Once– it is a thought which troubles us– once it was a simple enough matter to be a human being, but now it is deeply difficult; because life was once simple, but it is now complex, confused, multifarious.
Haste, anxiety, preoccupation, the need to specialize and make machines of ourselves, have transformed the once simple world, and we appraised that it will not be without effort that we shall keep the broad human traits which have so far made the earth habitable.
We have seen our modern life accumulate, hot and restless, in great cities– and we cannot say that the change is not natural: we see in it, on the contrary, the fulfillment of the inevitable law of change, which is no doubt a law of growth and not decay.
And yet we look upon the portentous thing with a great distaste, and doubt with what altered passions we shall come out of it.
The huge, rushing, aggregate life of a great city– the crushing crowds in the streets, where friends seldom meet and where there are few greetings; the thunderous noise of trade and industry that speaks of nothing but gain and competition, and a consuming fear that checks the natural courses of kindly blood; no leisure anywhere, no quiet, no restful ease, no wise repose– all this shocks us.
It is inhumane.
It does not seem human.
How much more likely does it appear that we shall meet men sane and human about a countryside fire, upon the streets of quiet villages, where all are neighbors, where groups of friends gather easily, and a constant sympathy makes the very air seem native!
Why should not the city seem infinitely more human than the hamlet?
Why should not human traits the more abound where human beings teem millions strong?
On Being Human. Woodrow Wilson. Harper & Brothers, New York. 1907.
[This was one paragraph. I split it up for ease of reading.]
Wilson– who I am not a fan of, by the way– gives an answer but it will have to wait. I need to go to town and see if Fred’s has any warm mist humidifiers. It’s shockingly dry here at the Farm.