Saturday, August 31, 2013

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Two Mirrors

Now, therefore, see that no day passes in which you do not make yourself a somewhat better creature; and in order to do that, find out first what you are now. Do not think vaguely about it; take pen and paper, and write down as accurate a description of yourself as you can, with the date to it. If you dare not do so, find out why you dare not. … I do not doubt but that the mind is a less pleasant thing to look at than the face, and for that very reason it needs more looking at; so always have two mirrors in your toilet-table, and see that with proper care you dress body and mind before them daily. After the dressing is once over for the day, think no more of it. I don't want you to carry about a mental pocket-comb; only to be smooth braided always in the morning.

John Ruskin (1819-1900)

Favourable Chance

Favourable Chance is the god of all men who follow their own devices instead of obeying a law they believe in. Let even a polished man of these days get into a position he is ashamed to avow, and his mind will be bent on all the possible issues that may deliver him from the calculable results of that position. Let him live outside his income, or shirk the resolute honest work that brings wages, and he will presently find himself dreaming of a possible benefactor, a possible simpleton who may be cajoled into using his interest, a possible state of mind in some possible person not yet forthcoming. Let him neglect the responsibilities of his office, and he will inevitably anchor himself on the chance that the thing left undone may turn out not to be of the supposed importance. Let him betray his friend's confidence, and he will adore that same cunning complexity called Chance, which gives him the hope that his friend will never know. Let him forsake a  decent craft that he may pursue the gentilities of a profession to which nature never called him, and his religion will infallibly be the worship of blessed Chance, which he will believe in as the mighty creator of success. The evil principle deprecated in that religion, is the orderly sequence by which the seed brings forth a crop after its kind.

George Eliot, a.k.a. Mary Ann Evans (1819-1880)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Saturday, August 24, 2013

So Wondrous Is This Human Life

Several times in my life has it happened that I have met with what seemed worse than death, and, in my short-sighted folly, I said, "Oh, that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away and be at rest!" Yet my griefs all turned into blessings; the joyous seed I planted came up discipline, and I wished to tear it from the ground; but it flowered fair, and bore a sweeter, sounder fruit than I expected from what I set in the earth. As I look over my life, I find no disappointment and no sorrow I could afford to lose; the cloudy morning turned out the fairer day; the wounds of my enemies have done me good. So wondrous is this human life, not ruled by Fate, but Providence, which is Wisdom married unto Love, each infinite! What has been, may be. If I recover wholly, or but in part, I see new sources of power beside these waters of affliction I have stooped at.

Theodore Parker (born August 24, 1810)

Prophets and Protestants

Prophets and protestants these men were, but never iconoclasts. Their ideals were constructive. They were self-controlled, and avoided violent speech because they knew that exaggeration is an indication of weakness. They dwelt in temperate zones. They did not deal in criticism or invective. They did not scold or reproach their more conservative brethren. They broadened slowly from precedent to precedent. They fulfilled Goethe's saying: "He who wishes to have a useful influence on his time should insult nothing. Let him not trouble himself about what is absurd, let him concentrate his energy on this, — the bringing to light of good things." Their listeners were treated not as adversaries, not as unsympathetic jurymen who must be persuaded and converted, but as co-operative, friends. They did not threaten or try to humiliate their congregations. They conceived that their mission was not to antagonize older forms of faith, but to satisfy in a new way the ineffable longings which those older faiths once satisfied. Instead of directly attacking outgrown ideas, usages, or institutions, they tried to expel error by teaching truth. They desired not to destroy, but to fulfil. The method of destruction fastens instinctively upon the evils in existing conditions, and tries to abolish them by external assault. The method of fulfilment discovers and emphasizes the good in existing conditions, and tries to complete imperfect thought and conduct. We may be sure that the latter is the nobler method because of the nobler powers it employs. It is easy to criticize and denounce, it is easy to abuse society for its superstitions, its conservatism, or its provinciality; but to take the latent generosity of a community or an individual's half-conscious hope of better things and encourage it, to find the elements of good in the meanest emergencies and develop them, to catch the indefinite desires and ideals of a man or a nation and direct and uplift them,—that is hard and slow. The method of destruction requires a spirit intolerant toward error or falsehood, a keen sense of justice, and a vehement vigor. The method of fulfilment requires sympathy, patience, and hopeful persistence.

Samuel A. Eliot (born August 24, 1862)

Samuel A. Eliot (1862-1950)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Friday, August 23, 2013


We are always asking. We ask for truth with every inquiring thought. We ask for our daily bread by the industry of our hands. We ask for human friendship with our very eyes. And as life grows more real and deep, we ask for nobler kinds of good; for clearer minds and purer hearts, for the wisdom which is profitable to direct; for deliverance from inherited imperfections and personal selfishness; for larger powers and wide opportunities of service; for the insights of truth and beauty. And sometimes we dare to ask for more intimate communion with the Perfect Spirit in Nature, in humanity, and in our own souls.

