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But you will ask, What becomes of Mr. Darwin's theory of evolution, if obedience to the laws of individual being is more important than conformity to external conditions? Both are evidently necessary, and they are not so different as they may seem at first sight. They are really one and the same. Bringing out the best and highest there is in us, is the only true conformity to that which is deepest and surest and most enduring in our environment. That in environment which makes for digestion is almost palpable and tangible, that which makes for activity less so perhaps; but that which makes for brain and truth and right is intangible and invisible. We easily fail to notice it; and, unless we take a careful view of the course of development in the highest forms of life, we may be inclined to deny its existence. But it is surely there, if man is a product of evolution.
Each successive stage of animal life is not the preceding stage on a higher plane, but the preceding stage modified in conformity to the environment of that from which it has just arisen. Says Professor Hertwig*: "During the process of organic development the external is continually becoming an integral part of the individual. The germ is continually growing and changing at the expense of surrounding conditions." Every stage thus contains the result of a host of reactions to a ruder and older portion of environment. And the higher we go the more has the original protoplasm and structure been modified as the result of these reactions.
We have seen clearly that environment must be studied through its effect upon living beings. Viewed *Hertwig: Zeit- und Streitfragen, p. 82.
from any other standpoint it appears to be a myriad, almost a chaos, of interacting, apparently conflicting, forces. The resultant of some of these is shown by the animal at any stage of its development. And as the animal advances, the resultant determining its new line, or stage, of advance, includes new forces, to which it has only lately become sensitive. And thus the human mind, as the last and highest product of evolution, mirrors most adequately the resultant of all its forces. If we would know environment we must study ourselves, not atoms alone, nor rocks, nor
Extremely sensitive photographic plates, after long exposure, have proven the existence of stars so dim and far-off as to be invisible to the best telescopes. Man's mind is just such a sensitive plate; it is the only valid representation of environment.
The truth would appear to be that the law is present in environment, but hard to read; but it is stamped upon our structure and being so deeply and plainly that the dullest of us cannot fail to read it. We learned the fact of gravitation the first time that we fell down in learning to walk, long afterward we learned that its law guided earth and moon. And it is the presence of this law within us, and our own knowledge that we are conscious of it, that makes man without excuse. But conformity to that which is deepest in environment often, always, demands non-conformity to some of the most palpable of surrounding conditions.
There is no better statement of the ultimate law of conformity than the words of Paul: "Be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing
of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
And this difference is exactly what I have been trying to put before you. The mollusk conformed, but the vertebrate conformed in a very different way, and was transformed, "metamorphosed," to translate the Greek word literally, into something higher. And let us not forget that man conforms consciously and voluntarily, if at all; he is able to read in himself and environment the law to which lower forms have been compelled unconsciously to conform.
These facts merely illustrate a great law of life. No man's eye, much less hand, can grasp the whole of the present and at the same time the future. Rather what we usually call present advantage is not advantage at all, but the first step in degeneration. If one will be rich in old age he must deny himself some gratifications in youth; his present reward is his self-control. If a man will climb higher than his fellows he must expect to be sometimes solitary; his reward is the ever-widening view, though the path be rougher and the air more biting than in their lower altitude. If he point to heights yet to attain, the majority will disbelieve him or say, "Our present height was good enough for our ancestors, it is good enough for us. Why sacrifice a good thing and make yourself ridiculous scrambling after what in the end may prove unattainable?" If you discover new truths you will certainly be called a subverter of old ones. And this is entirely natural. The upward path was never intended to be easy.
Read the "Gorgias" of Plato, and let us listen to the closing words of Socrates in that dialogue: "And
so, bidding farewell to those things which most men account honors, and looking onward to the truth, I shall earnestly endeavor to grow, so far as may be, in goodness, and thus live, and thus, when the time comes, die. And, to the best of my power, I exhort all other men also; and you especially, in my turn, I exhort to this life and contest, which is, I protest, far above all contests here." You must remember that Callicles has been taunting Socrates with his lack of worldly wisdom and the certainty that in any court of justice he would be absolutely helpless because of his lack of knowledge of the rhetorician's art: "This way then we will follow, and we will call upon all other men to do the same, not that which you believe in and call upon me to follow; for that way, Callicles, is worth nothing."
And Socrates met the end which he expected: death at the hands of his fellow-citizens.
And here perhaps a little glimmer of light is thrown into one of the darkest corners of human experience. The wise old author of Ecclesiastes writes: "There is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness; and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness. There is a vanity which is done upon the earth, that there be just men unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous: I said that this also is vanity." "I returned and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all" (Eccles. viii. 14.;
ix. 11). It is this element of chance that threatens to make a mockery of effort, and sometimes seems to make life but a travesty. The terrible feature of Tennyson's description of Arthur's last, dim battle in the west is not the "crash of battle-axe on shattered helm," but the all-engulfing mist.
Perhaps this is all intended to teach us that riches and favor, and even bread, are not the essentials of life, and that failure to attain these is not such ruin as we often think. But no man ever struggled for wisdom, righteousness, unselfishness, and heroism without attaining them; even though the more he attained the more dissatisfied he became with all previous attainment. And if our slight attainments in wisdom and knowledge always brought wealth and favor, we might rest satisfied with the latter, instead of clearly recognizing that wisdom must be its own reward. Uncertainty and deprivation are the best and only training for a hero, not sure reward paid in popular plaudits.
Political economists speak of the productiveness and prospectiveness of capital. We may well borrow these terms, using them in a somewhat modified sense. In our sense capital is productive in so far as it gives an immediate return; it is prospective in proportion as the return is expected largely in the future. A 'pocket " may yield an immediate very large return of gold nuggets at a very slight expense of labor and appliances, but it is soon exhausted. In a mine the ore may be poor near the surface, but grow richer as the shaft deepens; the vein is narrow above, but widens below. The returns are at first small, its inexhaustible richness becomes apparent only after considerable