To use it in that way was not easy. I was so accustomed to the thought of Nature as a complex of self-seeking cruelties, the strong preying on the weak, and the weak defenseless, that the mere idea of its containing a ruling co-operative principle seemed at times far-fetched. To the common opinion of the day, my own included, the conception of a universe that would come to a man’s aid, the minute a man came to his own was too much like a fairy tale. It may indeed be a fairy tale. All I know is that in my own case, it is the way in which it seems to have worked. I think I have caught a glimpse of a constructive use for that which I had previously thought of as only destructive and terrible.

This is what I mean. The life-principle having, through unknown millions of years, developed the conquest-principle by meeting difficulties and overcoming them, the difficulties had a value. To man, especially, the menace of Nature, the ferocity of the beast, and the enmity of his fellow-man furnished the incentive to his upward climb. Had all been easy, he would have stayed where he was. He would never have called mental powers to his physical aid, nor appealed to spiritual faculties, when the mental powers fell short of his requirements. Spurred on by a necessity which grew more urgent in proportion as the life-principle widened its scope, the conquest-principle became an impulse which would brook no denying. Man grew by it; but the fact remains that he would not have grown had there been nothing for him to struggle with.

To me, it seems basic to the getting rid of fear to know that our trials, of whatever nature, are not motiveless. In our present stage of development, we could hardly do without them. So often looking like mere ugly excrescences in life, they are in reality the branches by which we catch on and climb. They are not obstacles to happiness for the reason that the only satisfying happiness we are equal to as yet is that of wrestling with the difficult and overcoming them. Every call of duty has its place in this ideal; every irksome job, every wearisome responsibility. The fact that we are not always aware of it in no way annuls the other fact that it is so. Boredom, monotony, drudgery, bereavement, loneliness, and all the clamor of unsatisfied ambitions and aching sensibilities, have their share in this divine yearning of the spirit to grasp what as yet is beyond its reach. All of that hacking of the man to fit the job rather than the shaping of the job to fit the man, which is, I imagine, the source of most of the discontent on earth, has its place here, as well as the hundreds of things we shouldn’t do, if we were not compelled to. Whatever summons us to conflict summons us to life, and life, as we learn from a glance at the past, never shirks the challenge.

It never shirks the challenge, and, what is more, it never fails to find the expedient by which the new demand is to be satisfied. To the conquest of fear, that plank must be foundational. As far as we can learn, there never was an emergency yet which the life-principle was not equipped to meet. When all existing methods had been used up, it invented new ones; when seemingly at the end of its new resources, it was only beginning to go on again.


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