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because it is not spiced and sweetened exactly to their taste.
And where lies the remedy? It is not within the art of the apothecary, nor in the power of any nostrums of partial and limited effect. No, the people must be wise for themselves. The great body of the people, coming once more to their sober senses, must agree to return to the plain, frugal, uncostly habits of other times; and inust strive, with general accord, to bring those long-discarded habits into fashion again, and to render them honorable by the suffrage of public opinion.
As the want of contentment is one of the most grievous wants that affect human life, it ought to be provided against with the utmost care, and particularly in the following ways:
1. In training up children, scarcely any thing is of greater importance than guarding them against the intrusion of too many artificial wants. I say too many, because some wants of this sort do naturally and necessarily grow out of civilization, and it is their excess alone that tends to discontent and wretchedness. Of that excess the danger is great, inasmuch as the effects are always deplorable. What multitudes, at this very instant, are discontented and wretched, who might enjoy life comfortably had they been early taught to conform their desires to their conditions, and to act upon the principles of sober and rational economy. Nor is it of small importance in training up children, to accustom them to useful employment. A useless life is seldom found to be a contented one. Occupation is so necessary to human quiet, that to bring up children in idleness is the way to make them a burden to themselves as well as to the community..
From this twofold cause, the excess of artificial wants, and the neglect of forming habits of useful industry in the early period of life, there has sprung perhaps a full half of the discontent that secretly preys upon so many bosoms. Important as it is to teach children reading and writing and the use of figures, it is of still greater importance to regulate their tempers, to curb their wayward desires, and to fix them in habits of industry,
temperance and frugality; without which, the acquisition of learning could be to them but of little benefit.
2. The self-discipline of adnlt age, is an essential requisite toward leading and enjoying a contented life. A well disciplined mind studies to be content, and most commonly is so. It attains its desires by moderating and limiting them, and thus bringing them within the compass of its means. It accustoms itself to view, without envy, the wealth and grandeur which fall not to its lot, and which seldoın render their possessors the more happy; and to be satisfied with, and thankful for, the mere necessary and common accommodations of the journey of life. It depends much less upon our circumstances, whether we shall be happy or miserable in life, than on our tempers, and our view of things. Many enjoy themselves well in low circumstances, because they bring their minds to their situations. But when to low circumstances are added large desires and magnificent notions, it is then, and then only is it, that unhappiness results from the want of a fortune.
In conclusion, I will suggest a few detached thoughts, as an appendage to the present subject.
Our conditions are very little less affected by our hopes and fears, than by realities; he that is accustomed to view the aspect of things on their bright side, enjoys more than one in better circumstances, who is perpetually pondering upon the dark side of every thing, and distilling drops of bitterness from his cups of comfort.
It is common to begin the world with expecting more enjoyment in it than it is capable of yielding; extravagant expectations are the parents of disappointment, and disappointment produces dissatisfaction and chagrin. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord; but being a stage of trial, physical evil is mixt up with the good, which last we would fain enjoy unmixed. We have a much keener sense of what we suffer than of what we enjoy; and hence, in our troubles, we are apt to forget our mercies; whereas it would mitigate the evil we feel, to compare it with the greater evils which we escape, and which very many are groaning under.
Some, by constitution, and a far greater number from a perverse education, are excessively hard to please.
They are so squeamish, that scarcely any thing, or any company, can satisfy them. This fastidious dislike to all about them, they mistake for delicacy; not aware that it has its roots in the morbid condition of their tempers. Self-torment is ever the consequence of this unamiable disposition: one who labors under this disease of temper, suffers innumerable disquietudes and disgusts with which the rest of inankind are not disturbed.
Others turn the sweets which they enjoy, to gall and wormwood, by their peevishness; daily repining and fretting about something, no matter how trivial. Though Providence deals kindly with them, they are making wry faces at Providence almost every wakeful hour of their lives. Others, again, though not peevish, are querulous, and whine to be pitied. All their little personal troubles they carefully treasure in the memory, to be served up as colloquial banquets for their friends and acquaintance.
