25 SEPTEMBER 1915, Page 9


He neither gives nor receives any sort of present with any great pleasure, not that he is less willing than others to minister to the necessities of his neighbours. He bestows sympathetically or unsympathetically, according to the quality of his heart; but he gives to relieve, not for the pleasure of giving. His temperament may be that of a saint or a tramp—it might conceivably combine the two—but he can never be a miser or worldly. He can never judge himself or others by a money standard. He is not so likely to be energetic as the ordinary man ; the commonest incentive to energy is lacking to him; but he may be energetic should some cause take possession of him. Should the cause be a noble one, he is sure to excel in goodness. In the race for moral excellence he must surpass his friends. It is such a great advantage to travel light. He is free of so many temptations. One may be dishonourable, or even dishonest, with no -view to possessions, but nine times out of teu men leave the strait path for gain only. He never grudges, because he never envies.

Quite apart from moral questions, a too keen sense of possession, a too great love of owning things, has a bad intellectual effect. That a man should give all his spare time and all his spare mind, and, one might almost add, his spare heart and soul and strength, to the making of a collection is surely to foster folly. The sums of money which are given for items in collections of no special value in themselves make the censorious scold and the sensible laugh every day of the week. Men become possessed by the love of possession. How can they set their affections upon autographs, dull notes written by the great men of the past, stamps, first editions, and even very ugly ancient pictures P Of course if a man can keep his hobby within bounds all is well. Some men must have a pursuit, in the literal sense. It is for them simply the most acceptable form of recreation. It is like the need for nonsense which is noticeable in the most serious-minded men. They must talk at random some- times, and to he always among those who never speak but to the point becomes an agony to them. But a pursuit: which makes an immense demand on the attention narrows a man's interests, and always saps his mental. power. All the time and energy and thought which he who pursues possessions wastes the man who sets no store by them can give to a cause. We all know how small a number of men Ignatias Loyola believed could govera the world if only they were completely detached. His dictum &tends among the great sayings of the world, but it is more startling than true, and it tells us rather what ought to be than what is. The detached man of the world do not govetn it, thottgh they accomplish great- things, because they are not in sympathy with their fellows. Their great deeds are done alone, though . they are done for others. They do not hold even their lives dear; but most of as do, and though we admire the man who does net, we feel divided from him. We think that the greater hero is the man who can make the sacrifice and yet feel the agony. There must be in Roman Oatholic countries now, as there must have been here before. the Reformation, thousands 01 men and women in monasteries completely detached, who desire nothing for themselves; but how little influence they have, upon the world! Institutions do not, of course, make types; they only preserve and accentuate them. We all know men and women in the world who are, as it were, spiritually immured, to whom worldly considerations mean nothing, to whom even human relationships mean little. They are as truly cloistered es though they lived behind a convent grill. It is difficult to gauge their influence, but we think that it may be exaggerated. It is not, of course, necessary that people capable of detach- ment should be without deep affections, but these are not called out by the sense of possession, which in the ordinary man and woman lies very near their root. A man of the kind we mean may, if he is lucky, find a very great friend in his wife, or in his child, or in a brother or sister, or even in one of his parents; but he does not care for them because they are his— his flesh and blood, sharers in his property and his traditions.; Such things are not much to him, and though it is possible that all the love of which his nature is capable may be called out within the limits of his family, it is much less likely than in the case of another man.

There is a sense in which we, have all of us some moral 'ambition. The present writer once heard one man say of another that he was "a man who would like to do right, and if it paid him, so he would." So much is true of the worst of us. Most people would go further, and be willing to forgo those qualities and peculiarities which they know lead them into temptation; but no one wants to be rid of the sense of possession. We could as easily give up our identity altogether. How could we bear the troubles of life without it ? Under our own roof there is always some consolation. If we are away from it in illness or trouble, we long for it as for a dear friend. All men desire to die at home. It is in a measure our possessions which render home dear. Our pretty things make us feel at home. One man's roses and another man's rooms give him a sense of sanctuary, of refuge from the world. Again, how could we bear the fact that our children, who in the halcyon days of childhood seemed so wonderful, have turned out "like ither folk's bairns," if they were not our own P

The people who are born without this sense, which makes the world so dear, when they are not saints are very apt to be Socialists. They cannot see that the real argument for private property is that man is, so to speak, a propertied animal—he must own or he is unhappy. The bread of charity is not bitter because it is given grudgingly, or given haughtily, nor yet because it is insufficient. The world does not deserve so severe an indictment as that explanation involves. Gift bread is bitter chiefly because it is not our own. Some rich men may possibly be the better for losing everything, just as apoplectic people are the better for letting blood. If we think of the people we have known who have been ruined, what has been the effect of the blow upon their characters ? They lose energy, hope, zest, and sometimes still more valuable qualities. Cut away all that is a man's own and his character will, so to speak, bleed to death. The same thing is true in bereavement. If a man, or more surely a woman, is left alone in the world while still young enough to feel the full force of the blows which leave her without tie, possessive affection, or responsibility, her whole nature will be, as it were, blanched. Where there is no strong sense of possession all blows can be recovered from. The soul rises above every onslaught of fate. They are a credit to human nature, these men and women without earthly ties; but they are not quite human, all the same.