You hear many tales nowadays — that the world is absurd, that everything has changed, that old moral values have died. This is all non-sense, for if you look for reality beneath the clutter of words which hide it, you will rediscover the eternal man. True values were not invented for the pleasure of senile moralists. They exist because without them, neither society nor happiness could survive. Here, then, are a few rules as old as civilization itself which remain true despite the advances of science and technology.
The first is that man must live for something other than himself. The man who meditates ceaselessly about himself finds a thousand reasons to be unhappy. He has notaccomplished everything he wanted to or should have done; he has not gotten everything he thought he deserved; he has not been loved as he dreamed of being loved- But if he lives for ideals outside of himself — for his faith or his country, for his friends, his wife and family, he miraculously forgets all his petty worries. In trying to make others happy, he also makes himself happy. The veritable inner world is the veritable outer world. “
The second rule is that man must act. “The joy of the soul is inaction. ” Instead of lamenting the absurdity of the world, let us try to transform our own little corner. It is not impossible. We cannot change the whole universe, but who hopes to do that? Our objective is much more simple: to do our job and do it well, to become a master at it. Each one works in his own field. I write books, the carpenter assembles my bookshelves, the policeman directs traffic, the engineer, constructs, the minister governs.
All of them, kept busy at work which they know how to do well, are happy. This is so true that when people have leisure time, they keep busy with apparently useless activities such as games and sports. As for useful action, we know from experience that it is effective: an active mayor makes a city prosperous; an active priest brings vitality to a parish. “Happy are those in whose eyes men look for order. ” The third rule is that one must believe in the power of the will. It is not true that the future is predetermined- A great man can change the course of history.
Any man who has the courage and the will can change his own future. Naturally, none of us is all- powerful. Each man’s freedom has its limits. Freedom lies between the border of the possible and the will. It is beyond my power to prevent war, but I can perform an act which, multiplied by millions, will be effective. It is not possible for me to win a battle, but it is up to me to be a courageous soldier. Since this limitation of the will is dependent on what one dares, one must not worry about his limitation; but do the best he can.
Finally, the fourth, and most precious of all values, is faithfulness, Faithfulness to promises, contracts, to others, and to oneself. One must be among those who can be counted upon. Faithfulness is not an easy virtue. Thousand of temptations are thrown across our paths. “Faithfulness in marriage,” said Bernard Shaw, is no more natural to man than the cage to the tiger. ” Undoubtedly, faithfulness is “natural. ” It is born of a voluntary decision, constantly renewed, which helps us to rise above our natures. But it gives us the lasting joy of being at peace with ourselves.
I may forego an immediate pleasure to assure myself the great joy in the future of looking at my past without shame, but with pride. Every society in which citizens live for naught but fleeting pleasures, where men no longer trust each other, and whose members let themselves go is doomed. When Rome let go and ceased to set store by the values which made her great, she perished. When France clung to eternal values she was saved. Modern technology may change one’s modes of action, but they change neither its values, the reasons for it, nor the duty of faithfulness. Thus it was in the beginning and so it will always be.