Every man produces one masterpiece—himself. Day and night, year in and year out, in conscious and unconscious moments, his words and deeds, his secret desires, what he permits or refuses, every hope, every fear, every purpose—all are strokes of the brush, all help to produce the painting. One day the canvas is finished. Death frames it and puts it on exhibition. Then not a line can be erased or changed, not a feature retouched or altered. The work is finished. There is the masterpiece, a masterpiece because it is absolutely true to life.
There is a master touch in this incident in Charles Kingsley's Hypatia: Philammon goes to the old witch, Miriam, for a charm with which he can bring Hypatia to do his will. "The witch draws from her bosom a broken talisman, at which she looked long and lovingly, kissed it and wept over it, and fondled it in her arms as a mother with a child. Her grim, withered features grew softer, purer, grander, and rose ennobled for a moment to their long lost might have been, to that personal ideal which every soul brings with it into the world, which shines dim and potential in the face of every sleeping babe, before it has been scarred and distorted and encrusted in the long tragedy of life. Sorceress she was, pander and slave dealer, steeped to the lips in falsehood, ferocity and avarice, yet that paltry stone brought home to her some thought, true, spiritual, impalpable, unmarketable, before which all her treasures and all her ambitions were as worthless in her own eyes as diey were in the eyes of the angels of God." The broken talisman had brought before the wicked woman's mind the vision of another—an earlier and an innocent—self.
Matthew Arnold once wrote a poem called "The Buried Life." He likens this life in man to a buried subterranean river which is ever flowing on its course, yet the sound of whose waters is seldom heard. It is only when men are still, when they lie quietly upon the earth, when they are detached from the noise and confusion of their daily work, that they catch the sound of this deeper river, the subterranean stream that flows quietly and swiftly away. We live a busy life amid the cares and the pleasures of the world; and only at rare intervals do we come to a realization that we have a soul within us, that we are made in the image of God. The whole course of our life is of a nature to hide this inner life and muffle the sound of its voice. Yet now and then, as if by accident, we stumble upon it, we hear for a moment the sound of this buried river:
Yet still, from time to time, vague and forlorn,
From the soul's subterranean depth upborne
As from an infinitely distant land,
Come airs, and floating echoes, and convey
A melancholy into all our day.
In one of his tales Dickens, describing a low, coarse woman, says of her that, after going through many narrow passages, and up winding stairs, and down narrow hallways, you come at last to a door upon which is written the word "Woman." What he meant to say was that even in the lowest and worst of women there is something that is noble and womanly. So within every life there is the capacity of greatness. Underneath every covering of the rubbish and sin and defilement of life, you come at length upon a door on which is engraved that most wonderful of words, "Soul"—that loul that is yours by virtue of your creation in the divine image, that soul that sin has marred and defiled and fettered and choked, but can never destroy, that soul for die redemption of which Christ shed his precious blood on Calvary's tree.
Once in his dream a man was haunted and thwarted by a mysterious veiled figure. As soon as he had gained a fortune, the veiled form snatched it away from him. When he was about to enter into peace and joy, the veiled figure attacked his mind with fear and anxiety. When he was hungry and sat down to eat, the veiled figure snatched his food away from him. When he was overcome with slumber and lay down to sleep, this enemy of his life filled his mind with thoughts which banished sleep. When he had won fame, the veiled figure took away his reputation. When he stood at the open door of a great opportunity and was about to enter, the hand of the veiled one suddenly closed the door against him. When he stood at last at the marriage altar, and was about to give his sacred avowal and take the hand of his bride in wedlock, the veiled one strode forth, and, lifting up his hand in protest, said, "I forbid the banns!" Enraged, the unhappy man cried out to his adversary, "Who art thou?" and, stretching forth his hand, seized the veil and ripped it from the
face of his tormentor; and lo, the face that he saw was his own!
This dream sets forth the great truth that man is his own chief adversary and foe. If he is his own best friend, he is also his own worst enemy. Men make or ruin themselves. Our fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves, and we are the ones, and the only ones, who make or mar our destiny.
One time the newspaper cartoonist H. T. Webster amused himself by sending telegrams to twenty of his acquaintances, selected at random. Each message contained the one word, "Congratulations."
So far as Webster knew, not one of them had done anything in particular on which he might be congratulated. But each of the twenty took the message as a matter of course, and wrote him a letter of thanks. Each had assumed he had done something worthy of a congratulatory telegram.—Sunshine Magazine
Sometime when you're feeling important
Sometimes when your ego's in bloom
Sometime when you take it for granted
You're the best qualified in the room.
Sometime when you feel your going
Would leave an unfillable hole
Just follow this simple instruction
And see how it humbles your soul.
Take a bucket and fill it with water
Put your hand in—up to your wrist
Take it out—and the hole that's remaining
Is a measure of how you'll be missed.
You can splash all you please as you enter
You can stir up the water galore
But STOP—and you'll find in a minute
That it looks quite the same as before.
There's a moral in this quaint example
Just do the best that you can
Be proud of yourself but remember
There is no indispensable man.—GIC Salesman, The Ranch House, Central Pier, Atlantic City, New Jersey
Glass blowers will never produce anything as fragile as the human ego.—Arnold H. Glasgow