Only Goal Worth Striving For.
By Ella Wheeler Wilcox.
(Copyright 1907 by American-Journal-Examiner)

   A reader asks me to discuss the following
   "What is the highest ideal for a human
being--joy, peace, serenity or power?"
   The human being who sets about the
task of cultivating his character and
making his spiritual nature master of
the mental and physical will possess
all the qualities mentioned in the above
   Joy in the knowledge of his own divine
nature, peace in the conquering of
his appetites, serenity in the consciousness
of power, and power through serenity.
   But the way is long and the toil
incessant to reach that combination.
Yet it is worth striving for.

   A woman writes me a dissertation on
life and asks: "Does it pay to be good?"
   "Approbation," she writes, "is the wine
of life, so that when we hear everything
but character praised we try for everything
but character.  If a man reveals a
fine sentiment or a soul of feeling he
is looked at curiously, as though to
say, 'He is inexperienced.'  Why should
the high-thinkers blush to reveal themselves
to the commonplace?  Why are
they not just as proud of their mental
attributes as the latter of theirs?
   "Seneca says that poverty is a blessing
to a wise man rather than a misfortune,
but we read in his life that
he took care to amass a fortune.  Rousseau
says, in effect, that we cannot get
along in life and live up to our higher
principles.  We all say fine things, and
when our pupils wonder at our actions
tell them: 'Do as I say, not as I do.'  I
have met one person in my life who
lived up to his ideals (the measure of
his pecuniary success I cannot determine,
as I do not know what he started
with), and I have studied the characters
of a few clergymen, lawyers,
doctors, newspaper men, stenographers,
artists, etc.  I never was intimately
acquainted with a writer.  It seems to me
it is what one has and not what one
is that counts with the vast majority
of people."
   This woman takes a very superficial
view of life and people.
   Approbation of one's own character--
consciousness of striving to live up to
one's highest ideals--is indeed the wine
of life, and a wine that leaves no bitter
taste in the mouth.
  He who listens to those who are
worth hearing will hear character
[xxxend.]  It brings not only its own
reward,but continual appreciation and
homage, even from those who do not
understand what it is, but feel its
   I have known a man of no financial or
social prominence to win the respect and
affection of an entire club of wealthy
and influential personages merely because
his absolute intrinsic worth of
character was evident in every act and
word.  Of course, culture and refinement
were his also, for they are the
invariable outgrowths of character.
   I do not know what society my correspondent
is satirizing.  When she says
that a man who expresses a fine sentiment
is looked upon curiously, surely it
is not a typical society.
   That Seneca should make a fortune
(or a competence) after saying that
poverty is a blessing is according to the
law.  "Unto him that hath (wisdom) more
(wealth) shall be given."
   It is the result of character to be
able to regard poverty as a blessing, but
it is as impossible for the man of
character to remain in the grasp of
absolute poverty as for the immortal
spirit to remain in the body of clay.
   He who builds character must of
necessity be industrious.  He cannot endure
idleness.  He works and enjoys
his labor, and that invariably leads to

   Why sneer at his material profits?  Is
he not worthier of our esteem than the
sniveling pessimist and idler, who lies
back railing at the world, which he
claims owes him a living and does not
bestow it--who considers his poverty a
curse thrust upon him by others?
   Temporary poverty may be thrust
upon a man by others; continual poverty
is his own fault.  It is the result of not
cultivating character.
   If the opinion of the "vast majority
of people" is of more importance to us
than our own self-respect and the respect
and love of the minority of those
near to us, then we are indeed
characterless and spiritual paupers.  but
even in regard to that assertion I take
issue with the author of the letter
quoted.  The "vast majority" does not
respect wealth more than nobility of
   The populace may run after the
dishonorable man of wealth, hoping for
benefits, but it does not admire or
respect him.
   In the secret heart of earth's most
commonplace men and women (those
who form the "vast majority") there
lies a respect for worth which is
   Whether we arouse that emotion
sufficiently to become conscious of it or
not, it yet "pays to be good."  If we
can sit down alone with our souls at
nightfall and feel that we have wronged
no one, and that we have helped the
human race along a little in its upward
course by striving to live as nearly
right as we know how, that is "pay"

Transcribed by Rich Edwards
Copy courtesy of Ruth White.