Charles G. Ames (1828-1912)

Charles G. Ames

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Premonition of the Higher Life

There is a something which lays hold of us; there is a power working in the world which draws us out beyond ourselves; which is in us, but not of us; there is that in our midst to which we stand in the relation of pure passivity. We feel it in the voice of conscience, the imperious behest of duty. No man says 'must' to himself. 'Thou shalt' is greater than 'I will.' Here, already, is a premonition of the higher life, that tells us we are born of the Spirit.' Again, we feel the workings of the Spirit in the spectacle of human virtue, and the sight of a goodness and a greatness that is other than our own. It is not we that affect admiration, it is admiration that affects us. There is an involuntary outgoing of the soul towards all that is heroic in history and noble in our own generation. We do not will these emotions; they come upon us of themselves, like the rushing of a mighty wind, with the fire of an unbidden glow.

Edmund Martin Geldart (1844-1885)

The old Croydon Unitarian and Free Christian Church,
erected during the ministry of Edmund M. Geldart.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Wisdom Is Creative

We are told that the owl of Athena, goddess of wisdom, flew only in the evening. If this were true and the whole truth, wisdom would be useless, for it would mean that while we have to live forward, we can only understand backward. A far better appreciation of the nature of wisdom is expressed in the more modern definition: ‘Wisdom is knowing what to do next.  Virtue is doing it.’  In its essential nature, wisdom is creative.  It is not only a means of keeping life in touch with the past and of adjusting it to present situations, but through it we are enabled in increasing measure to forestall the future, to determine what coming situations shall be and to bring about the realization of our visions of human good.

In this crisis of human history it is supremely important that we shall be able to interpret this time, to see clearly what is at stake, and distinguish the great issues which demand immediate attention from the minor matters which can be put off until the victory of our principles has been achieved.

Clarity of vision is necessary if our people are to hold a great purpose resolutely to the end and achieve a victory which will be moral as well as material.

George R. Dodson (born August 20, 1865)

Monday, August 19, 2013

Monday, August 19, 2013


The essence of chivalry is to look out for the little ones. ... Chivalry is that in me to which everyone whom I have power to injure can appeal in virtue of that fact with the unspoken plea, 'You must use your power to bless!' Wherever a child can be helped, wherever a stranger can be guided, or a friend who is shy be set at ease, wherever a weak brother can be saved from falling and its shame, wherever an old man's step can be made easy, wherever a servant's position can be dignified in his eyes, — is the chance for chivalry to show itself. I do not recognize a different feeling in the one case from that which moves me in the other. The white-haired man, the tired errand boy, the servant-girl with the heavy burden, make the same kind of demand upon me; and all of them make more demand than the lady whose very silk will make people enough look out for her. They all challenge my chivalry, that is, my sense, not of generosity, but of obligation to help, just because I can give the help and here is one who needs it. Noblesse oblige!

William C. Gannett (1840-1923)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Difficulties of Love or Friendship

Often it is the safest way to shut the eyes and be half blind to many things in a friend's character, ... like pearls in the sea-shell — aberrations from healthful nature, if you will, but more tender and tinted with heavenlier iridescence than even the shell itself

Learn never to smooth away, through fear of results, the difficulties of love or friendship by concealment or a subtle suppression of facts or feelings. Reprove, explain, submit with all gentleness, and yet with all truth and openness. The deadliest poison you can instill into the wine of life is a fearful reserve which creates suspicion, or a lie which will canker and kill your own love, and through that your friend's.

Frederick W. Robertson (1816-1853)

Looking Above and Beyond

Nothing doth so much establish the mind amidst the rollings and turbulency of present things, as both a look above them, and a look beyond them; above them to the good and steady Hand by which they are ruled, and beyond them to the sweet and beautiful end to which, by that Hand, they shall be brought. Study pure and holy walking, if you would have your confidence firm, and have boldness and joy in God. You will find that a little sin will shake your trust and disturb your peace more than the greatest sufferings: yea, in those sufferings, your assurance and joy in God will grow and abound most if sin be kept out. So much sin as gets in, so much peace will go out.

Robert Leighton (1611-1684)

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Saturday, August 17, 2013


I said to a prominent business man a few weeks ago, "I suppose you'll be taking your vacation in the course of a few weeks."

To which he replied, "No fear.  I consider vacations demoralizing in the extreme, for half my staff when they've had their two weeks off take another two weeks when they get back to settle down again."

