The Contributors' Column
Larson, Duke of Mongolia, tells in this number how a Swedish missionary became a Mongolian Duke. Ovid’s metamorphoses — as we remember them — can do no more. For this entertaining story we are indebted to the Atlantic’s old friend, Mrs. Nora Waln, who, starting from her home in Peking, has wandered far and wide, making friends with people of all classes. Earnest Elmo Calkins motors at home with the zest which most travelers reserve for foreign parts. California is the Paradise where good motorists go, — that we know, — but we have never seen the native appeal of its civilization more happily presented. ▵A Much we all owe to the Guggenheim Foundation, which had the foresight to pick Leslie Hotson as one of its Fellows resident in London. Thomas Boyd, the well-known author of Mad Anthony If Wayne, makes his first contribution to the Atlantic.
A. Edward Newton journeyed from Philadelphia to Jerusalem to some purpose. Dr. Alexander Irvine is recovering from a serious illness. Stricken in Russia with not a moment to lose, he flew to .n operating table in London in the very nick of time. His extraordinary autobiography, from which these chapters are borrowed, will shortly be published under the Atlantic imprint by Little, Brown, and Company. ▵ Poetry, O ye critics, is not dead nor sleeping while such sonnets as these seven by E. L. are felt and written. Mrs. Risley’s book, of which this is a chapter, will shortly appear. Bernhard Ostrolenk is on the staff of the New York Times Annalist. The genesis of the article is shown in this quotation from a letter of Mr. Ostrolenk:
Some years ago the McFadden Bill permitted limited branch banking in cities, but this did not cope with the situation, and there has sprung up a surreptitious backdoor branch banking under the name of chain banking. Six thousand banks in the United States are to-day in chain groups, controlled by holding companies, and, while within the law, outside the intent of the law. The holding companies are not subject to supervision; duplicate liability as a principle is nullified; and juggling of discount paper may be carried on. The chain bank is an economic necessity to catch up with a changing industry in the small town in view of the prohibition of branch banking. My article intends to show that branch banking should be the national policy.
C. B. Pike’s experience in country banking is just as he has described it. William A. Croffut knew Washington in the ’60’s in and out, top and bottom. Charles David Abbott sends us from Buffalo this happy picture of an undraped holiday. Harriet Keen Roberts has long been a resident of England. Thomas Nixon Carver is professor of economics at Harvard University. Walter S. Gifford is the President of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company. Captain Owen Tweedy is an Irish traveler who never permits his comforts to interfere with his adventures.
One pretty story calls another forth. It would be hard to find a neater example than this in collateral confirmation of A. W. Smith’s delectable tale of ‘A Bountiful Providence.’
BAYONNE, N. J.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
The story, ‘A Bountiful Providence,’ in the December Atlantic, recalled an incident told to me by a nun of the Dominican Order in Illinois.
It seems the nuns had a cow, but, the poor decrepit animal having passed to the green pastures where all ‘contented’ cows go, they wondered how they would replace it. The Community having made a novena without the desired result, one of the nuns decided to make a sketch of a cow and place it at the base of the statue of Saint Joseph so that he would know what they wanted, but the drawing — which was a very good likeness of a cat — was the source of great amusement among the nuns. A few days later, two neighbors who were going abroad brought a cat to the convent for the nuns to care for during their absence. When the sister who answered the doorbell saw the cat, she giggled like a schoolgirl, and of course the neighbors were at a loss to understand the reason for the sudden outburst. They were finally able to discover the cause of the merriment, and—being good sports — bought the nuns a cow.
The Reverend Mr. Parrish’s ’Pastorale’ stirred many reflections. We dare say that ever since there has been a jangling in many readers’ minds of that titillating quotation: ‘Oh, the bells of Hell go Ting-aling-ing.’ This from Mr. W. P. Stephens of Bayside, Long Island, reminds us of the outcome of the controversy referred to therein between Dr. Stephen H. Tyng (not Ting) and the Reverend Doctors Boggs and Stubbs. ‘Somewhere,’ writes Mr. Stephens, ‘among my literary junk I have an epic which was written to celebrate this event, which for the time convulsed the church circles of New York and New Jersey. Some lines still remain in my memory.’
Of a horrid Low-Churchman who’s coming from
And who vows that next Sunday he’ll preach
In the Methodist meetinghouse here in our town?
