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an unacceptable piece of service to these persons, if I point out to them certain methods for the filling up their empty spaces of life. The methods I shall propose to them are as follow.
The first is the exercise of virtue, in the most general acceptation of the word. That particular scheme which comprehends the social virtues, may give employment to the most industrious temper, and find a man in business more than the most active station of life. To advise the ignorant, relieve the needy, comfort the afflicted, are duties that fall in our way almost every day in our lives. A man has frequent opportunities of mitigating the fierceness of a party: of doing justice to the character of a deserving man; of softening the envious, quieting the angry, and rectifying the prejudiced; which are all of them employments suited to a reasonable nature, and bring great satisfaction to the person who can busy himself in them with discretion.
There is another kind of virtue that may find employment for those retired hours in which we are altogether left to ourselves, and destitute of company and conversation; I mean that intercourse and communication which every reasonable creature ought to maintain with the great author of his being. The man who lives under an habitual sense of the divine presence, keeps up a perpetual cheerfulness of temper, and enjoys every moment the satisfaction of thinking himself in company with his dearest and best of friends.a The time never lies heavy upon him : it is impossible for him to be alone. His thoughts and passions are the most busied at such hours, when those of other men are the most unactive: he no sooner steps out of the world but his heart burns with devotion, swells with hope, and triumphs in the consciousness of that presence which every where surrounds him ; or, on the contrary, pours out its fears, its sorrows, its apprehen. sions, to the great supporter of its existence.
a With his dearest and best of friends. Inaccurate. It should either be, • with the dearest and best of friends;" or "with his dearest and best friend."-H.
I have here only considered the necessity of a man's being virtuous, that he may have something to do; but if we consider further, that the exercise of virtue is not only an amusement for the time it lasts, but that its influence extends to those parts of our existence which lie beyond the grave, and that our whole eternity is to take its colour from those hours which we here employ in virtue or in vice, the argument redoubles upon us for putting in practice this method of passing away our time.
When a man has but a little stock to improve, and has opportunities of turning it all to good account, what shall we think of him if he suffers nineteen parts of it to lie dead, and perhaps employs even the twentieth to his ruin or disadvantage ? But because the mind cannot be always in its fervours, nor strained up to a pitch of virtue, it is necessary to find out proper employments for it in its relaxations.
The next method, therefore, that I would propose to fill up our time, should be useful and innocent diversions. I must confess I think it below reasonable creatures to be altogether conversant in such diversions as are merely innocent, and have nothing else to recommend them, but that there is no hurt in them. Whether any kind of gaming has even thus much to say for itself, I shall not determine ; but I think it is very wonderful to see persons of the best sense passing away a dozen hours together in shuffling and dividing a pack of cards with no other conversation but what is made up of a few game phrases, and no other ideas but those of black or red spots ranged together in different figures. Would not a man laugh to hear any one of this species complaining that life is short ?
The stage might be made a perpetual source of the most noble and useful entertainments were it under proper regulations
But the mind never unbends itself so agreeably as in the conversation of a well-chosen friend. There is indeed no blessing of life that is any way comparable to the enjoyment of a discreet and virtuous friend. It eases and unloads the mind, clears and improves the understanding, engenders thoughts and knowledge, animates virtue and good resolutions, sooths and allays the passions, and finds employment for most of the vacant hours of life.
Next to such an intimacy with a particular person, one would endeavour after a more general conversation with such as are able to entertain and improve those with whom they converse, which are qualifications that seldom go asunder.
There are many other useful amusements of life, which one would endeavour to multiply, that one might on all occasions have recourse to something, rather than suffer the mind to lie idle, or run adrift with any passion that chances to rise in it.
A man that has a taste of music, painting, or architecture, is like one that has another sense, when compared with such as have no relish of those arts. The florist, the planter, the gardener, the husbandman, when they are only as accomplishments to the man of fortune, are great reliefs to a country life, and many ways useful to those who are possessed of them.
But of all the diversions of life, there is none so proper to fill up its empty spaces as the reading of useful and entertaining authors. But this I shall only touch upon, because it in some nea sure interferes with the third method, which I shall propose iu another paper, for the employment of our dead unactive hours, and which I shall :nly mention in general to be, the pursuit of knowledge
No. 94. MONDAY, JUNE 18.
Mart. Epig. xxiii.-17.
The last method which I proposed in my Saturday's paper, for filling up those empty spaces of life which are so tedious and hurdensome to idle people, is the employing ourselves in the pursuit of knowledge. I remember Mr. Boyle, speaking of a certain mineral, tells us, that a man may consume his whole life in the study of it, without arriving at the knowledge of all its qualities. The truth of it is, there is not a single science, or any branch of it, that might not furnish a man with business for life, though it were much longer than it is.
I shall not here engage on those beaten subjects of the usefulness of knowledge, nor of the pleasure and perfection it gives the mind, nor on the methods of attaining it, nor recommend any particular branch of it, all which have been the topics of many other writers; but shall indulge myself in a speculation that is more uncommon, and may, therefore, perhaps, be more entertaining
I have before shewn how the unemployed parts of life appear long and tedious; and shall here endeavour to shew how those parts of life which are exercised in study, reading, and the pur. suits of knowledge, are long, but not tedious, and by that means discover a method of lengthening our lives, and at the same time of turning all the parts of them to our advantage.
Mr. Locke olserves, “That we get the idea of vime, or dura tion, by reflecting on that train of ideas which succeed one ano ther in our minds : that for this reason, when we sleep soundly
without dreamir.g, we have no perception of time, or the length of it, whilst we sleep; and that the moment wherein we leave off to think, till the moment we begin to think again, seem to have no distance." To which the author adds, “And so I doubt not but it would be to a waking man, if it were possible for him to keep only one idea in his mind, without variation, and the succession of others : and we see, that one who fixes his thoughts very intently on one thing, so as to take but little notice of the succes sion of ideas that pass in his mind whilst he is taken with that earnest contemplation, lets slip out of his account a good part of that duration, and thinks that time shorter than it is.'
We might carry this thought further, and consider a man as, on one side, shortening his time by thinking on nothing, or but a few things : so, on the other, as lengthening it, by employing his thoughts on many subjects, or by entertaining a quick and con stant succession of ideas. Accordingly Monsieur Mallebranche, in his Enquiry after Truth, (which was published several years before Mr. Locke's Essay on Human Understanding) tells us, that it is possible some creatures may think half an hour as long as we do a thousand years : or look upon
of duration which we call a minute, as an hour, a week, a month, or an whole age.
This notion of Monsieur Mallebranche is capable of some little explanation from what I have quoted out of Mr. Locke; for if our notion of time is produced by our reflecting on the succession of ideas in our mind, and this succession may be infinitely accelerated or retarded, it will follow, that different beings may have different notions of the same parts of duration, according as their ideas, which we suppose are equally distinct in each of them follow one another in a greater or less degree of rapidity.
1 Essay B. 2, ch. xiv. sect. 4.-C..