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the interests of those around us that we do not sympathise with them in their sufferings, we shut ourselves out from sharing their happiness, and lose far more than we gain. If we avoid sympathy and wrap ourselves round in a cold chain armour of selfishness, we exclude ourselves from many of the greatest and purest joys of life. To render ourselves insensible to pain we must forfeit also the possibility of happiness.
Moreover, much of what we call evil is really good in disguise, and we should not “ quarrel rashly with adversities not yet understood, nor overlook the mercies often bound up in them.” 1 Pleasure and pain are, as Plutarch says, the nails which fasten body and soul together. Pain is a signal of danger, a very necessity of existence. But for it, but for the warnings which our feelings give us, the very
blessings by which we are surrounded would soon and inevitably prove fatal. Many of those who have not studied the question are under the impression that the more deeplyseated portions of the body must be most sensitive. The very reverse is the case. The skin is a continuous and ever-watchful sentinel, always on guard to give us notice of any approaching danger; while the flesh and inner organs, where pain would be without purpose, are, so long as they are in health, comparatively without sensation.
1 Sir T.
“We talk,” says Helps, “ of the origin of evil; . . . but what is evil? We mostly speak of sufferings and trials as good, perhaps, in their result; but we hardly admit that they may be good in themselves. Yet they are knowledge—how else to be acquired, unless by making men as gods, enabling them to understand without experience. All that men go through may be absolutely the best for them-no such thing as evil, at least in our customary meaning of the word.”
Indeed, “the vale best discovereth the
hill,” and “pour sentir les grands biens, il faut qu'il connoisse les petits maux.
But even if we do not seem to get all that we should wish, many will feel, as in Leigh Hunt's beautiful translation of Filicaja's sonnet, that
“So Providence for us, high, infinite,
Those on the other hand who do not accept the idea of continual interferences, will rejoice in the belief that on the whole the laws of the Universe work out for the general happiness.
And if it does come
« Grief should be Like joy, majestic, equable, sedate, Confirming, cleansing, raising, making free : Strong to consume small troubles ; to commend Great thoughts, grave thoughts, thoughts lasting to
the end." 3
3 Aubrey de Vere.
If, however, we cannot hope that life will be all happiness, we may at least secure a heavy balance on the right side; and even events which look like misfortune, if boldly faced, may often be turned to good. Oftentimes, says Seneca, "calamity turns to our advantage ; and great ruins make
for greater glories.” Helmholtz dates his start in science to an attack of illness. This led to his acquisition of a microscope, which he was enabled to purchase, owing to his having spent his autumn vacation of 1841 in the hospital, prostrated by typhoid fever; being a pupil, he was nursed without expense, and on his recovery he found himself in possession of the savings of his small resources.
“Savonarola," says Castelar, “would, under different circumstances, undoubtedly have been a good husband, a tender father; a man unknown to history, utterly powerless to print upon the
sands of time and upon the human soul the deep trace which he has left; but misfortune came to visit him, to crush his heart, and to impart that marked melancholy which characterises a soul in grief; and the grief that circled his brows with a crown of thorns was also that which wreathed them with the splendour of immortality. His hopes were centred in the woman he loved, his life was set upon the possession of her, and when her family finally rejected him, partly on account of his profession, and partly on account of his person, he believed that it was death that had come upon him, when in truth it was immortality.”
It is, however, impossible to deny the existence of evil, and the reason for it has long exercised the human intellect. The Savage solves it by the supposition of evil Spirits. The Greeks attributed the misfortunes of men in great measure to the antipathies and jealousies of gods