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OF FRANKNESS AND RESERVE.
ANIMALS are divided into the solitary and the gregarious: the former being only occasionally associated with its mate, and perhaps engaged in the care of its offspring; the latter spending their lives in herds and communities. Man is of this last class or division.
Where the animals of any particular species live much in society, it seems requisite that in some degree they should be able to understand each other's purposes, and to act with a certain portion of concert.
All other animals are exceedingly limited in their powers of communication. But speech renders that being whom we justly entitle the lord of the creation, capable of a boundless interchange of ideas and intentions. Not only can we communicate to each other substantively our elections and preferences : we can also exhort and persuade, and employ reasons and arguments to convince our fellows, that the choice we have made is also worthy of their adoption. We can express our thoughts, and the various lights and shades, the blendings, of our thoughts. Language is an instrument capable of being perpetually advanced in copiousness, perspicuity and power.
No principle of morality can be more just, than that which teaches us to regard every faculty we possess as a power intrusted to us for the benefit of others as well as of ourselves, and which therefore we are bound to employ in the way which shall best conduce to the general advantage.
“Speech was given us, that by it we might express our thoughts a ;” in other words, our impressions, ideas and conceptions. We then therefore best fulfil the scope of our nature, when we sincerely and unreservedly communicate to each other our feelings and apprehensions. Speech should be to man in the nature of a fair complexion, the transparent medium through which the workings of the mind should be made legible.
I think I have somewhere read of Socrates, that certain of his friends expostulated with him, that the windows of his house were so constructed that every one who went by could discover all that ed within. “ And wherefore not?" said the sage. “I do nothing that I would wish to have concealed from
any human eye. If I knew that all the world observed every thing I did, I should feel no inducement to change my conduct in the minutest particular.” It is not however practicable that frankness
should be carried to the extent above mentioned. It has been calculated that the human mind is ca. pable of being impressed with three hundred and twenty sensations in a second of time b. At all events we well know that, even “while I am speaking, a variety of sensations are experienced by me, without so much as interrupting, that is, without materially diverting, the train of my ideas. My eye successively remarks a thousand objects that present themselves, and my mind wanders to the different parts of my body, without occasioning the minutest obstacle to my discourse, or my being in any degree distracted by the multiplicity of these objects b.” It is therefore beyond the reach of the faculty of speech, for me to communicate all the sensations I experience; and I am of necessity reduced to a selection.
Nor is this the whole. We do not communicate all that we feel, and all that we think ; for this would be impertinent. We owe a certain deference and consideration to our fellow-men; we owe it in reality to ourselves. We do not communicate indiscriminately all that passes within us. : The time would fail us; and “the world would not contain the books that might be written.” We do not speak merely for the sake of speaking; otherwise the communication of man with his fellow would be but one eternal babble. Speech is to be employed for some useful purpose ; nor ought we to give utterance to any thing that shall not promise to be in some way productive of benefit or amusement.
6 See above, p. 134.
Frankness has its limits, beyond which it would cease to be either advantageous or virtuous. We are not to tell every thing: but we are not to conceal any thing, that it would be useful or becoming in us to utter. Our first duty regarding the faculty of speech is, not to keep back what it would be beneficial to our neighbour to know. But this is a negative sincerity only. If we would acquire a character for frankness, we must be careful that our conversation is such, as to excite in him the idea that we are open, ingenuous and fearless. We must appear forward to speak all that will give him pleasure, and contribute to maintain in him an agreeable state of being. It must be obvious that we are not artificial and on our guard.-After all, it is difficult to lay down rules on this subject: the spring of whatever is desirable respecting it, must be in the temper of the man with whom others have intercourse. He must be benevolent, sympathetic and affectionate. His heart must overflow with good-will; and he must be anxious to relieve every little pain, and to contribute to the enjoyment and complacent feelings, of those with whoin he is permanently or accidentally connected. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”
There are two considerations by which we ought to be directed in the exercise of the faculty of speech.
The first is, that we should tell our neighbour all that it would be useful to him to know. We must have no sinister or bye ends. “No man liveth to himself.” We are all of us members of the great congregation of mankind. The same blood should circulate through every limb and every muscle. Our pulses should beat time to each other; and we should have one common sensorium, vibrating throughout, upon every material accident that occurs, and when any object is at stake essentially affecting the welfare of our fellow-beings. We should forget ourselves in the interest that we feel for the happiness of others; and, if this were universal, each man would be a gainer, inasmuch as he lost himself, and was cared and watched for by many.
In all these respects we must have no reserve. We should only consider what it is that it would be beneficial to have declared. We must not look back to ourselves, and consult the dictates of a narrow and self-interested prudence. The whole essence of communication is adulterated, if, instead of attending to the direct effects of what suggests itself to our tongue, we are to consider how by a circuitous route it may react upon our own pleasures and advantage.
Nor only are we bound to communicate to our neighbour all that it will be useful to him to know. We have many neighbours, beside those to whom we immediately address ourselves.
To these our