« НазадПродовжити »
HOW TO EMPLOY TIME.
quarter-day. The politician would be contented to lose three years in his life, could he place things in the posture which he fancies they will stand in after such a revolution of time. The lover would be glad to strike out of his existence all the moments that are to pass away before the happy meeting. Thus, as fast as our time runs, we should be very glad in most parts of our lives that it ran much faster than it does. Several hours of the day hang upon our hands, nay we wish away whole years; and
travel through time as through a country filled with many wild 10 and empty wastes, which we would fain hurry over, that we may
arrive at those several little settlements of imaginary points of rest which are dispersed up and down in it.
If we divide the lives of most men into twenty parts, we shall find that at least nineteen of them are mere gaps and chasms, which are neither filled with pleasures nor business. I do not however include in this calculation the life of those men who are in a perpetual hurry of affairs, but of those only who are not alway engaged in scenes of action; and I hope I shall not do an
unacceptable piece of service to these persons if I point out to 20 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 of our lives. A man has frequent opportunities of mitigating the
fierceness of a party; of doing justice to the character of a de30 serving 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 40 perpetual cheerfulness of temper, and enjoys every moment the
satisfaction of thinking himself in company with his dearest and best of friends. 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 everywhere surrounds him; or, on the contrary, pours out its fears, its sorrows, its apprehensions, to the great Supporter of its existence.
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 20 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 is 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 30 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. 40 But the mind never unbends itself so agreeably as in the con
versation of a well-chosen friend. There is indeed no blessing in 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 resolution, 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 10 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 in 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 20 useful to those who are possessed of them n.
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 measure interferes with the third method, which I shall propose in another paper, for the employment of our dead unactive hours, and which I shall only mention in general to be the pursuit of knowledge.-L.
The same subject continued ; quotations from Locke and
MART. Epig. 23.
my Saturday's filling up those empty spaces of life which are so tedious and 30 burdensome to idle people, is the employing ourselves in the pur
suit 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, that 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 10 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 pursuit of knowledge, the 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 observes, “That we get the idea of time, or duration, by reflecting on that train of ideas which succeed one another in 20 our minds : that for this reason, when we sleep soundly without
dreaming, 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, seems 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 little notice of the succession of ideas
that pass in his mind whilst he is taken up with that earnest con30 templation, lets slip out of his account a good part of that duration, and thinks that time shorter than it is n.'
We might carry this thought farther, 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 constant succession of ideas. Accordingly Monsieur Malebranche, in his ‘Inquiry 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 40 as we do a thousand years; or look upon that space of duration
THE NOTION OF TIME.
which we call a minute, as an hour, a week, a month, or a whole age.
This notion of Monsieur Malebranche 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 reflexion 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, 10 follow one another in a greater or less degree of rapidity.
There is a famous passage in the Alcoran, which looks as if Mahomet had been possessed of the notion we are now speaking of. It is there said, That the angel Gabriel took Mahomet out of his bed one morning to give him a sight of all things in the seven heavens, in paradise, and in hell, which the prophet took a distinct view of; and after having held ninety thousand conferences with God, was brought back again to his bed. All this, says the Alcoran, was transacted in so small a space of time, that Mahomet at his
return found his bed still warm, and took up an earthen pitcher 20 (which was thrown down at the very instant that the angel Gabriel carried him away) before the water was all spilt n.
There is a very pretty story in the Turkish tales which relates to this passage of that famous impostor, and bears some affinity to the subject we are now upon. A Sultan of Egypt, who was an infidel, used to laugh at this circumstance in Mahomet's life, as what was altogether impossible and absurd : but conversing one day with a grcat doctor in the law, who had the gift of working miracles, the doctor told him he would quickly convince him of
the truth of this passage in the history of Mahomet, if he would 30 consent to do what he should desire of him. Upon this the Sultan
was directed to place himself by an huge tub of water, which he did accordingly; and as he stood by the tub amidst a circle of his great men, the holy man bid him plunge his head into the water, and draw it out again; the King accordingly thrust his head into the water, and at the same time found himself at the foot of a mountain on a sea-shore. The King immediately began to rage against his doctor for this piece of treachery and witchcraft; but at length, knowing it was in vain to be angry, he set himself to
think on proper methods for getting a livelihood in this strange 40 country: accordingly he applied himself to some people whom he