Some can relish none of the dishes upon the bounteous table which Providence spreads, because they have not a distinguished seat there ; while others, who are seated at, or near, the head of that table, suffer the pains of satiety, and are sinking under the burden of themselves—a burden the most intolerable, and which no worldly affluence can lighten or alleviate.
In short, without noting down in the catalogue greeneyed envy, that consuming plague of the heart, or any other passion which has in itself the blackness of vice, we shall find that the greatest number, and the most annoying, of the enemies of our peace, are in our own bosoms. How many, who are now dissatisfied and wretched in their feelings, would be uncomplaining, contented, cheerful, and thankful, if they had but one tenth of the philosophy of Sadi!
Of Custom, as respects Individuals and whole Communi
“Just as the twig is bent the tree's inclin'd.”
It can hardly be imagined, how much we are under the power of custom: it blinds and fixes our inclination in almost any direction. That which we are accustomed to, acquires our attachment, and we are uneasy without it. If our customary food has been plain, simple, or coarse, it is sweet to our taste: on the other hand, if we have been accustomed altogether to dainties, we shall feel a kind of loathing for ordinary provisions. The Black Broth of the Spartans, was, to them, delicious, though loathsome to every body else.
I once dined at an inn, in company with a lady who had “fared sumptuously every day. It was a plain dinner, and substantially good, but not such as she had been accustomed to; and the very sight of it threw her into tragical distress. She was not hectical, nor in any manner sickly. Her
form was the index of nothing less than of habitudes of abstemiousness. But alas ! her stomach turned against every thing. She barely tasted of this, of that, and of the other morsel, and laying down her knife and fork, her visage could scarcely have been more rueful had she been under the hands of the executioner.
Man is said to be 6 a bundle of habits.” And what is habit ? Habit is the bias we acquire for what we are accustomed to; whether it relates to the body, or the mind, or both. As by frequency of repetition we become more ready and expert in whatever we have to do; so, also, by frequency of repetition, the appetite, the taste, the inclination, acquire a settled direction that way. Nay, if the thing we are accustomed to gives us little or no pleasure, its absence gives us pain.
“I remember," says the far-famed Burke, “to have frequented a certain place every day, for a long time together; and I may truly say, that so far from finding pleasure in it, I was affected with a sort of weariness and disgust; I came, I went, I returned, without pleasure; yet if by any means I passed by my usual time of going thither, I was remarkably uneasy, and was not quiet till I got into my old track."-And he proceeds to say, They who use snuff take it almost without being sensible that they take it, and the acute sense of smell is deadened so as to feel hardly any thing from so sharp a stimulus; yet, deprive the snuff-taker of his box, and he is the most uneasy mortal in the world."
It might indeed be shown, in a great variety of instances, some of an indifferent, and others of a moral nature, that being accustomed to a thing, induces, for the most part, such a settled habit as is aptly denominated a second nature. But my object is to apply the general principle to the all important concern of education.
Training up a child in the way he should go, consists not altogether in pointing out the way, but also, and chiefly, in accustoming him to walk therein. As the tree grows up straight, or crooked, according to the diréction given it when a plant, so, in a great measure, it is with animal nature. of this truth we are deeply sensible, in its application to the inferior animals, and our practice accords with our way of thinking. In training up young animals for use, a colt, for instance, or one of the canine breed, much care is taken to break them of their faults, and to render them docile, and such as we wish them to be at a mature age. Because experience teaches us, that if their faults are permitted to grow up with them, they will becoine inveterately fixed, and exceeding hard to cure. We know that if the one be suffered to kick, and the other to snarl and bite, at every body that comes near, or if any other mischievous trick be permitted to grow with their growth,” it would be unreasonable to expect to fashion them aright when age shall have matured and confirmed their ill habits, and redoubled their cbstipacy. Rightly judging on this point, we are practical, because, forsooth, it would be a pity the young animal should be spoiled for want of attention to his breeding.