The factory has taken us up on an exceedingly high mountain and shown us all the great cities of the world, and the riches within them.
“All these things are yours,” the factory says, “on condition only that you bow down and serve me. Abandon strange and dangerous ideas of your own. Think only of my greater glory. Sink your initiative and your individuality in the conventions that sustain me, and riches beyond the wildest dreams of Crœsus shall be yours and your children’s.”
Thus has the factory tempted us. And thus has it enlisted most of us in its service.
Mercifully, most of us are unconscious of the fact that we have given up our birthrights for a mess of pottage.
This is my story.
Why have I told it? With any hope that the masses of men will try the road to comfort along which I have been travelling? No.
Men may be shown the way to comfort.
But they not only lack the will to achieve comfort; they lack even the desire to attain it.
They are the slaves of habits—habits fastened upon them by the unending repetitions of the work they do; by the universal pressure to conform to what their fellows expect of them; by the concentrated energy they put into living the kind of life to which they are predisposed by a conventional environment.
Conventional educations, conventional occupations, conventional experiences, make it difficult for them to be unconventional in thought and almost impossible for them to be unconventional in action.
They are afraid of the economic, social, mental, physical struggle which the adoption of new values is certain to entail.
Above all, they are afraid of abandoning values which they have come to know, for values for which they yearn, but which they do not know.
The quest of comfort and understanding is an adventure. It is a high adventure; a dangerous adventure; an adventure in the transvaluation of values.
It is an adventure for freemen, and not for automatons; for skeptical individuals, and not for credulous souls.
It is an adventure essential to sensitive non-conformists.
Unfortunately, our factory-dominated civilization seems to have made most of us incurably conventional.
Most of us have become anæsthetized against the factory and the ugliness, drabness, sordidness of the civilization in which it has enmeshed us.
Most of us have come to accept the standards this civilization imposes upon us.
Most of us are afraid even to consider changing them.
That any considerable number of those who secure the wherewithal to live by serving the factory and who subsist upon what the factory supplies them, should undertake the conquest of comfort would be a miracle.
Why then have I spent all this time to tell the story of my quest for comfort?
Because a cold rage seizes one at whiles
To show the bitter, old and wrinkled truth
Stripped naked of all vesture that beguiles,
False dreams, false hopes, false masks and modes of youth;
Because it gives some sense of power and passion
In helpless impotence to try to fashion
Our woe in living words howe’er uncouth.
And secondly, again in the words of the selfsame poet: that
—here and there some weary wanderer
In that same city of tremendous night,
Will understand the speech, and feel a stir
Of fellowship in all-disastrous fight;
“I seer mute and lonely, yet another
Uplifts his voice to let me know a brother
Travels the same wild paths though out of sight.” 49
And so good-bye.
You probably will continue as before. And so shall I.
But I, at least, am free to continue the quest of comfort on my own small domain—mine as long as I can scrape together the taxes which the state levies upon it.
I, at least, have the opportunity to work out a manner of living for myself without regard to the life that landlords, tradesmen, and manufacturers would impose upon me.
I, at least, can say to the factory:
“Get thee hence. I want thy riches not, because I need them not.”
A comfortable home in which to labor and to play, with trees and grass and flowers and skies and stars; a small garden; a few fruit trees; a workshop with its tools, and three big dogs to keep the salesmen out—and I, at least, have time for love, for children, for a few friends, and for the work I like to do.
More the world can give to no man, and more no man can give the world.
1. Glenn Frank, The Magazine of Business, September, October, November 1927.
2. M. K. Gandhi, The Wheel of Fortune, Madras, 1922, p. 53.
3. Ibid., p. 14.
4. Paul M. Mazur, American Prosperity, p. 179.
5. Dr. E. Schmalenbach, New York Times, June 2, 1928, p. 104.
6. Frederick W. Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management, pp. 104, 110.
7. Ibid., p. 140.
8. The Nation, April 11, 1928, p. 403.
9. Frederick F. Rockwell, Save It for Winter, p. 1.
10. Hubert M. Greist Women’s Wear Daily, January 28, 1928.
11. Henry Ford, My Life and Work, p. 201.
12. Autobiography of R. D. Owen, p. 13.
13. William L. Chenery, Industry and Human Welfare, p. 77.
14. Tench Cox, View of the United States, p. 442.
15. Ibid., p. 443.
16. William L. Chenery, Industry and Human Welfare, p. 18.
17. Dexter S. Kimball, Principles of Industrial Organization, p. 16.
18. Ibid., p. 17.
19. Ibid., p. 16.
20. John C. Duncan, Principles of Industrial Management, pp. 206, 207.
21. Henry Ford, My Life and Work, p. 106.
22. Ibid., p. 108.
23. Ibid., p. 92.
24. Marlen E. Pew, Editor and Publisher, April 7, 1928.
25. Industrial Conference Called by the President, March 6, 1920, pp. 32, 33.
26. William L. Chenery, Industry and Human Welfare, p. 11.
27. Lewis Mumford, The Golden Day. p. 237.
28. Kenneth M. Goode and Harford Powel Jr., What About Advertising. p. 115.
29. Herbert N. Casson, American Review of Reviews, 1913.
30. Frederick W. Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management, pp. 7, 8.
31. Waldo Frank, The New Republic, March 14, 1928.
32. Dr. George B. Cutten, New York Times, September 9, 1928.
33. Havelock Ellis, Little Essays of Love and Virtue, p. 96.
34. Charles Laube, The New York Telegram, May 25, 1928.
35. Alfred Henry Lewis, Cosmopolitan Magazine, v. 45, p. 619.
36. Ida M. Tarbell, The History of the Standard Oil Company, p. 202.
37. Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams, pp. 478, 479.
38. Lewis Mumford, The Golden Day, p. 199.
39. Charles W. Eliot, The Nation, July 18, 1928.
40. Albert Payson Terhune, The American Magazine, August, 1928.
41. Henry Ford, My Life and Work, p. 103.
42. Confucius, The Analects, Book I.
43. U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1919, p. 187.
44. Nathan Straus Jr., New York Times, May 16, 1928.
45. Confucius, The Analects.
46. Henry Ford, My Life and Work, p. 105.
47. James Thomson, The City of Dreadful Night.
48. Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams, p. 365.
49. James Thomson, The City of Dreadful Night.