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character," as he remarks, "is so constituted that, without the desire of inequality as a motive, the higher forms of skill or even of application are unproducible. In spite of the modest life characteristic of the scientific student, in spite of the absence in it of struggle for wealth, or perhaps more properly I may say, because of this absence, we can clearly detect in it marks of a tendency, in proportion as exceptional power is felt, not only to use this power, but to claim a position corresponding to it. Let a man of science who has made some great discovery have this discovery claimed for an inferior and later rival, and his indignation will afford a singular revelation to us. He will feel, and very rightly, that he has been defrauded of an honour that was due to him; and though he may not have thought of it until he finds it to be withheld, the value he has unconsciously put upon it will be revealed to us by his anger at its loss." This desire for inequality, or in other words a healthy discontent, is not a tendency to be crushed. It is an impulse given us from above. It has been at the root of all the great achievements of the human race, achievements which not only benefited the individual by whom they were originated, but indirectly benefited the world through them. But for discontent men would never have emerged from primeval barbarism.
And it seems to me very important that this should be borne in mind in our dealings with the lower classes. The first thing we have to do is to make them discontented,—discontented with themselves and their surroundings. What! you say, do they not grumble enough, and too much? They may grumble perhaps at times about some comparatively unimportant grievances, but upon the whole the worst phase of their degradation consists in their being too contented. They are, to use Lewis Morris's words, "sunk in a fathomless slough of content." I am not at all sure that this is sufficiently understood by some of the university workers in the East End at Toynbee Hall and similar institutions. I am inclined to think there is rather too much of the "hail fellow well met" in their deportment towards the lower classes. It is the most cruel kindness. Endeavouring to persuade these people that they are already as good as their betters, is the most infallible method of preventing them from ever becoming so. If you want really to benefit them, you must begin, kindly but firmly, to make them conscious of their inferiority. The one thing you have to do is to inspire them with a healthy discontent. But there is always a danger that people with socialistic tendencies, in their efforts to produce equality, will be content with levelling down instead of levelling up.
For one and all of us that amount of discontent is necessary—neither more nor less—which will incite us, nay compel us, to make continual progress, physical, mental, moral, spiritual,
"From well to better, daily self-surpast."
True and False Discontent.
FALSE DISCONTENT IN REGARD TO KNOWLEDGE.
TT is not uncommon, I think, to meet with a false, morbid and hurtful discontent in regard to the limitations of human knowledge. Why, it is sometimes asked, have we not been told distinctly and unmistakably whence we came and whither we are going? Why has it not been explained to us how the world was made? Why have we been left to discover the mysteries of nature for ourselves, instead of having them divinely revealed? Why does the acquisition of knowledge require so much effort? Why is the attainment of certainty difficult, almost impossible? And in particular, why have not the fundamental doctrines of religion been miraculously unfolded to us, in such a way as to preclude all possibility of mistake? Why, if there be a God, does He not reveal His existence and His character, so that all men may know and believe? Why, if immortality be a fact, are we not allowed to communicate with those who have gone before? Why have we not received some definite information as to the life that awaits us hereafter?
Now I suppose you and I have at times asked some of these questions. We may perhaps scarcely see the presumptuousness of asking them. And yet, taken together, they amount to the modest inquiry—Why do I not know all about everything? why am I not omniscient? why am I not God?
The limitation of human knowledge is largely, at any rate, due to the finitude of the human mind. And surely nothing can be more foolish than to grumble at this finitude. God Himself could not have made us infinite. And the finitude of the human mind carries with it, not only the present, but the eternal limitation of human knowledge. The limits may be always receding, but they can never be completely removed. The wisest finite being will not to the end of eternity know the full history of any single particle of matter; for every such particle is related to an infinite number of other particles, and by them it is conditioned and made to be what it is. The history of an atom,