Then the bishop he delves, and the bishop he
And by dint of assistance from Boggs and from
The Canon is dug from the rubbish which chokes
Its rusty old muzzle, and loud are the jokes
Which its obsolete pattern and narrow, straight
Evoke from the crowd which is waiting its roar.
‘The Bells of Hell’ stands alone as a unique production; I know nothing to compare with it among war songs from ‘Malbrouck’ to ‘Tipperary.’ I have always looked on it as a spontaneous product of war which brought horrors never before imagined; perhaps some of the readers of the Atlantic Monthly can say whether this is the fact, or whether it was really the outcome of a petty squabble over religious canons?
W. P. STEPHENS
Many readers will enjoy the placidity and deep content of the following reflections of a minister’s wife on Mr. Parrish’s thesis.
PLAINFIELD, N. J.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
It happened that I read Mr. Parrish’s article in the November Atlantic on the fortieth anniversary of my marriage. All day I had only had happy memories of my life as a parson’s wife, and when in the evening I read this account of a clergyman’s life it was like a crashing discord in the harmony of the years that had gone. I wish he had not written as he did. The trouble is that much that he says is true, brutally true, but there are so many things which he might have said which would have altered the tone of the article entirely.
As I look back I seldom remember the sordid financial side of the life in the three small-town parishes of which my husband had charge. If there is such a thing as an average parish, this would describe them, — nothing remarkable about them one way or the other, — but I am sure that our family life in these towns was far happier and more contented than that of most of our well-to-do neighbors. The reason was that my husband had not chosen the life of a parish priest for what he could get out of it, but for what be could put into it. He did not expect to find an ellicient business corporation of which he was to be the manager, but a group of ordinary men, women, and children whom he could help to know God better and with whom he could sympathize in joy and sorrow. I am sure he never regretted his choice of a calling, and that he took the disappointments and vexations as a part of the day’s work. Most true pastors are too busy with their spiritual responsibilities to undertake the financial work of the parish.
Aside from the satisfaction which comes from having a share in the great task our Lord left for His Church to do, there are so many compensations in the life of a clergyman’s family which outweigh all its possible discomforts, and which outsiders seldom realize. Chief among these are the friendships which grow out of it — the kind of friendships which are much more rare in secular life. I am sure those whose lives have been spent in a clerical household will testify to the truth of this and will recall many other features of the life which make it a very happy one.
I fear Mr. Parrish’s article may discourage young men from offering themselves for the ministry, for fear of its discomforts and deprivations, Those who seek it for social or financial gain need not apply, but for those who desire to consecrate their lives to the service of God and their fellow men no happier calling can be found.
GERTRUDE L. PHELPS
Captain Garland Rotch’s story quickened many a pulse. In the writer of this letter it stirred the depths of remembrance.
December 13, 1929
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
I have just read ‘Wreck and Rescue’ with mingled feelings of admiration for the author and sadness over the loss of Captain James Daniels of the steamship Admiral Clark.
In June 1916, I chartered the Admiral Clark from my friend, Herbert F. Alexander, President of the Pacific Steamship Company.
Captain Daniels was an unusually fine young man and I shall never forget the reluctance with which he embarked on this, his last voyage. He lingered around my office until the last moment before sailing, and if anyone ever had a premonition of death, it was he.
With many officers and sailors in and out of my office during those busy days of the Great War, I have no recollection of having met Garland Rotch, but from my personal experience I know his account of this disaster must be true.
Real acts of heroism and personal suffering could not be recorded under the agonizing conditions in which the officers labored while their ship was being destroyed in the vortex of a tropical hurricane. A mountainous sea, water rising in the hold, loose cargo, crippled engines, no food, no hope, boats gone — all combined, impossible to describe.
I congratulate the Atlantic for including ‘Wreck and Rescue’ in the December issue. I have written Captain Rotch, hoping to meet him personally in the near future.
MARCUS H. TRACY
The pebble which Count Keyserling threw into deep water has evoked everwidening circles of interest. Elende, Cuma, Angola, Africa, is now heard from.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
We in West Africa wish to thank Count Keyserling for a new criterion by which we may judge civilization and barbarism.
In the September Atlantic, in the article, ‘Genius Loci,’ we read that ‘cleanliness is not a sign of culture, but of utter barbarism’; that the ‘symbiosis, and not the conflict, between microbes and man’ is the thing to be desired. Judged by this standard, we are able to rank the Bantu very high in the scale of civilization. For the variety of his microbes and their harmonious ‘collaboration ’ I am sure he is not to be excelled. His metabolism, too, is excellent! At last we greet the Bantu on ‘the plane of true civilization’!
