Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

Too much luxury or profligate companions drove eight to the cloister; defeat of party made seven solitary; loss of friends and disappointment in love alienated fifteen, religion led twelve into retirement; science and philosophy, eleven; several were solitary per force since they were either imprisoned or banished. Perhaps a dozen really suffered isolation from entertaining ideas too advanced for their age.

SOCIETY AND SOLITUDE

a

Sociable

Impulses We must, in short, recognize the existence of two opposite
Away from
and types. The sociable man wants to join any crowd he happens to
Towards
Our Kind come upon. He is glad to be one of a great congregation, a pro-

cession, a regiment, enjoys moving in step or cheering in concert
with a thousand others. If he possesses a weighty secret, it
presses him to communicate it and, if he curbs the impulse, he
falls mentally ill. The individ"alist, on the contrary, prefers the
trackless wood to the beaten path, empty rooms to full ones, small
congregations to large ones, wilderness to towns, fields to thor-
oughfares. Such was the American backwoods type who, when
he could hear the sound of a neighbor's ax, reckoned “ Folks are

gittin' too crowded,” and moved on. What Our

What is it the sociable man craves? The mere sight of others? Nature No, "a crowd is not company." Not the presence of others but Demands

reciprocity of feeling relieves the ache in the breast. That one is dear who seems to care about us. One of the worst forms of college hazing is the “silent treatment," feigning that the obnoxious messmate does not exist. To the friendless newcomer the loneliness of the great city is hardly less cruel than that of the far hill farm. Hosts of acquaintances or admirers cannot still the thirst of the heart like a single friend. The high-placed executive, commandant, or employer may live as lonely as a castaway on a coral reef. On the other hand, no one loves a thousand as individuals. The man of wide benevolence simply loves an imaginary generalized human being. Only in this way can the

missionary be said to love the race he labors among. The

In sooth, our taste for society like our taste for salt is soon Demand Curve for cloyed. Many find one good friend enough and few would get Companionship more satisfaction out of a hundred friends than out of a dozen. Falls

The man with many friendships runs the risk of cultivating them Steeply

too little to reap a harvest. The value of companionship, like that of any necessary of life, falls rapidly as the supply increases. Denizens of the backwoods or the desert are hospitable chiefly CHAP. X because there the wayfarer has a scarcity value. In a strange and the traveler falls with joy upon the neck of the rare fellowcountryman; multiply such meetings and he will discriminate. In the wilderness the lone prospector's delight in coming upon another human being is, one might almost say, as the square of the number of days since he saw a countenance. In a crowd the country-bred man quickly assumes personal attitudes toward those about him, while the townsman in the press holds himself spiritually aloof. City congestion has bred in him the habit of regarding the ordinary fellowman as a mere moving bulk to be avoided as one avoids a rolling stone.

TIIE STIMULU'S FROM ASSOCIATION Children never get so "wild" as when playing with others. The “ only " child becomes at times leaden, cannot “ think of anything to do," and begs to " go over to Jimmie's." When visiting ctidren unexpectedly arrive, he becomes another being, laughs, shouis, jumps about, and shakes with eagerness as he excitedly ext.ibits his playthings and accomplishments. The writer or artist does his best alternating between fellowship and solitude. Too long alone his founts of inspiration run dry and his visions le.

* Tis hard," says Emerson,' "to mesmerize ourselves, to whip our own top; but through sympathy we are capable of energy and endurance. Concert fires people to a certain fury of performance they can rarely reach alone."

The maxim of the sage now rests on an experimental basis. Acudirg to Burnham,' Dr. Mayer of Wurzburg studied experirentaily the difference between the mental work of pupils in a up and the isolated pupil. In general the result of the work of the pupils in groups was superior to their work as isolated induals, the superiority showing not only in decrease of time bers in the quality of the work. One pupil who took 10 minutes 2! 23 seconds to do some work alone did it in class in 7 minutes and 39 seconds. Another who took 13 minutes and 11 seconds ark 6 minutes and 45 seconds in a group. This result tallies ** Society and Solitude."

$ The Group as a Stimulus to Mental Activity,” Science, New Series, Vol. XXXI, pp. 761-67.

Works Better

About

CHAP,I with that of Schmidt, who, testing children in their home work

I

as compared with their school work, found that for most kinds

of work the product in the classroom was superior. The Mind Dr. Triplett tested the influence of the presence of a co-worker

on a simple physical act, the turning of a reel as fast as possible. Others Are The pupil always worked more rapidly when in company with

another child. Neumann corroborated the results of Triplett. Seven pupils of the ages of thirteen and fourteen were tested repeatedly with the dynamometer and the ergograph. In the case of the test of the pupils separately, with no one else in the room, the amount of work done was always less than when others were present. If the experiments were made in the presence of the teacher alone, the pupils did not do as much work as when they were all together without the teacher.

