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In the fullness of his years, out of the wisdom of an abundant life, Dr. Eliot comforts himself, and all of us, with a paradox. He finds, and says, that the "essence of the fun of life" is "contest without conflict." Paradox or no paradox, the philosophy is sound. Incidentally, Dr. Eliot applies the idea to the relations between capital and labor. In this field, warfare is vastly--it might be totally--unprofitable. No doubt so long as some men work for wages that other men pay, there will be a contest of interests. But the conflict of men, the clash of wills, we shall not always have in this practical land, because it means waste; and when people must and should live up to a high standard of having and spending, they cannot waste. A wise and practical people will find the safe balance.
The idea is applicable to all our relations. In everything, we should stop short of conflict, while never abandoning a foundation principle. For example, things of faith, of religion, of ethics, are very great to us Americans, and their very greatness compels, or should compel, restraint. We shall always have our Fundamentalists and our Modernists. These two are real words, and splendidly descriptive. Neither side could have been more fortunate in its name. There is something that governs the universe, and always has governed it and always will govern it, that lies at the bottom of things. The minds and hearts of certain men will always turn to that Foundation, and will distrust disturbance. There is also movement there is progress, there is change, there is dynamic and creative thought there is new hope. In this wholly forward direction the minds and souls of other men will always turn. Is there a contest between the two ideas? Very likely; but why should there be conflict between those who entertain them, since both sides admit the principle? There is no sound reason for such conflict. The thought of our time, let it lead in one direction or the other, is sincere. It seeks the truth. It desires, as men never desired more resolutely, to solve the problems of the soul. Since all are earnest, why waste time and energy in anger and denunciation?
Dr. Eliot, who has taught many men many true things, never taught more wisely, nor with a more practical purpose, than he teaches in the use of these words.
May 25th Boston Evening Transcript.
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