7 June 2013

So Few of Us Are Brave

Richard King (pseudonym of Richard King Huskinson, 1879-1947), With Silent Friends (London: Bodley Head, 1917), pp. 111-112:
I often wonder what are really the regrets of people who are condemned to death. Properly speaking, they are supposed to repent their sins. But I'm sure they don't. More likely they weep for the joys they passed by from some cause or another. I'm perfectly certain that the thought which oppresses most people when they come to die is, not the wicked acts they have committed, but the time they wasted over people whose opinion and society wasn't worth a second's consideration. I can imagine that, after having fully and completely lived one's own life, death comes as a glorious climax. Annihilation to come when one has never really lived at all — that must indeed be tragedy. And yet that is how death finds most of us, even though we live to be eighty. It is not that we can't live so much as that the majority of us daren't live. I speak, alas! from experience. The years are passing, and behind me stretches an existence as noisy as a bear-garden, as joyless as a seaside promenade beneath a lowering sky, and very nearly as useless as if it had never been. Could I put back the clock twenty years.... Oh, but so many people are saying that! The thing is to face the present moment and to get as much pleasure out of it as one can. That is the only way to live life. Most of us are denying ourselves in every way for a future which usually never comes. It is not altogether our fault. When we are young we are influenced by other people, by society, by the "shams" which go to make up the conduct of the world. By the time we have discovered that our elders were all wrong, that society demands much and offers no real pleasure, and that the world is government by "authorities," than whom greater tyrants and more callous were never rulers in Hell, we are too old to strike out an existence of our own. We just fret and make the best of it. But what a condemnation of ourselves it is to own that we have only one life that we really know of, and we live it trying to make the best of it. The world is so full of joy and happiness and goodness if we are only courageous enough to look for them. But so few of us are brave. We are, nearly all of us, governed by somebody or something, and none of them rule over us either with sympathy or with love. Duty is an ideal we preach to other people.
A related post: Do You Like This Idea?