Raising them up in the way they should go

I thought Grim would appreciate this excerpt from a book I'm helping proofread at Project Gutenberg (The Doctor's Christmas Eve, by James Lane Allen, 1920):
You tell me that you have tried a method of training and that it is a failure. I don't wonder: any training would be a failure that made it the chief business in life of any creature--human or brute--to fix its mind upon what it is not to do.  You say you are always warning your boys; that you fill their minds with cautions; that your arouse their imaginations with pictures of forbidden things, make them look at life as a check, a halter, a blind bridle.  So far as I can discover, you have prepared a list of the evil traits of humanity and required your boys to memorize these: and then you tell them to beware. Is that it?" 
"That is exactly it." 
The youth lying on the grass laid aside his newspaper and began to listen.  The two men welcomed his attention.  The minister always found it difficult to speak without a congregation--part of which must be sinners:  here was an occasion for outdoor preaching.  The turfman probably welcomed this chance to get before the youth in an indirect way certain suggestions which he relied upon for his:-- 
"Well, that is where your training and my training differ," he resumed.  "I never assemble my colts at the barn door--that is, I would not if I could--and recite to them the vicious traits of the wild horse and require them to memorize those traits and think about them unceasingly, but never to imitate them. . . . You teach [your boys] the failings of mankind as they revealed themselves in an age of primitive transgression.  I say I never try to train a horse that way.  On the contrary I try to let all the ancestral memories slumber, and I take all the ancestral powers and develop them for modern uses.  Why, listen.  We know that a horse's teeth were once useful as a weapon to bite its enemies.  Now I try to give it the notion that its teeth are only useful in feeding.  You know that its hoofs were used to strike its enemies:  it stood on its forefeet and kicked in the rear; it stood on its hind feet and pawed in front.  You know that the horse is timid, it is born timid, dies timid; but had it not been timid, it would have been exterminated:  its speed was one of its means of survival:  if it could not conquer, it had to flee and the sentinel of its safety was its fear; it was the most valuable trait it had; this ancestral trait has not yet been outlived; don't despise the horse for it.  But now I try to teach a horse that feet and legs and speed are to serve another instinct--the instinct to win in the new maddened courage of the race-course.  And I never allow the horse to believe that it has such a thing as an enemy. He is not to fear life, but to trust life.  I teach him that man is not his old hereditary enemy, but his friend--and his master.  I would not suggest to a horse any of its latent bad traits.  I never prohibit its doing anything.   I never try to teach it what not to do, but only what to do.  And so I have good colts, and you have--but excuse me." 
. . . "Aleck," replied the vicar of the stables with his quaint sunniness, "don't you know that no human being can teach any living thing--man or beatst or bird or fish or flea--not to do a thing? you can only teach to do.   If there is a God of this universe, He is a God of doing.  You can no more teach 'a not' than you can 'a nothing."  Now try to teach one of your sons nothing!  This world has never taught, and will never teach, a prohibition, because a prohibition is a nothing; it has never taught anything but the will and desire to do: that is the root of the matter.   Do you suppose I try to keep one of my cows from kicking over the bucket of milk by tying her hind legs?   I go to the other end of the beast and do something for her brain so that when she feels the instinct to kick which is her right, what I have taught her will compel her to waive her right and to keep her feet on the ground.  That is all there is of it."  They were hearty and good-humored in their talk, and the minister did not budge:  but the boy listened only to his uncle.  "Do you remember, Aleck, when you and I were in the school'over yonder and one morning old Bowles issued a new order that none of us boys was to ask for a drink between little recess and big recess?  Now none of us drank at that hour; but the day after the order was issued, every boy wanted a drink, and demanded a drink, and got a drink. It was thirst for principle. Every boy knew it was his right to drink whenever he was thirsty--and even when he was not thirsty; and he disobeyed orders to assert that right.  And if old Bowles had not lowered his authority before that advancing right, there would not have been any old Bowles.  There is one thing greater than any man's authority, and that is any man's right. Isn't that the United States? 


Grim said...

It's a nice piece, although I have to say that there are some differences in how you train boys and how you train horses. A horse has no shame because he loves nothing more than survival and comfort, and no honor for the same reasons. A boy can be raised with the same values, but it's a sin and a crime if you do it.

Anonymous said...

My daddy trained me into running into a rose bush this way when I was learning to ride a bike. "Whatever you do, don't run into that rose bush" is not something to tell a person who is learning to ride a bike. I got lots of scratches.


Grim said...

There's also one thing that is greater than any man's right, and that is any man's duty.

Now that may be surprising, since often we think that rights and duties are linked. If I have a right to my property, then you have a duty to respect my property. If you have a right to print whatever you think, then I have a duty not to stop you from printing your thoughts.

There is a greater kind of duty, though, that is limitless. These are the duties from love. They come from within, and they aren't geared to anybody's rights. They arise from something limitless, and therefore they have no limits either.

A boy needs to know that. He needs to learn it early.

james said...

As an aside, I couldn't stand P Gutenberg's verse-by-verse version of the Apocrypha, so I reformatted the HTML to block it out by chapter, put in links, etc (just a little awk scripting, nothing hard). I asked if anybody was interested, but apparently I pinged the wrong party. Who should I email?

Grim said...

I would try the general help email given here. They promise a response in about two days, so if you don't hear back, ping them again.

Texan99 said...

That sounds good. The crowd-sourcing proofreading community is so dispersed that I haven't gotten any kind of an idea about who's in charge. Now and then you get an email from a more experienced proofer with a tip, but that's about it.

james said...

Thanks. I'll ping him a third time.