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I do not ask the reader whether he cares to investigate the secret of long life. If he does not—if he is one of those luckless mortals who are discontented with this beautiful resourceful world, and fancy they would like something better—I have no concern with him. I relish this world, and mean to stay in it as long as I can; not from any fear of the future—which is unphilosophical, as Ishall show hereafter—but because I hold that the soul, or self, can only be properly developed by thorough enjoyment of the present. The instant is ours. The past is past : quod vides perisse perditum ducas. The future will be ours in time; it is an infinite estate, to which we are infallible heirs, and which reaches us in rapid instalments ; but to live on the expectation of it is to embarrass oneself with perpetual post-obits. Lose a moment never. Touch distinctly every priceless pearl of time as it passes through your fingers. Feel that it is a luxury to live.
These things can only be accomplished by forming a true theory of life, and by keeping the mind always awake and active. Both are possible to men and women of average powers. Persons of powers below the average were clearly designed for a servile existence, and it is to be regretted for their own sakes when the caprice of destiny makes emperors of them, or peers of the realm, or justices of the quorum. But at such freaks of fortune wise men smile.
WHAT IS LIFE?
Nec morti esse locum.- Virgil.
WHAT IS LIFE? We can approximate to a solution of this problem only through another. What is man? My answer is A living indestructible spirit, inhabiting a material form which that spirit. itself moulds and develops. Man possesses life so long as the atoms of his material form remain in their place; when they wear out, the spirit recommences its work, moulding for itself a new tenement. If you lived your life—if you are a stronger and purer spirit than when you entered on this planet—your new form, wheresoever it may happen to be placed in the universe, will be nobler than
that you now inhabit. If otherwise, why the consequence is obvious. The soul makes the body. It does it visibly here. High thoughts and noble impulses give light to the eye, music to the voice, life to the lips, grace to the form. A long series of such thoughts and impulses makes the soul stronger for its next effort; and the poet or sage who leaves this world (to write vaguely) after a great career will renew his youth, and reappear on this or some other scene, with a fairer form than ever, and with greater power to ascend towards the infinite summit of existence.
Where we shall pass the immeasurable future is no concern of ours; but it is our concern to know that our capacity for enjoying the future depends on our thoroughly enjoying the present. The word enjoy is the only one that will show what I mean. I use it to signify that absolute fulfilment of one's destiny which gives perfect pleasure.
It is quite possible—and to some minds easy —to enjoy life when you are doing disagreeable duties or mixing with disagreeable people. As to the locality of our future, why, the universe is very wide, and, if space be an immense cone, as would appear from the prevalence of ellipse and hyperbola in planetary and cometary motion, it must be long indeed before the best of us approach its apex. About such matters it is unwise to speculate. Indeed, when we have the most important truths that concern life in our possession, idle speculation about accidentals is infantile. We know what we are. Why should we guess as to where we are going? The soul is, and it consciously possesses faculties infinitely improvable. Fears and fancies of the future will therefore be dismissed by all whose intellectual health is sound; they will enjoy the instant, knowing that this is the true way to secure enjoyment of the unknown and unguessable future.