Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/217

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WHAT IS INDIVIDUALISM?
WHAT IS INDIVIDUALISM?

By M. HANDFIELD-JONES, M.D.[1]

SCIENTIFICALLY considered, individualism is the higher evolution of the atom or unit; viewed from a social standpoint, it is a process of intellectual development by which a man is marked out from his fellows. Individualism implies concentration of thought, tenacity of purpose, and a strong sense of self-reliance. It is the religion of the strong man, the master principle of his whole existence. Of this an old writer says: "As every machine has its mainspring, every animal body its heart, and the whole natural universe its sun, so, amid all the multiplied and intricate movements of our individual and social life, there must be one master principle — one all-regulating, all-impelling spring of action. If this be wrong, then, however fair and promising to ignorant observers, all is wrong. Human life should resemble a well-constructed drama. There may be variety, there may be episodes, but unity of action is indispensable, and all that is not in keeping, so as to swell the interest of the grand catastrophe, should be struck out as incompatible with all sound and wholesome criticism." If we seek a perfect exponent of this grand principle, we find it in the person of the Christus — that divine and human figure which men in all ages and in every clime have loved to contemplate. In him every power and every thought were developed and concentrated on one aim; he clung to the set purpose of his life with a tenacity which has never been rivaled; strong and reliant, he held the truth of his own teachings in the teeth of an opposing world.

The great enemy to individualism is laziness, and those who know anything of human frailties will, I am sure, bear me out when I say that "mental" laziness is far more common and far more difficult to overcome than that of the body. It is so much easier to accept dogmatic teaching, and to shift the responsibility of our views on to others, rather than to concentrate our thoughts and work out the lessons of our own observations; it is much more pleasant to butterfly from theory to theory than to seek truth with patient tenacity: why trouble ourselves to learn self-reliance, when natural indolence protests against the sacrifice? It is easier to imitate than to originate; plagiarism and mimicry are such prominent features in our lives, that their presence might almost be quoted as an argument in favor of our evolution in past ages from simian ancestry. How plausible are the ex-

  1. From an address On Individualism in its Relation to Medicine, delivered at St. Mary's Hospital Medical School, London, October 1, 1890.