Friday, November 13, 2009

.... The enormous fly-wheel of society

Your semi-annual Wm. James update:

Habit is thus the enormous fly-wheel of society, its most
precious conservative agent. It alone is what keeps us all
within the bounds of ordinance, and saves the children of
fortune from the envious uprisings of the poor. It alone
prevents the hardest and most repulsive walks of life from
being deserted by those brought up to tread therein. It
keeps the fisherman and the deck-hand at sea through the
winter ; it holds the miner in his darkness, and nails the
countryman to his log-cabin and his lonely farm through
all the months of snow ; it protects us from invasion by the
natives of the desert and the frozen zone. It dooms us all
to fight out the battle of life upon the lines of our nurture
or our early choice, and to make the best of a pursuit that
disagrees, because there is no other for which we are fitted,
and it is too late to begin again. It keeps different social
strata from mixing. Already at the age of twenty-five you
see the professional mannerism settling down on the young
commercial traveller, on the young doctor, on the young
minister, on the young counsellor-at-law. You see the little
lines of cleavage running through the character, the tricks
of thought, the prejudices, the ways of the shop, in a
word, from which the man can by-and-by no more escape
than his coat-sleeve can suddenly fall into a new set of
folds. On the whole, it is best he should not escape. It
is well for the world that in most of us, by the age of thirty,
the character has set like plaster, and will never soften


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