The Use of Life | Sir John Lubbock (Lord Avebury)

Podcast Excerpt: Take care that your pleasures are real and not imaginary. We do many things because they are called pleasure, which we should hate if they went by any other name. Many people think they are having pleasure, merely because they are not working. Others seem to use the word as if it applied only to the senses, while, on the contrary, the pleasures of the mind are both more exquisite and more lasting.

We neglect, or recklessly injure, the only body we have, and on the health of which the mind so greatly depends. We do not derive half the enjoyment we might from works of Art that are national treasures. We do not enjoy the beauties of the Earth on which we live, or of the Sky over our heads. We make perhaps more use of music, though much less than we might.

We boast that, while animals have instinct only, we are a reasoning Being, and yet how little our boasted intellect has added to the happiness of Humankind. It might even be asserted that, on the whole, the possession of a mind has been a source of suffering rather than of enjoyment.

Animals do not distress themselves, and we do. We torment ourselves with doubts and fears, cares and anxieties. Mystery encompasses us on all sides, but we must not be impatient with it. And though we need not be anxious, we must be on our guard. We must be watchful even in matters where we fancy ourselves least liable to make a mistake.

“There is, I believe,” says Lord Chesterfield, “more judgment required for the proper conduct of our virtues, than for avoiding their opposite vices. Vice in its true light is so deformed, that it shocks us at first sight, and would hardly ever seduce us if it did not, at first, wear the mask of some virtue.”

We have all met persons, who, with much that is good, have allowed themselves to be seduced into uncharitableness and hardness of heart. And if we turn from the individual to the human race, is not the neglect of our advantages even more startling?

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