Testing the memory of pupils alone and when working together, he obtained similar results. While in the case of children of thirteen or fourteen years of age there was no essential difference in memory for the individual and the common test, the difference was remarkably large in the case of the younger children. On an average with the individual test the children remembered considerably less than in the class. Not a child was found who remembered more in the individual test than in the class test. It is not surprising then that when asked whether they would rather do an exercise in the class or alone undisturbed by the noise of other pupils 80 per cent. replied that they would rather do it in the class.

[blocks in formation]

Tho

Studies of "only” children show that, instead of outstripping "Only" Child Is other children owing to their association with mature minds, they Likely to Be Handi. fall behind them. They not only enter school from one and a capped,

half to two years later than is usual, but they are markedly inferior to other children in school performance. About half of the “ only ” children in school were reported as getting on badly with other children, usually because they were loath or did not know how to make concessions or were set on having their own way. In a fourth of the four hundred “only " children reported on selfishness was set down as the dominant trait. Even with careful training the "only ” child becomes selfish from lack of the give-and-take of association. A woman who had been a wellbrought-up "only " child confesses, “Because I have met less OHAP. X than the normal demand for sacrifice of my own rights and privileges, I have lacked practice in resigning them and have never acquired the habit of spending myself freely. So that whatever unselfish acts I may perform are more likely to be solely concessions to conscience than the spontaneous expressions of a nature accustomed to sacrifice."

Quite aside from parental spoiling, which is quite a different Morbid, factor from want of companions of one's own age, the "only child is likely to be morbidly self-centered and introspective. "In lier life," affirms a neurologist," he is extremely conceited, jealous and envious. He begrudges the happiness of friends and acquaintances, and he is therefore shunned and disliked. The fact that he is peculiarly subject to hysteria, neurasthenia, and Inired maladies is attributed to faulty habits of thought fixed in childhood, the chief of these being an excessive preoccupation with thoughts of self." Without experience in a system of selves, the "only ” child is and Unso

cialized casi!y teased, does not know how to stand being the butt of a :he, cannot bear to be "it" in a game in which “it ” is the

ghing-stock About 40 per cent. of “only” children in school are it normally interested in active games. Such children spend :oo much time reading and with grown-ups because they lack the at oí adjustment. One says: "I was always disturbed by the prospect of going to a children's party . . . for the first half of the time I was certain to stand about on the edges of the crowd,

Terely because I could not get into the spirit of the merry gath12." Childhood is the seedtime of character, for it is then that the A Sound

and Social ***K::cious is planted with suggestions which become nuclei for Self Devel* Je systems of thought which later ripen into habits. The sug- amid

ops Only rains the “only" child receives from too exclusive association Other Like

Selves th doting overanxious parents “tend to engender in him a

tal a'titude out of which may afterward spring, according to be subsequent circumstances of his life, a cold, heartless, calcuang selfishness, or a morbid self-anxiety, perhaps eventuating - all sorts of neurotic symptoms.". On the other hand, abundint association in games, especially team games, with children si about his own age fixes in his subconsciousness suggestions of • Bruce“The Only Child," The Century Magazine, 1916, p. 310.

CHAP. X

fair play,” “give-and-take," " turn about," " follow," " lead," “ obey," and "true blue," which help to build in time the "good fellow” and the “good citizen."

SOLIDARITY AND SUICIDE

Firm,
Durable
Ties Al-
ford Some
Insurance
Against
Suicide

Durkheim's exhaustive study of the statistics of suicide reveals a strange saving power in the bonds by which the individual is knit with others into a group. The suicide rate of bachelors is half as great again as that of married men of the same average age without children and three times that of married men with children. The rate for widowers without children is a third greater than for widowers with children. Thus, family life in a measure protects against self-murder and it does so because it shifts the focus of the individual's interest from his personal experiences and fate to that of the family group. His attitude toward his life is determined less by what it is worth to him than by what it is worth to his children; and such a consideration may give him strength to go on with it when otherwise he would cast it away as not worth keeping.

It is significant, too, that for every European people the suicide tendency is decidedly stronger among Protestants than among Roman Catholics. In Switzerland, for example, the suicides in Protestant, mixed, and Catholic cantons are respectively 326, 212, and 86 per hundred thousand persons. In general the Jews show a lower rate than even the Catholics. The reason for these contrasts is to be sought, not in any difference in the teaching as to the sinfulness of suicide, but in the fact that the Catholics are more firmly knit into a religious community than the Protestants, while the solidarity among Jews usually exceeds that among Catholics.

Again, suicide is rare in young, vital, strongly organized societies but frequent in decaying, disintegrating societies. Wars and revolutions, by resuscitating the sentiment of national solidarity, cut down the suicide rate. Whatever stimulates group, party, or patriotic feeling helps men bear their private troubles. Hence Durkheim's law, Suicide varies inversely with the degree of integration of the social groups to which the individual belongs. Men are like mountain climbers, some making their way over the glaciers roped to the members of a large party, others going alone and depending on eye and alpenstock. The latter mount

He Travels
Safest
Who
Travels
with a
Group

« ForrigeFortsæt »