19 February 2014

Metaphysics

W. Compton Leith (pseudonym of Ormonde Maddock Dalton, 1866-1945), Apologia Diffidentis (London: John Lane, 1917), pp. 116-117:
An old watchmaker, whose window overlooked a wide meadow, used ever and again to lay down his instruments to gaze out upon the expanse of green, pasturing upon it a wandering vague regard, and absorbing from it an assuagement of his wearied senses which, he said, served him more effectually after these bright interludes. The province of Metaphysics should be to us as to this wise workman his field; not a place to dream our days away in, but for occasional resort; in which we may forget the infinitesimal in healing visions of broad space and colour. I counsel every lonely man to satisfy what has been described as the common metaphysical instinct, and according to his powers to become a metaphysician. There is no discipline which so well consists with solitude, none which so instantly enfranchises the mind from the tyranny of mean self-interest or vain and envious polemics. Men do not grow sour and quarrelsome about the Absolute: everything that is polemical is inspired, as Michelet once said, by some temporal and momentary interest. The man who has climbed to the Idalian spring comes down benevolent. He does not grudge this toiling ant his grain, that snarling dog his bone, but is content to live serene, in the certainty that his soul has great provision, and that though all human things are small, each is worth its while. Into his hand there is given a scale by which life is known in its fair proportions; a tranquil joy, disturbed neither by dirges nor Epinician odes, is poured into his heart and exalts him above distraction. He respects himself as akin to that great Self whose perfection shall one day be known; he understands the passion for the ideal through which men die young; he wonders at envy and in the happiness of enfranchisement would have all men free.