ELISABETH LOGAN ENNIS
We are in receipt of the following letter from the Greek Legation in Washington.
November 30, 1929
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
Reference is made in Mr. Stanley Casson’s ‘Balkanomania’ to the unfortunate incident of the capture by outlaws in Epirus of two political leaders of Greece, and the author states: ‘It was then discovered by the authorities that the brigands were but the employees of a limitedliability company whose headquarters were in Janina, the directors being the mayor, the local chief of police . . .’ He also says that ‘unkind tongues’ suggested that one of the captured either was ‘one of the principal shareholders or he had made an arrangement of fifty-fifty with the brigands — for his ransom was paid by his grandmother!’
You would be interested to know that the brigands above referred to were apprehended and that their trial took place a few months ago; that it was a public trial and that during it nothing substantiating the above accounts of collusion developed.
It is self-evident that Mr. Casson was either misled or misinformed as to the facts in the case, and, through the publication of this article, has unwittingly become the medium of the vilification of the character and honor of innocent persons standing high in the political and social life of the Greek nation.
Chartgé d’ Affaires of Greece
Ever since the publication of ‘A Collection for the Indigent,’ the Atlantic’s society of amateur etymologists has grown apace. The organization is gradually acquiring an authority which it is learning to dispense —■ but with dignity. Will some of our members, then, give us the appropriate reply to Lawrence Veiller’s query?
NEW YORK CITY
I am moved to invoke your aid to solve the mystery of the expression ‘all hunky-dory.’ Here is a new quest for your pioneering spirit.
And, while they are about that, will members kindly let us know why a bundle of sticks should be particularly cross? Æsop, so nurse used to tell us, taught that there was strength in a bundle of sticks, but where did Mother Goose get her expression?
One of the few professional members of the association, Professor N. C, Starr of Colgate University, comments learnedly on our previous dissertation.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
I was much interested to read ‘A Collection for the Indigent’ in the Contributors’ Club of the November Atlantic. The author’s enthusiasm is infectious. Might I venture, however, to disagree with him on one or two points? First, as to the phrase ‘to the bitter end.’ It is perfectly true that the expression was used by sailors in a technical sense. I am in some doubt, however, whether this is the true origin. Certainly the end of any adventure — of life itself — may be bitter. In the case of Socrates, there is no doubt about it. And do the Proverbs (v. 7) not say, of the Strange Woman, that ‘her end is bitter as wormwood’? I should like also to suggest that the author is misleading in his derivation of the word ‘bitter.’ He maintains that it is a corruption of ‘better’ (a variant occurring in Robinson Crusoe), which, he says, refers to the end of a cable wound on a windlass drum. It is obvious, however, that ‘bitter’ here is used in reference to the ship’s ‘bitts,’ upright posts, usually in pairs, to which the end of the anchor cable may be made fast. Captain John Smith, in his Sea Grammar (1627), makes the matter clear. ‘A Bitter,’ he says, ‘is but the turne of a Cable about the Bitts, and veare it out by little and little. And the Bitters end is that part of the Cable doth stay within boord.’
As to minding one’s ‘P’s & Q’s.’ The expression seems to have been current before the time when the French émigré admonished his children in dancing school to be careful of their ‘pieds et queues.’ Mrs. Cowley, in her play, who’s the Dupe (1779), says: ‘You must mind your P’s and Q’s with him, I can tell you.’ One possible explanation of the term is that in learning their alphabet children found difficulty in differentiating between the tailed letters, p and q. This, on the whole, seems a more logical derivation than the one which depends on the assumption made by some scholars that ‘pees’ here are coats (Chaucer’s ‘courtepy,’ modern ‘peajacket’) and that ‘cues’ are pigtails.
And while we are talking of ‘shoes and ships and sealing-wax’ please tell us when first were pleasant things found ‘crummy.,’and why should sound rum have fallen to the low estate of a ‘rum go’ or ‘rummy’ togs? And who first gave the inspiriting cry, ‘Atta boy!’
Those who remember Mrs. Norman’s ‘Try the Spirits’ in the December issue will be interested in the follow ing testimony.
