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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

2o8         Unprofessional Sermons

Another reason is that, except in mere matters of eating
and drinking, people do not realise the importance of finding
out what it is that gives them pleasure if, that is to say, they
would make themselves as comfortable here as they reason-
ably can. Very few, however, seem to care greatly whether
they are comfortable or no. There are some men so ignorant
and careless of what gives them pleasure that they cannot be
said ever to have been really born as living beings at all.
They present some of the phenomena of having been born—
they reproduce, in fact, so many of the ideas which \ve
associate with having been born that it is hard not to think
of them as living beings—but in spite of all appearances the
central idea is wanting. At least one half of the misery
which meets us daily might be removed or, at any rate,
greatly alleviated, if those who suffer by it would think it
worth their while to be at any pains to get rid of it. That
they do not so think is proof that they neither know, nor
care to know, more than in a very languid way, what it is
that will relieve them most effectually or, in other words,
that the shoe does not really pinch them so hard as we think
it does. For when it really pinches, as when a man is being
flogged, he will seek relief by any means in his power. So
my great namesake said, " Surely the pleasure is as great Of
being cheated as to cheat " ; and so, again, I remember to
have seen a poem many years ago in Punch according to
which a certain young lady, being discontented at home,
went out into the world in quest to " Some burden make
or burden bear, But which she did not greatly care—Oh
Miseree ! " So long as there was discomfort somewhere it
was all right.

To those, however, who are desirous of knowing what
gives them pleasure but do not quite know how to set about
it I have no better advice to give than that they must take
the same pains about acquiring this difficult art as about any
other, and must acquire it in the same way—that is by
attending to one thing at a time and not being in too great a
hurry. Proficiency is not to be attained here, any more than
elsewhere, by short cuts or by getting other people to do
work that no other than oneself can do. Above all things it
is necessary here, as in all other branches of study, not to
think we know a thing before we do know it—to make sure