Professor James delivered an address before a large audience at the open meeting of the Christian Association in Holden Chapel last evening on the question: "Is Life worth living?"
There would be no reason for the discussion of this question, said Professor James, if life were always enjoyable, and if the temperament of pessimism did not exist. When we think that there are annually about three thousand suicides in the United States, we may well ask ourselves, what can we do to make life worth living for those mortals who are brooding on their end.
Too much questioning often leads to pessimism which is naturally a religious disease. But no man who reflects can help believing that there is a spirit in things which commands reverence and if there be such a divine spirit, nature can not be its revelation to man, because visible nature is too indifferent to command our worship. We look then to a greater universe of which nature is only a part. Of this universe man's religious faith is only the scaffolding, and so must religion involve the idea that in some way one must die to this world before he can enter the eternal world.
It is a remarkable fact that sufferings and hardships do not tire us of life; they rather urge us on and we find joy in our triumph over them. When you relate to one contemplating suicide the woes which others have suffered, you base his consent to try again on manliness and pride, and he is easily moved to begin again. When we accept the pleasures of a life which is based on the sacrifice of the lower animals it involves the point of honor and demands of us unselfishness. Life, then, is worth living no matter what it brings, and probably the most adverse life would be worth living to all of us if we could only see clearly, the hope of a life beyond.
And this belief in another world may be the most essential thing we have to perform in this world. If we have needs which demand an outside universe, and these religious demands are given us to live by, what reason is there why that universe should not be there? We see many men live simply by faith, and often faith is the only thing that makes something come true. This alone ought to be an assurance of the reasonableness of that faith. The essence of faith is to believe that the possibility exists.
This entire question depends upon the liver. He may solve his doubts in two ways. By suicide he proves that he can end all. But if he keeps on living he can make life worth living.
Professor James closed with these words: "Do not be afraid of life. Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact. The proof that you are right may not be clear before the day of judgment (or some stage of Being which that expression may serve to symbolize) is reached. But the faithful fighters of this hour, or the beings that then and there will represent them, may then turn to the fainthearted who here decline to go on, with words like those with which Henry IV greeted the tardy Crillon after a great victory had been gained: 'Hang yourself, brave Crillon! we fought at Arques, and you of all men were not there.'"