On the face of it he seemed to tell the truth and his words carried conviction.  So I remained silent.  But since then I've done a lot of thinking, and the conclusion at which I've arrived is that his remark, while true from his point of view, is really a caustic reflection upon our civilization.  For if the end of our civilization is to make of us all creatures of routine, so that like automatons we shall be satisfied to sit at one desk, on one stool, in one office, for a definite number of hours each day in the year (excluding Sunday, of course) then to ahem! (Jericho) with our civilization!

Fame, the end of one's life and the test of one's efforts, is not being the ability to sell so many yards of dress goods, collar buttons or pairs of trousers, or the ability to compute so many rows of figures, or enter a certain number of ledger accounts in a given number of hours.

If a vacation really makes one restive at buckling down again to such achievement, then let us thank God that what we call the glory of civilization has not completely broken our spirit, and that we still retain the capacity to be natural when given the chance.

Sometimes I feel that all our libraries, museums, big businesses, mammoth stores, great newspapers, churches, literary and social clubs, debating societies and reform movements, are a witness to our poverty of life and lack of genuine treasure.

The vacation spirit is really a clamoring for simplcity, which is another way of saying we desire a normal life.  It is not that we do not want to toil or that we resent drudgery, but that we wish to get away from the artificiality of modern society, to the heart of nature, to brooks and streams, to woods and forests, to violets and roses.  We want to feel the tang of the air, the spray upon our faces, the yielding of the native turf beneath our feet.  Once again we want to realize what we already know, that we belong to Nature and "God's great out-of-doors."

Someday, we shall become so efficient, and our means of production and distribution so organized, that as our Socialist friends say, "four hours a day will suffice."  Then perhaps annual vacations will disappear, and we may devote a reasonable portion to learning the real business of life. 

Horace Westwood, Sr. (born August 17, 1884)

Winnipeg Beach, where Horace Westwood Sr. and his family vacationed while Dr. Westwood served as minister of All Souls Unitarian Church in Winnipeg from 1912 until 1919.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sunday, August 11, 2013

On Love

Love is the only bow on Life's dark cloud. It is the morning and the evening star. It shines upon the babe, and sheds its radiance on the quiet tomb. It is the mother of art, inspirer of poet, patriot and philosopher. It is the air and light of every heart — builder of every home, kindler of every fire on every hearth. It was the first to dream of immortality. It fills the world with melody — for music is the voice of love. Love is the magician, the enchanter, that changes worthless things to Joy, and makes royal kings and queens of common clay. It is the perfume of that wondrous flower, the heart, and without that sacred passion, that divine swoon, we are less than beasts; but with it, earth is heaven, and we are gods. 

Robert G. Ingersoll (born August 11, 1833)

Robert G. Ingersoll (1833-1899)

The Holy Spirit

I believe that the Holy Spirit of God is a real presence in our hearts in the hour of earnest prayer, but not then alone when we are consciously seeking it. I believe the divine influence is ever around us, that it comes with the sunshine and perfumes of summer, with the glories of autumn, in the storms and snow-crystals of winter. I believe that the Spirit of God is the breath of life in every living thing, from the leaf which hangs trembling upon the bough to the worshipping spirit before the throne of the Most High.

Charles H. Wellbeloved (1835-1903)

Infinite Love

As a dear friend can look the love which he cannot utter, so do I read the face of Nature; so do I read the record of God's interposing mercy. I feel myself embraced with a kindness too tender and strong for utterance. It cannot tell me how dear to the Infinite Love my welfare, my purity is. Only by means and ministrations, by blessings and trials, by dealings and pressures of its gracious hand upon me, can it make me know. 

Orville Dewey (1794-1882)

Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday, August 9, 2013


The mind never puts forth greater power over itself than when, in great trials, it yields up calmly its desires, affections, interests to God. There are seasons when to be still demands immeasurably higher strength than to act. Composure is often the highest result of power. Think you it demands no power to calm the stormy elements of passion, to moderate the vehemence of desire, to throw off the load of dejection, to suppress every repining thought, when the dearest hopes are withered, and to turn the wounded spirit from dangerous reveries and wasting grief, to the quiet discharge of ordinary duties? Is there no power put forth, when a man, stripped of his property, of the fruits of a life's labors, quells discontent and gloomy forebodings, and serenely and patiently returns to the tasks which Providence assigns?

William Ellery Channing (1780-1842)

Simplify, Simplify

Our life is frittered away by detail. An honest man has hardly need to count more than his ten fingers, or in extreme cases he may add his ten toes, and lump the rest. Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail. In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not founder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden (first published August 9, 1854)