merely clean. It did not sin positively nor deliberately; but it did sin passively and ignorantly by acquiescing in the current immorality and profiting by it. Had it been noble and alive it would not have been ignorant, and it would have refused to share in the profits of betrayal and crime.

I discovered that I did not like to live on the parlor floor of society. Intellectually I was bored. Morally and spiritually I was sickened. I remembered my intellectuals and idealists, my unfrocked preachers, broken professors, and clean-minded, class-conscious workingmen. I remembered my days and nights of sunshine and starshine, where life was all a wild sweet wonder, a spiritual paradise of unselfish adventure and ethical romance. And I saw before me, ever blazing and burning, the Holy Grail.

So I went back to the working-class, in which I had been born and where I belonged. I care no longer to climb. The imposing edifice of society above my head holds no delights for me. It is the foundation of the edifice that interests me. There I am content to labor, crowbar in hand, shoulder to shoulder with intellectuals, idealists, and class-conscious workingmen, getting a solid pry now and again and setting the whole edifice rocking. Some day, when we get a few more hands and crowbars to work, we’ll topple it over, along with all its rotten life and unburied dead, its monstrous selfishness and sodden materialism. Then we’ll cleanse the cellar and build a new habitation for mankind, in which there will be no parlor floor, in which all the rooms will be bright and airy, and where the air that is breathed will be clean, noble, and alive.

Such is my outlook. I look forward to a time when man shall progress upon something worthier and higher than his stomach, when there will be a finer incentive to impel men to action than the incentive of to-day, which is the incentive of the stomach. I retain my belief in the nobility and excellence of the human. I believe that spiritual sweetness and unselfishness will conquer the gross gluttony of to-day. And last of all, my faith is in the working-class. As some Frenchman has said, “The stairway of time is ever echoing with the wooden shoe going up, the polished boot descending.”