FULL MATURITY All periods of a normal life are good. As the tale of life now runs we may put the twenty years of full maturity, and therefore of greatest useful ness, from say forty-five to five and sixty.
For one who has a zest in life and believes in progress it is the years just ahead that are always the best. We do not expect the infant to be look ing eagerly toward the twenties, or the school-child to wax enthusiastic about middle life, or the young man to be dreaming about what he will do in the sixties; but to those who are no longer normally dreaming the dreams of childhood and adolescence, who have reached years of discretion, upon whom the responsibilities of life are beginning to have a sobering influence, and who at least in their own children's eyes seem to be fully grown up, there comes a new vision to take the place of childhood dreams, a less blinding vision it may be, a little more closely related to the serious thoughts of waking hours, less flighty, less romantic, less ridicu lously impossible; and yet a vision still, a revela tion springing from no fleshly logic, but spiritual, ennobling, seeking out the inmost nature, the ut most strength, the lowest layer of the will; a vision 195 of the latent possibilities of a mature life, based upon the foundations of sound infancy and child hood, a wholesome youth, and well spent early manhood; a vision tinged still with emotion, with the evidence of things hoped for, the substance of things not yet seen, but to be seen on earth if it be His will—His will as expressed in personal hy giene, in sanitary control, in the social protection of a normal environment.
For this period of full maturity, then, let us claim some twenty years or so—not to fix too closely an arbitrary limit at the farther end; make it three score and ten if you like instead of sixty-five, before you acknowledge old age, or by reason of your strength make it four score; but save me a few years for old age proper, of which I am not speaking at all now, before the body of our normal life is reduced again to normal dust.
Years do not of themselves bring judgment, or stability of character, or that respect and confidence of fellow-men on which the greatest opportunities depend. Years do not of themselves restore health squandered in profligate living. Years do not bring economic prosperity, or a high standard of living, or scholarship, or power of leadership, or creative power of any kind. The years are but the groove along which our lives may move if there is propelling power to move them. The more the plane of that groove inclines upward, the loftier its goal, the greater is the energy necessary to attain it, or to move at all in the direction of that goal.
Assuming such vital energy, entrusted once, forty-odd years ago, to the tiny nucleus of a cell, we assume also that it has been released to vitalize the vibrant body of a child, nurtured and disci plined, increased and treasured and put forth to return again, multiplied ten, a hundred fold with the passing years, pushing into forbidden paths but retrieved with penalties, directed again toward useful and ever higher ends, exercising the fingers and hand of the man, the eye and the brain of him, the physical powers, the moral powers. The nor
mal man has had freedom and opportunity, but he has had also the discipline denied to "privi leged," pampered individuals. He has had to work, or at least has worked, and has learned by experience the common lot. Male and female he has worked and lived through forty years of edu cation, preparation, partial failure, trial and fail ure, trial and success, and achievement. Does it seem likely that his achievement, her achievement, has more than begun? Old age at forty may be a melancholy fact—is a melancholy fact—of certain industries. That fact is a bitter indictment of those industries or of the conditions associated with them. Men may be worn out at forty, but not if they have had normal inheritance, have lived normal lives, and have not been subjected to ab normal conditions in their work.
From now on, the normal man—or woman—if an author, may write his best books; if he has been a politician, he may become a statesman; if he has been a pedagogue, he may become a teacher ; if he is engaged in research, he may become a scientist; if he is of a thoughtful turn of mind, he may become a philosopher; if he has magnetism, he may become a leader; if he has a turn for busi ness, he may become a financier or a captain of industry. Those who have begotten and borne children become in the full sense fathers and moth ers of those children as they reach the age of full maturity and the children are growing up under their watchful care. It is now that artists should paint their best pictures, poets write their great poems, scholars produce their opera magna, preach ers convert the heathen and edify the faithful, blacksmiths hit their hardest and surest blows, gardeners cultivate their most superb roses, fire men and policemen be most ready to risk their lives and lose them least often, physicians and surgeons command most completely the confidence of the sick and disabled and deserve it most, bank ers and directors of railways and industrial cor porations stand highest as stewards of great trus teeship and, to express it modestly, run least risk of criminal prosecution.
In none of the great fields of usefulness, from manual labor to the highest levels of intellectual creation, is there any valid presumption that maxi mum efficiency is normally reached under forty or that it should show appreciable diminution under sixty or sixty-five.