DENVER, COLORADO DEAR ATLANTIC, —
‘Try the Spirits’ was most interesting to us because we find superstitions even in this comparatively recently settled region. Long’s Peak in Estes Park has become a personality to many of the people who live within its shadow, and they forecast the weather from its aspects in much the same way the folks of Sleepy Hollow predicted fair or foul weather by the Catskills.
Because the superstitions are of a sinister nature, tourists visiting the Park seldom hear of them. If a crow or crows fly over silently, trouble has passed by without harm; but if a crow screams as the flock passes, death or disaster will visit the house over which it flew. To support this statement they will tell you that last spring a flock of crows, two of which were screaming, flew up and down the valley between Long’s Peak and Twin Sisters but not over a particular house. At the time the people of the region said, ‘Two disasters.’ During the summer a forest fire destroyed 54,000 acres of timber on Twin Sisters Peaks and Copeland Dam ‘went out.’
Hardly a guide can be found who will take a party up Long’s Peak, any route, if a flock of crows has flown over the Peak with one of them screaming. They will say, ‘Long’s is warning that it will “get” someone.’ They claim that Long’s Peak above all commands respect and that it will kill anyone who disparages it and attempts to climb it. As proof they point to the tragedy of a Denver woman who boasted it was nothing to ascend, even the East Face at any time, and tried to prove it by scaling the east precipice, 2200 feet high, in a blizzard. She and her Swiss guide accomplished the feat, but she died of exhaustion a few minutes afterward. The guide, who had protested the trip, survived. They will list a number of persons who have suffered a similar fate, and will say also they saw the crows flying over.
One can understand how a person boastful of his mountain-climbing ability might slip and thus Long’s would ‘get’ him, but I wonder how Mrs. Norman would account for the augury of the crows. A superstition clinic might be as interesting as a ‘Collection for the Indigent.’
RUTH ANN OLIVER
The following commentary on Huntington Cairns’s ‘Divine Intoxicant’ is of special interest.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
Mr. Huntington Cairns’s article in the November issue starts with the word ‘Peyotl.’ Having lived and studied among the regions formerly occupied by the Aztecs for the last eleven years of my sojourn here on this planet, I think I have the privilege of being heard on this peyotl question. In a pueblo, Zacatepec, District of Putla, State of Oaxaca, live what are pure Aztecas, to this present day; their manner of living is exactly what their ancient traditions prescribe. I have spent weeks on end among these people of Zacatepec, who, from the manner of ruffling up their manta (cotton sheet which they wear as clothing), arc called Tacoate — that is, men with a tail. These Zacatepec people are known to be of pure Aztec blood, and have not intermarried with other tribes.
While there I once was present, on the ‘q. t.,’ at a strange proceeding which I may liken to your fortune-teller séances. A woman steeped a small pouch (of cotton) filled with some seeds in a pot of very hot water, for about two minutes; then, taking the pouch out of the water, she let this cool down to a temperature at which it could be drunk. This she did — in one long, deep swallow this infusion went down into her stomach. The ones present who wanted their future revealed to them sat in awful silence for about half an hour. Then the woman went into a trance and began to talk ‘through the spirit.’ What she told her hearers I could not understand, but was told that they now saw their future and the actions to be taken by them clearly. And so on, ad infinitum. The trance lasted about fifteen minutes and the clairvoyant came back to this material world apparently none the worse for her stunt.
My question as to the nature and name of the seed she had employed was answered with: ‘It is peyotl.’ I have later had many, many more occasions to see the same seed employed for the same purpose, but on some occasions its name was given me as ‘piule’ with the additional remark that it also was called ‘peyotl.’ It is a small seed of the size of a radish seed; some are dark brown in color and some are almost white. The dark seeds are more effective. The Aztecs never permit any woman to take more seeds for making her infusion than about forty-five grains (three grammes). If more than this quantity is taken for the infusion the person who drinks it turns hopelessly insane for all future time. Hence the Mexican Government forbids the cultivation of this plant. The seed is that of the Ipomœa sidœfolia, a vine that grows much like a morning-glory. I have grown it myself, clandestinely.
