Chapter 26

  1. Mental Power

“My mind to me a kingdom is;

Such perfect joy therein I find

As far exceeds all earthly bliss.

Though much I want that most would have,

Yet still my mind forbids to crave.”

— Sir Edmund Dyer.

The triumph of cultivated intellect over the forces of nature is indeed a wonderful subject for contemplation. The most deadly poisons are made to conduce to human health and welfare. Electricity does the writing and talking, and annihilates space. Steam and iron are made to do the work of nerves and muscles, and lay the four corners of the world under contribution for our benefit. In view of these and many similar facts, how full of meaning becomes the old saying, “Knowledge is power!” Reason, like the magnetic influence imparted to iron, may be said to give to matter properties and powers which it did not possess before; but, without extending its bulk, augmenting its weight, or altering its organization, it is visible only by its effects and perceptible only by its operations.

Unlike those of the warriors, the triumphs of intellect derive all their luster, not from the evil they have produced, but from the good. Her successes and her conquests are the common property of the world, and succeeding ages will be the watchful guardians of the rich legacies she bequeathes. The trophies and titles of the conqueror are on the quick march to oblivion, and amid that desolation where they were planted will decay. As the mind must govern the hand, so in every society the man of intelligence must direct and govern the man of ignorance. There is no exception to this law. It is the natural sequence of the dominion of mind over matter—a dominion so strong that for a time it can make flesh and nerves impregnable, and string the sinews like steel, so that the weak become strong. Some men of a secluded and studious life have sent forth from their closet or cloister rays of intellectual light that have agitated courts and revolutionized kingdoms, as the moon, that far removed from the ocean, and shining upon it with a serene and sober light, is the chief cause of all those ebbings and flowings which incessantly disturb that world of waters.

The triumph of mind is shown in various ways. It enables us to surmount difficulties with facility. Like imprisoned steam, the more it is pressed, the more it rises to resist the pressure. The more we are obliged to do, the more we are able to accomplish. Perhaps in no other respect is the power of mind more signally shown than when it opens to our view avenues of pleasure before unthought of. Happiness is the great aim of life. In one form or another we are all striving for it. There are no pleasures so pure as mental pleasures. We never tire of them. A lofty mind always thinks loftily. It easily creates vivid, agreeable, and natural fancies, places them in their best light, clothes them with all appropriate adornments, studies others’ tastes, and clears away from its own thoughts all that is useless and disagreeable. Mental force or power is not the inheritance of birth, nor the result of a few years’ spasmodic study; it is only acquired as the result of long and patient exertion. There is no age at which it can not be increased. There is absolutely no branch of literature which, when properly digested and stowed away in the mind, will not show its effect in after life by increased vigor in the whole mind. Those intellectually strong men and women who have left their influence on the world’s history are almost without exception found to be those who have possessed broad and deep acquirements; who have permitted no opportunity for obtaining information to pass unimproved; who have been content for years to store away knowledge, confident that in the fullness of time they would reap the reward.

If any one would be the possessor of mental power he must be willing to do his duty in obtaining it. There is a tendency to make the acquisition of knowledge, at the present day, as easy as, possible. The end proposed is good, but the means employed are of doubtful utility. Instead of toiling painfully on foot up the rugged steeps of learning the student of to-day flies along a railway track, finding every cliff cut through and every valley bridged. In this world nothing of value is to be obtained without labor. So there are some who will question the value of that education which is not born of patient perseverance and hard work. As in the exercises of the gymnasium the value consists in the exertions required to perform them, so that knowledge and mental power acquired by arduous exertion is of the most lasting and real value. Let patient toilers find a lesson of encouragement in this. What you thus painfully acquire will prove of lasting benefit to you.

Mental power is seen in its best form only when all of the mental faculties have been properly drilled and disciplined. The mind can not grow to its full stature, nor be rounded into just proportions, nor acquire that blended litheness, toughness, and elasticity which it needs, if fed on one aliment. There is no profession or calling which, if too exclusively followed, will not warp and contract the mind. Just as if, in the body, a person resolves to be a rower, and only a rower, the chances are that he will have, indeed, strong arms, but weak legs, and eyes blinded by the glare of water. Or, if he desires to become an athlete, he may be all muscles, with few brains. So, in the mind, if he exercises but one set of faculties and neglects the rest, he may become a subtle theologian or a sharp lawyer, a keen man of business, or a practical mechanic, and though the possessor of power it is not power in its highest and best form.

But for those who are anxious to obtain mental power, and for that purpose devote the years of a life-time to patient study and reflection, the rewards it offers are full compensation for all the hours of weary, self-denying labor. Not only does it afford the best assurance of success in life’s battles and point out to its possessor means of happiness denied to others, but it is so peculiarly the highest form of power to which men can aspire that it commands the homage of all, and reposes as a jewel in the crown of the true man or woman.

, In, pager

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