It is quite likely that a part of your mother's forbearance came from training. The GOOD kind of training--whose best and highest function is to see to it that every time it confers a satisfaction upon its pupil a benefit shall fall at second hand upon others.

Y.M. If you were going to condense into an admonition your plan for the general betterment of the race's condition, how would you word it?

Admonition

O.M. Diligently train your ideals UPWARD and STILL UPWARD toward a summit where you will find your chiefest pleasure in conduct which, while contenting you, will be sure to confer benefits upon your neighbor and the community.

Y.M. Is that a new gospel?

O.M. No.

Y.M. It has been taught before?

O.M. For ten thousand years.

Y.M. By whom?

O.M. All the great religions--all the great gospels.

Y.M. Then there is nothing new about it?

O.M. Oh yes, there is. It is candidly stated, this time. That has not been done before.

Y.M. How do you mean?

O.M. Haven't I put YOU FIRST, and your neighbor and the community AFTERWARD?

Y.M. Well, yes, that is a difference, it is true.

O.M. The difference between straight speaking and crooked; the difference between frankness and shuffling.

Y.M. Explain.

O.M. The others offer your a hundred bribes to be good, thus conceding that the Master inside of you must be conciliated and contented first, and that you will do nothing at FIRST HAND but for his sake; then they turn square around and require you to do good for OTHER'S sake CHIEFLY; and to do your duty for duty's SAKE, chiefly; and to do acts of SELF-SACRIFICE. Thus at the outset we all stand upon the same ground--recognition of the supreme and absolute Monarch that resides in man, and we all grovel before him and appeal to him; then those others dodge and shuffle, and face around and unfrankly and inconsistently and illogically change the form of their appeal and direct its persuasions to man's SECOND-PLACE powers and to powers which have NO EXISTENCE in him, thus advancing them to FIRST place; whereas in my Admonition I stick logically and consistently to the original position: I place the Interior Master's requirements FIRST, and keep them there.

Y.M. If we grant, for the sake of argument, that your scheme and the other schemes aim at and produce the same result-- RIGHT LIVING--has yours an advantage over the others?

O.M. One, yes--a large one. It has no concealments, no deceptions. When a man leads a right and valuable life under it he is not deceived as to the REAL chief motive which impels him to it--in those other cases he is.

Y.M. Is that an advantage? Is it an advantage to live a lofty life for a mean reason? In the other cases he lives the lofty life under the IMPRESSION that he is living for a lofty reason. Is not that an advantage?

O.M. Perhaps so. The same advantage he might get out of thinking himself a duke, and living a duke's life and parading in ducal fuss and feathers, when he wasn't a duke at all, and could find it out if he would only examine the herald's records.

Y.M. But anyway, he is obliged to do a duke's part; he puts his hand in his pocket and does his benevolences on as big a scale as he can stand, and that benefits the community.

O.M. He could do that without being a duke.

Y.M. But would he?

O.M. Don't you see where you are arriving?

Y.M. Where?

O.M. At the standpoint of the other schemes: That it is good morals to let an ignorant duke do showy benevolences for his pride's sake, a pretty low motive, and go on doing them unwarned, lest if he were made acquainted with the actual motive which prompted them he might shut up his purse and cease to be good?

Y.M. But isn't it best to leave him in ignorance, as long as he THINKS he is doing good for others' sake?

O.M. Perhaps so. It is the position of the other schemes. They think humbug is good enough morals when the dividend on it is good deeds and handsome conduct.

Y.M. It is my opinion that under your scheme of a man's doing a good deed for his OWN sake first-off, instead of first for the GOOD DEED'S sake, no man would ever do one.

What is Man? and Other Essays of Mark Twain Page 20

Mark Twain

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book