Teach Yourself To Live
|Teach Yourself To Live|
For the present year in which I write, England’s national bill for formal education, central and local, is no less than £ 392,000,000. But it is safe to say that not a single pound of that vast sum of money will be spent in teaching anyone the fundamental art of how to live to the best advantage.
Almost every other conceivable branch of knowledge will be taught. Yet not the one subject which concerns us all more than any other and which should cover and include everything that is really necessary and desirable for us to know. A curious fact, truly!
Nothing in the curriculum of schools and universities is of more importance than the art, science, and business of life. Everything else in the whole field of human knowledge is, after all, merely subsidiary and ancillary to living itself. Perhaps it is because we are all conscious, teachers no less than others, of the profound, and indeed abysmal, ignorance of all of us on that great subject, that we shrink from trying to teach what we probably believe in our hearts to be noncommunicable.
Where Philosophy and Religion tread with doubt and fear, mere Worldly Wisdom may justly fear to rush in. Some of course will say that Life itself teaches m how to live. This is quite true. But through what processes of trial and error, what pain and suffering, and how often too late for our peace and our good From much of this a helping hand and a warning voice might have saved us, for Experience, though the best of teachers, is often an expensive and cruel one.
Indeed, formal education does not get us very far. No University turns out a Shakespeare, a Dickens, a Bernard Shaw, a Newton, or an Einstein, a Beethoven or a Mozart.
It is their own lives and their own natures that give such men the extra and original something which we call genius, and which raises them above their fellows to the enrichment of us all. Progress in science and mechanics, owing to formal education it is true, has been stupendous. In the immediate past of my own lifetime, I have seen such miracles of new inventions as the motor car, the ever-faster aircraft, the radio, television, the atom and hydrogen bombs, supersonic speed, and the hope of interplanetary travel.
But what progress have I seen in spirituality, morality, intellectuality, or in the art of great and gracious living to the best advantage in my lifetime? It is devastating to have to answer: None. People are not wiser or better today than they were in the days of ancient Greece or Rome. (Indeed, it might be argued quite plausibly that they are less wise and less good).
For one cannot imagine Marcus Aurelius or Jesus Christ accepting as inevitable such horrors as Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or the morality of nations which are preparing for the lunatic and diabolic Atom Warfare of the future which is to spare none.
This is not human progress. It is human regression indeed — ^that we should sink below the spiritual and intellectual state of the ancients. And if people are not better or wiser than of old, they are certainly no more effective or ef&cient in the art of living to the best advantage. Classical literature shows that plainly enough. All this is more reason for individuals striving to be wiser and better.
To live to the best advantage, whether at work or play, whether at home or abroad, whether in solitude or in multitude, from infancy to old age, at all times and in all circumstances, is surely no ignoble ideal. To live the fullest life, to develop one’s self to one’s full capacity, is surely what we should aspire to and strive to do. So imperfect is the human-machine of body, mind, and spirit under the long and varied stress and strain of daily living, that this is not always attainable. Nonetheless, we may reach our highest and best at times and at all times not fall too far below it.
In this great enterprise, one can only attain the fullness of life by living and not by reading about it. Still, a book can help to a varying degree, dependent upon what a reader brings to it. It may stimulate or suggest. It may inspire or inspire. It may gain assent or provoke dissent. It may be valuable in other ways. I hope this present book may help those who study it, especially youthful questioners of life, and that, at least, it may interest all who pay its author the compliment of reading its lessons in the great art of effective living.
Preface ..... 7
I, Tenure and Conditions of Existence . . . . . 1 1
II . Personality: or, What You Are . 27
III. Property: or, What You Have. 48
IV. Livelihood and Leisure . . 67
V. The Environment of Others. 81
VI. The Environment of Place. 96
VII. The Environment of Period. 108
VIIL Streamlining Your Days and Ways 118
IX. Past, Present and Future. , 135
X. Getting the Best, Second Best or Worse . . . .148
XI Living the Multiple Life,, 159
XII Selfishness and Selflessness. 171
XIII Teachers of How to Live — Marcus Aurelius; Gracian; Lord Bacon; Lord
Chesterfield; Arnold Bennett; Somerset Maugham . . . . .183
Author: C G L Du Cann
Publication Date: 1955
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