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"Ah, if the rich were as rich as the poor fancy riches!" exclaims Emerson.
In excavating Pompeii a skeleton was found with the fingers clenched round a quant.i.ty of gold. A man of business in the town of Hull, England, when dying, pulled a bag of money from under his pillow, which he held between his clenched fingers with a grasp so firm as scarcely to relax under the agonies of death.
"Oh! blind and wanting wit to choose, Who house the chaff and burn the grain; Who hug the wealth ye cannot use, And lack the riches all may gain."
Poverty is the want of much, avarice the want of everything.
A poor man while scoffing at the wealthy for not enjoying themselves was met by a stranger who gave him a purse, in which he was always to find a ducat. As fast as he took one out another was to drop in, but he was not to begin to spend his fortune until he had thrown away the purse. He took ducat after ducat out, but continually procrastinated and put off the hour of enjoyment until he had got "a little more," and died at last counting his millions.
A beggar was once met by Fortune, who promised to fill his wallet with gold, as much as he might desire, on condition that whatever touched the ground should turn at once to dust. The beggar opened his wallet, asked for more and yet more, until the bag burst. The gold fell to the ground, and all was lost.
When the steamer _Central America_ was about to sink, the stewardess, having collected all the gold she could from the staterooms, and tied it in her ap.r.o.n, jumped for the last boat leaving the steamer. She missed her aim, fell into the water and the gold carried her down head first.
Franklin said money never made a man happy yet; there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more a man has, the more he wants.
Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one. A great bank account can never make a man rich. It is the mind that makes the body rich. No man is rich, however much money or land he may possess, who has a poor heart. If that is poor, he is poor indeed, though he own and rule kingdoms. He is rich or poor according to what he is, not according to what he has.
Some men are rich in health, in constant cheerfulness, in a mercurial temperament which floats them over troubles and trials enough to sink a shipload of ordinary men. Others are rich in disposition, family, and friends. There are some men so amiable that everybody loves them; so cheerful that they carry an atmosphere of jollity about them.
The human body is packed full of marvelous devices, of wonderful contrivances, of infinite possibilities for the happiness and enrichment of the individual. No physiologist, inventor, nor scientist has ever been able to point out a single improvement, even in the minutest detail, in the mechanism of the human body. No chemist has ever been able to suggest a superior combination in any one of the elements which make up the human structure.
[Ill.u.s.tration: Mark Twain]
One of the first great lessons of life is to learn the true estimate of values. As the youth starts out in his career all sorts of wares will be imposed upon him and all kinds of temptations will be used to induce him to buy. His success will depend very largely upon his ability to estimate properly, not the apparent but the real value of everything presented to him. Vulgar Wealth will flaunt her banner before his eyes, and claim supremacy over everything else. A thousand different schemes will be thrust into his face with their claims for superiority.
Every occupation and vocation will present its charms and offer its inducements in turn. The youth who would succeed must not allow himself to be deceived by appearance, but must place the emphasis of life upon the right thing.
Raphael was rich without money. All doors opened to him, and he was more than welcome everywhere. His sweet spirit radiated sunshine wherever he went.
Henry Wilson, the sworn friend of the oppressed, whose one question, as to measures or acts, was ever "Is it right; will it do good?" was rich without money. So scrupulous had this Natick cobbler been not to make his exalted position a means of worldly gain, that when he came to be inaugurated as Vice-President of the country, he was obliged to borrow of his fellow-senator, Charles Sumner, one hundred dollars to meet the necessary expenses of the occasion.
Mozart, the great composer of the "Requiem," left barely enough money to bury him, but he has made the world richer.
A rich mind and n.o.ble spirit will cast over the humblest home a radiance of beauty which the upholsterer and decorator can never approach. Who would not prefer to be a millionaire of character, of contentment, rather than possess nothing but the vulgar coins of a Croesus? Whoever uplifts civilization, though he die penniless, is rich, and future generations will erect his monument.