V. VON UNRUH, M.D.
In these pages not long since, Charles Morrow Wilson gave an entertaining account of the relics of Elizabethan English in mountainous districts. Mr. F. H. Anschutz of Lewisburg, West Virginia, has this suggestive gloss.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
One wonders why Mr. Charles Morrow Wilson omitted the mountainous districts of the State of West Virginia when writing his ‘Elizabethan America,’ in your August number. An intimate acquaintance over a wide area qualifies me to endorse nearly all he says; in one or two respects even to ‘go him one better.’ Has he never heard a native say, ‘I don’t know a haight about it’? In describing a state of good health and wellbeing, do they say ‘pert’? I have never known them to do so. But I have heard them say ‘peart’—the ‘ear’ being as in ‘fear’ — hundreds of times. Also, in the matters of selfsufficiency in household economy. I have boarded with a family in which the women and girls sheared the sheep; washed, carded, and spun the wool; wove the yarn into cloth; dyed the cloth and made it into clothing; grew flax; soaked it; dried it; ‘scutched’ it; spun and wove it into toweling and sheets and other household cloths. Where the father tanned his own leather in a hewn ‘sugar-trought’ and made, besides his own harness, shoes for his family and his neighbors.
The only real store necessities of this family were salt, needles, and thread. Maple sugar and sorghum molasses, commonly called ’sawgrums,’were the ordinary sweeteners. Apples alone were dignified by the name of ‘fruit.’ I have often been invited to ‘have a fruit, the reply of the mother of this family, a very dear and sweet old woman, to my inquiry as to the relative merits of sweet and sour apples for preserving purposes is not only an instance ot this custom but a revelation as to sweetening; an illustration of the use of comparatives and, it may be, of some other things. I believe I’d ruther preserve sweet fruit as sour ones; they don’t take so many molasses. And I have heard the father predict that ‘there hain’t gunna be no fruit this year, but they’s gunna be a power o’ grapes and pears and peaches.’
A curious example of what some will term a freak of the unconscious mind is furnished us by Dr. A. S. Burns, of Kentville, Nova Scotia.
In the Atlantic Monthly of November 1929, in the ’Contributors’ Club’ section, is a very interesting article entitled ‘My visitors.’ The experience there described reminds me of one that I had several years ago, in the early years of my practice of medicine. It was an experience, however, not ot dreams at night, but a psychical one while at work during the day.
A patient consulted me in the morning concerning a distressing ailment, the diagnosis of which will appear later on. The pathological condition was an unusual one; no diagnosis was made. I collected from him the signs and symptoms, which, by the way, will not be of interest to recall. I told him that I should like to see him again in the evening.
During the day, I spent every moment available in trying to group the symptoms into a possible disease entity, to which I might attach a suitable medical name. Several books were taken down from my shelves and carefully studied, that I might arrive at a diagnosis, but in vain.
The decision was clear to me that I should tell him that I did not know what was the matter with him. Honest, was it not?
In the evening a lady came into my office. When I was about to close the door on her leaving, a long medical term, ‘Erythromelalgia,’ appeared in the air, about twelve inches in front of my eyes. It was stamped there as clearly as if a stencil had been used.
The astonishing feature was that the word there seen did not suggest anything concerning my patient’s ailment. A habit of looking up strange words impelled me to find its meaning in a book on medicine. To my surprise, I found an exact description of my patient’s condition.
A few minutes later he came into my office. I took a book down from the shelf and read to him what I had found. On asking him how that description fitted in with his ailment, I distinctly recall that he said, ‘Nothing could be more exact.’
What was and is interesting about the experience is that the word was projected into space. Where it came from, and how, I cannot explain. It seems to me that in my college days I must have read about this condition, but as it was a very rare one I did not fix it clearly in consciousness. Possibly an association of ideas, started by my study on that day, dipped down into my subconscious mind and the word popped out like a jack-in-the-box when the lid is suddenly released.
What connection has the lady with the case? ’Cherchez la femme.’
The Office Iconoclast is turned Philosopher. Can it be that he has found nothing in the number with which to disagree?
We notice with righteous gratification one quality in Mr. Newton’s discourse on Jerusalem; its reverence. Mr. Newton’s contempt for the hocus-pocus which he found in the Holy City is more reverential than oceans of piety. It pays needed respect to the centre of integrity in man that rejects the false and the maudlin. It is more important that this integrity be kept alive than that a thousand tapers be kept perpetually burning at the most authentic shrine, or lip service be paid to the most sanctified name. We once knew a devout elder who suffered an exaggerated flux of the sentiment of holiness each time he took part in the liturgy of his church. His piety was so intense that on one occasion it affected his organs of speech. Meaning to pronounce a sacred name, he produced an outrageous spoonerism, right in the midst of the solemnities. It was pure misfortune, but the elder’s mortification was extreme. He felt that a dreadful and polluting sacrilege had taken place by means of his lips, although without his intention. He need not have troubled himself. The universe, had it overheard him, would not have been perturbed. And those conscious particles of the cosmic scheme who did hear were not corrupted. Many a saint has found humor in sacred subjects; only the timid and the priggish cannot take their religion with a smile. The Devil is disarmed if we take his wiles as a joke.
