Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/573

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EDITOR'S TABLE.

555

and perpetuate its own superstitions. To ask such a question is to answer it. Fetichism is a phenomenon which has made its appearance in every quarter of the world, and which belongs specifically to a certain stage of the human mind. It has its roots very deep in human nature, and we may be allowed to doubt whether those roots are entirely dead in any human being to-day. Certainly we see stray shoots springing up from them in the very heart of civilization. The most prosaic of us will conceive singular attachments for various inanimate things of no special intrinsic value. We say we prize them for their associations; but that is only another way of saying that something has attached itself to those objects which, for us. changes their character and gives them a certain human or, as we might say, spiritual interest. One of the sanest of English poets, Wordsworth, has given expression in more than one passage of his works to this sentiment. As to any intellectual difficulty involved in attaching sanctity to a stock or a stone, it would be little felt by a savage; but, so far as felt, would probably be an aid to the maintenance of the cult. Over a century and a half ago it was remarked by the philosophical Montesquieu that, "by the nature of the human understanding, men like, in the matter of religion, whatever supposes an effort, just as, in the matter of morals, they like, speculatively, whatever bears a character of severity."

It is clear, therefore, that to hand on a fetichistic worship nothing is necessary beyond the ordinary, spontaneous action of the tribe; and it is equally clear, we imagine, that to bring on what is popularly spoken of as the millennium in the generation in which our children will be the chief actors would require nothing short of a miracle. We are not millennial people ourselves, and no determination to which we could possibly come in regard to the education of our children could have the effect of throwing them forward in moral development more than one generation. A tree may in a favorable year make a little more growth than in an unfavorable one; and a river may, in a year of unusually heavy rains, carry down more alluvium to an estuary than is carried down in an ordinary year. Thus we may conceive that a little more work for civilization may be done in one generation than in another; but any such variation will be confined within limits somewhat analogous to those which obtain in the purely physical region.

At the same time the problem of education is one deserving of the most earnest attention of all who are interested in social progress. Education is the debt of each generation to its successor, and, if we can not place those who come after us on a better footing than ourselves, we should at least see that we transmit an undiminished heritage. The aim should, of course, be—and among all but the most thoughtless, no doubt, is—to give those who come after us a better start than we had. The progress of science is doing wonders in the way of improving the surface of the earth; but the only progress which really makes for happiness is that connected with advancing ideals and better principles of action. Will the next generation enter upon active life with a higher conception, on the whole, of that in which the true value of life consists than we had at the outset of our career? It will be well if it is so; but it sometimes seems as if the most strongly marked characteristic of the next age would be a keener appetite for pleasure. If so, that is not progress. The late poet laureate of England