An Asiatic traveler tells us that one day he found the bodies of two men laid upon the desert sand beside the carca.s.s of a camel. They had evidently died from thirst, and yet around the waist of each was a large store of jewels of different kinds, which they had doubtless been crossing the desert to sell in the markets of Persia.
The man who has no money is poor, but one who has nothing but money is poorer. He only is rich who can enjoy without owning; he is poor who though he have millions is covetous. There are riches of intellect, and no man with an intellectual taste can be called poor. He is rich as well as brave who can face compulsory poverty and misfortune with cheerfulness and courage.
We can so educate the will power that it will focus the thoughts upon the bright side of things, and upon objects which elevate the soul, thus forming a habit of happiness and goodness which will make us rich.
The habit of making the best of everything and of always looking on the bright side is a fortune in itself.
He is rich who values a good name above gold. Among the ancient Greeks and Romans honor was more sought after than wealth. Rome was imperial Rome no more when the imperial purple became an article of traffic.
Diogenes was captured by pirates and sold as a slave. His purchaser released him, giving him charge of his household and of the education of his children. Diogenes despised wealth and affectation, and lived in a tub. "Do you want anything?" asked Alexander the Great, greatly impressed by the abounding cheerfulness of the philosopher under such circ.u.mstances. "Yes," replied Diogenes, "I want you to stand out of my sunshine and not take from me what you can not give me." "Were I not Alexander," exclaimed the great conqueror, "I would be Diogenes."
"Do you know, sir," said a devotee of Mammon to John Bright, "that I am worth a million sterling?" "Yes," said the irritated but calm-spirited respondent, "I do; and I know that it is all you are worth."
What power can poverty have over a home where loving hearts are beating with a consciousness of untold riches of the head and heart?
St. Paul was never so great as when he occupied a prison cell under the streets of Rome; and Jesus Christ reached the height of His success when, smitten, spat upon, tormented, and crucified, He cried in agony, and yet with triumphant satisfaction, "It is finished."
Don't start out in life with a false standard; a truly great man makes official position and money and houses and estates look so tawdry, so mean and poor, that we feel like sinking out of sight with our cheap laurels and our gold.
One of the great lessons to teach in this century of sharp compet.i.tion and the survival of the fittest is how to be rich without money and to learn how to live without success according to the popular standard.
In the poem, "The Changed Cross," a weary woman is represented as dreaming that she was led to a place where many crosses lay, crosses of divers shapes and sizes. The most beautiful one was set in jewels of gold. It was so tiny and exquisite that she changed her own plain cross for it, thinking she was fortunate in finding one so much lighter and lovelier. But soon her back began to ache under the glittering burden, and she changed it for another, very beautiful and entwined with flowers. But she soon found that underneath the flowers were piercing thorns which tore her flesh. At last she came to a very plain cross without jewels, without carving, and with only the word, "Love,"
inscribed upon it. She took this one up and it proved the easiest and best of all. She was amazed, however, to find that it was her old cross which she had discarded.
It is easy to see the jewels and the flowers in other people's crosses, but the thorns and heavy weight are known only to the bearers. How easy other people's burdens seem to us compared with our own! We do not realize the secret burdens which almost crush the heart, nor the years of weary waiting for delayed success--the aching hearts longing for sympathy, the hidden poverty, the suppressed emotion in other lives.
William Pitt, the Great Commoner, considered money as dirt beneath his feet compared with the public interest and public esteem. His hands were clean.
The object for which we strive tells the story of our lives. Men and women should be judged by the happiness they create in those around them. n.o.ble deeds always enrich, but millions of mere dollars may impoverish. _Character is perpetual wealth_, and by the side of him who possesses it the millionaire who has it not seems a pauper.
Invest in yourself, and you will never be poor. Floods can not carry your wealth away, fire can not burn it, rust can not consume it.
"If a man empties his purse into his head," says Franklin, "no man can take it from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest."
Howe'er it be, it seems to me, 'Tis only n.o.ble to be good.
Kind hearts are more than coronets, And simple faith than Norman blood.