We were once in the classroom of a famous professor while he was discussing a line of Chaucer in which a mild oath occurred. The professor asked the student who was reciting for a modern equivalent. Someone suggested ‘My God!’ The professor then asked the student to read the line aloud, giving the oath its due place and degree of casualness. The student would not have hesitated to use much more violent expressions in ordinary talk, but he was rendered self-conscious by the atmosphere of the classroom — that fatal barrier to education. He protested that the professor was inviting him to swear. ‘Never mind,’ roared the great scholar through his Viking’s beard, ‘we’re all men together.’ It was a better lesson than the most learned gloss on Chaucer. When it comes to deciding humanity’s place and duties in the world, knowing that we are all men together is worth any amount of piety. Too much nicety toward God is an irreverence to man.
Thousands of people recently visited the tomb of an obscure priest in a Massachusetts parish on the rumor that miracles of healing took place there. We have not investigated the case, and know little of it, but in fancy we cannot help being drawn to those prankish undergraduates who are said to have limped to the spot on newly bought crutches, which they dramatically threw away. For not names, shrines, or miracles deserve reverence, but men’s integrity. And the naughty undergraduates came nearer to affirming this integrity than the curious hordes who made it possible for proprietors of ’hot dog’ stands and peanut-roasting machines to reap unexpected rewards.
Are there any who will feel, as they read of Dr. Irvine’s energetic ‘morale-raising,’ that he went about giving a stimulant when an opiate would have been kinder? He believed that war is hell, but he employed the inexhaustible resources of his character whipping the jaded spirits of soldiers into new convulsions of effort. He found peace (in England after the war) a worse variety of hell; but he goaded on the jobless and the rebellious to new exertions, new loyalties, new betrayals. It had to be so. Society would else have clawed its own throat. This poor race, toiling and put upon, cannot stop for a breath of tranquillity, cannot relax its antagonisms and clashes of interest. In the East, perhaps, is a measure of assent to the philosophy that only the death of the will is good and brings content. In the West, if this philosophy is understood at all, it is understood to mean that content is impossible. The world’s hero does not, say, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ He says, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.’
It is evident from Mr. Larson’s account that conservative circles in Mongolia enjoy by tradition what the radicals in this country are trying to introduce by advanced thinking. Marriage on trial enjoys the same status among the nobility of the yurta that holy wedlock with the blessing of the Church enjoys among the nobility of the coöperative apartment. But does the Mongolian really find three days an adequate period of proof? If so, he must be able to condense a good deal of experience into this mystic triad. The American vaporizes his emotional and social experience. He does not like to think about it, or come to definite conclusions with regard to its value. Americans are given credit for quickness of judgment in business, but they do not like to reason from social data, either in their private lives or looking at social problems in the large. The most unpopular president is the social thinker and leader, such as Wilson; the most secure is the engineer or the organizer of business. On the whole, and dollars and cents excepted, Americans are probably not far behind the rest of the world in the comfortable, necessary habit of postponing decisions, avoiding conclusions, letting circumstances settle their problems. The Anglo-Saxon likes to stay muddy-minded and hopeful in situations that appear to call for prompt and exacting thought. Perhaps this is the very secret of his success. ‘Muddling through’ is founded on an instinct of hidden wisdom, the truth that nothing remains the same. This problem seems insurmountable,’ it says, ‘but let us wait. The factors will all rearrange themselves, and in the meantime, best keep on with what we know. If we adopt some apparently logical solution, the next unexpected change in the drift of things will undo our work and leave us looking absurd.’
Five minutes for a business decision, five generations without one where a social question is concerned. Has the country made up its mind about prohibition? Does it want to? Certainly, if trial marriage became the rule in America, no man would submit to a law that required him to decide about it in three days. Why, you can keep your mail-order course in correct French for at least a fortnight without obligation to pay! We shall still be arguing about birth control, what to do with the feebleminded, and how to enforce the law when we are living in Dymaxion houses and traveling to Mars by rocket ship for the week-end.
THE OFFICE ICONOCLAST