22 JULY 1882, Page 11


46 faut traitor notre vie comme nous traitons nos (Snits; mettre en accord, en harmonie, le commencement, le milieu, et In fin," is a maxim of Jonbert's which suggests, first, the question what Joubert meant by harmony ; and secondly, how far that harmony can be introduced into the bustling, dis- cordant life that is the fate of most people. As man advances towards old age, some harmony—of purpose at least—becomes of vital importance, if we do not wish to lay up for ourselves a horde of despondent and irritating reflections. In childhood, life is all chaos. Our thoughts have no special channel to which they naturally tend ; our actions spring from a multitude of tendencies that for the moment seem of equal importance. The child refuses to be trammelled, and rejects the idea that there are limits to the ultimate possibilities that lie before him. "I intend to do that some day," and " I, too, shall attain to that coveted end," are the thoughts of children. They are in embryo ; what may not come out of it P Love is the brooding angel, and happiness is to be the form that chaos will take. So youth lives in the immediate moment, rejoicing that life as yet has not taken its definite form,—that there are still materials out of which its future can be moulded to its will. It may yet be that we shall wake up to find ourselves princes and princesses; circumstance and char- acter our obedient subjects. Little does childhood realise that an iuevitable destiny is moulding its life. It does not stay to work that out,—it is too anxious to take part in a drama in which it is both author and actor. To some, conscious awakening never comes. They continue to be surprised that things do not turn out as they intended. They never learn to associate moans with ends. They cannot understand that a certain course of action must, by the law of its nature, tend to produce certain consequences. It is not that they expect fairy intervention, but they have never learned the lesson that all nature is harmonious to itself. As in physical nature matter has its laws, so in spiritual and moral nature the laws of mind are inexorable. That the reaping shall follow upon the sowing is both the bane and support of human action. We are not gods, with a power of creation, but neither are we the playthings of a blind chance. With open eyes man moulds his destiny, from his birth to his death. As childhood passes away, the need and the beauty of harmonious action increase. It is a link with the Eternal Mind, and part of the chain that begins and ends again in Eternity. So far as our actions are the expression of the best possible for us, so far are we weaving that chain of harmony. As we fall out of tune we produce a discord, which will not only affect our own lives, but will confuse the sense of harmony in others, and leave its mark throughout our circle. Each life has its own chord, which it has to complete. It can be left un- completed, but we can complete no other. Thoughts, words, and actions should make up one perfect whole. Hence, the sense of pain produced by all incongruities and want of pro- portion in lives. It is the break in harmony which causes the shook that arises from capriciousness of any kind in our rela- tions with each other. Caprice in ourselves argues a mind that cannot grasp a subject as a whole: Caprice in others is a series of shocks adminstered to our moral system. We are following out one line of thought with respect to our friends, and suddenly there comes a break in the continuity. It may arouse interest, but it is the interest that springs from studying a disease. Caprice is never beautiful, And it always implies a want of depth in the character. It is one of the childish qualities that becomes unendurable in manhood, and the character that has it for an element, fails in the highest sense

of beauty.

Our surroundings, too, should be harmonious with our life. It is not necessary to sound the same notes to produce harmony. The word implies blending, but it almost forbids repetition. Nature is the great teacher. Her means and ends are con- sistent with each other. Nature understands too well the art of harmony to attempt impossibilities. She is always up to the mark, but she does not overstep herself. 'Where the soil will not grow lilies and roses, she contents her- self with daisies ; but left to herself, she will always cover man's mistakes with a carefully-spun shroud. It is to learn this lesson more perfectly, that in later life we are drawn away from mankind, to live with Nature. A fuller growth takes place when we feel ourselves in unison with all we see, and when intercourse with Nature restores in us the balance that human conflict has destroyed. Life in great cities is inimical to harmony. The clash of interests is too fierce, and those who live much in great centres of human effort cannot sustain the sense of harmony, unless they come away for a time. The form and manner of modern society increase the difficulty. The multitude of acquaintances, and the little time given to each, make intercourse necessarily broken and unharmonious. Conversation takes the form of epigram: and each sentence must be cast into such a form as not neces- sarily to demand a second for its completion. By degrees, our thoughts follow our words, and each opinion becomes rounded and finished off to fit into each question that may arise. Nothing can be viewed as a whole,—we are too near to its details. So near are we iu great cities, that it is almost impossible not to take each detail for the whole. Then arises irritation, from the sense of the unfitness of each separate opinion expressed to bear the structure of our whole line of thought. We have uttered an epigram, but we have not stated our judgment as it really is. To do that requires time and opportunity, which society, neglectful of the individual, in its care for the whole, cannot afford to any one of its members. The utterance, unfathered and without offspring, must stand or fall by itself, while we may be thankful if we are not through it labelled, and placed in a lligeon-hole to which we are as foreign as a dove to a hawk's nest. Then it is that we fall back for consolation upon our- selves as a whole. No doubt, that judgment which, in its bare statement, sounds so incongruous to what we feel, has a root in us somewhere. It fits in with something else in our character. We have defended the action of the Irish tenant to-day through the same line of thought which obliges us to sympathise with the Irish landlord to-morrow. After all, if words go for much, they do not stand for all. That from which they spring is our real selves, and it is that which must be made harmonious as a whole.

Harmony in the lives of different individuals must necessarily take a different expression. To find out the special chord and sound it perfectly, is what gives supreme interest to human life. It should enter equally into the smallest as well as the greatest actions. It makes each action important in itself, as a note which goes to make up the music of the whole. It does not preclude versatility, for a ver- satile character may, like a Tarantula dance in music, be harmonious to itself. The sense of harmony restores the pro- portion between the ideal and the practical, it tests one by the other ; while in its nature it is progressive, and consequently satisfying. As there must be no abrupt ending to harmonious sound, so chance and caprice must as far as possible be banished from our lives. Harmony adds a dignity to what would other- wise be mere struggling against adverse circumstances. As life goes on, the force must be gradually gathered in, and con- centrated upon some main thread. We must cease to be children playing with our materials, we must use them to build up the houses in which we are to dwell. To be grown- up, means that we have come to enjoy the grown-up tastes of order, balance, and proportion. We have come to recognise our gift of judgment, but at the same time we realise that to foster or suppress the germs he already possesses is in the power of man alone. If tho horizon is narrower than in early life, it is also clearer. The mists of morn- ing are dispersed, and it may be that the mountains that bar our way are discovered at our very feet. But if it is not given to us to ascend their heights, it is given to us to dwell in the valleys that rua up into the heart of those great hills. We can reverence those who scale their rocky sides, but we can also rejoice in our own small piece of God's heritage. It is possible to make that so fair and perfect, by making our lives harmonious in quiet accord with our circumstances that those who come across us will be soothed and refreshed by the sense of that harmony of which we ourselves, perhaps, are only dimly conscious.