The Unwelcome Counselor of the Humdrum Duty
—It is perhaps a common human experience that there are times when our life seems “a’ a muddle.”Either the ship has not steerage-way, and is helplessly drifting, or it is flying down midnight winds, under blotted skies, toward unknown shores. We cry out for help at the wheel. We wish some warmhearted and clear-headed friend might come into our life, inspect our whole mode of existence, and advise us masterfully on the old question of “ What shall he do with it?” We seem entangled in an infinite criss - cross of meshes. There are threads of perplexing relation leading off toward this and the other person. Should they be cut ? Should they be strengthened ? We are too much down in the midst of everything; we cannot climb up and see our yesterdays and to-morrows as a whole. The thought suddenly comes, and startles us, — This thing, Life, that we see others struggling with, entangled by, is upon us at this very moment. This living that we see others doing, and judge them so coldly, we are on the instant involved in it also. Is it time to end such and such a connection ? Is it time, on the contrary, to begin it more fervently, as if anew ? Were it not better, for the one and for the other, that the thing laid down for safety be taken up again for peace ? Shall we stay, for the sake of this plain duty ? Shall we go, for the sake of that ? If only the wise counselor might come, and take it all out of our hands, and only put it back again when smoothed, directed, decided !
But what if he should, after calm and deliberate inspection, only point us to the near and humdrum duty that we already knew and shunned ? Is not our wish for his help a secret hope that somehow he may give higher sanction to our own edging toward escape, may remit some common-sense responsibility, may side with desire against homely ought and must ? Let him not venture to come, if he can only tell the old story we have forever been hearing from tiresome and irrepressible Reason!