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Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of void, but out of chaos; the materials must, in the first place, be afforded: it can give form to dark, shapeless substances, but cannot bring into being the substance itself. In all matters of discovery and invention, even of those that appertain to the imagination, we are continually reminded of the story of Columbus and his egg. Invention consists in the capacity of seizing on the capabilities of a subject, and in the power of moulding and fashioning ideas suggested to it.
No one of good character leaves behind a wasted life — whether they die in obscurity or renown. "Character," wrote the 19th Century evangelist, Dwight Moody, "is what you are in the dark." Your character is not tested on occasions of public scrutiny or acclaim. It is not tested in moments when the object of your actions is the regard of another. Your character is what you are to yourself, not what you pretend to be to yourself or others. Although human beings often attempt self-delusion, we cannot forever hide the truth about ourselves from ourselves. It will make itself known to us by means of our conscience despite our most strenuous effort to suppress it.
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.