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Of course, the worst of all lives is the vicious life; the life of a man who becomes a positive addition to the forces of evil in a community. Next to that and when I am speaking to people who, by birth and training and standing, ought to amount to a great deal, I have a right to say only second to it in criminality comes the life of mere vapid ease, the ignoble life of a man who desires nothing from his years but that they shall be led with the least effort, the least trouble, the greatest amount of physical enjoyment or intellectual enjoyment of a mere dilettante type. The life that is worth living, and the only life that is worth living, is the life of effort, the life of effort to attain what is worth striving for.
There is a saying in Tibetan that at the door of the miserable rich man sleeps the contented beggar. The point of this saying is not that poverty is a virtue, but that happiness does not come with wealth, but from setting limits to one's desires, and living within those limits with satisfaction.
Oh! might I kiss those eyes of fire, A million scarce would quench desire; Still would I steep my lips in bliss, And dwell an age on every kiss; Nor then my soul should sated be, Still would I kiss and cling to thee: Nought should my kiss from thine dissever, Still would we kiss and kiss for ever; E'en though the numbers did exceed The yellow harvest's countless seed; To part would be a vain endeavour: Could I desist? -ah! never-never.
An individual may perceive a way of life, or a method of social organisation, by which more of the desires of mankind could be satisfied than under the existing method. If he perceives truly, and can persuade men to adopt his reform, he is justified. Without rebellion, mankind would stagnate, and injustice would be irremediable.
It ought to be the first endeavour of a writer to distinguish nature from custom; or that which is established because it is right, from that which is right only because it is established; that he may neither violate essential principles by a desire of novelty, nor debar himself from the attainment of beauties within his view, by a needless fear of breaking rules which no literary dictator had authority to enact.
If there is some end of the things we do, which we desire for its own sake, clearly this must be the good. Will not knowledge of it, then, have a great influence on life? Shall we not, like archers who have a mark to aim at, be more likely to hit upon what we should? If so, we must try, in outline at least, to determine what it is.
No passion is stronger in the breast of man than the desire to make others believe as he believes. Nothing so cuts at the root of his happiness and fills him with rage as the sense that another rates low what he prizes high. Whigs and Tories, Liberal party and Labour party — for what do they battle except their own prestige? It is not the love of truth, but desire to prevail that sets quarter against quarter and makes parish desire the downfall of parish. Each seeks peace of mind and subserviency rather than the triumph of truth and exaltation of virtue — But these moralities belong, and should be left to the historian, since they are as dull as ditch water