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Contraction and Expansion.

Contraction and Expansion.

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Published by glennpease
BY HUGH SMITH CARPENTER.



THE soul of man is elastic — it can expand, it can
contract Either susceptibility is as exquisite
and subtle as it is unlimited. This tendency is not
so dependent on circumstances as we are apt to im-
agine. There is scarcely a pursuit which may not di-
late the character ; there is rarely one which can not
cramp it.
BY HUGH SMITH CARPENTER.



THE soul of man is elastic — it can expand, it can
contract Either susceptibility is as exquisite
and subtle as it is unlimited. This tendency is not
so dependent on circumstances as we are apt to im-
agine. There is scarcely a pursuit which may not di-
late the character ; there is rarely one which can not
cramp it.

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Published by: glennpease on Apr 06, 2014
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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COTRACTIO AD EXPASIO. BY HUGH SMITH CARPETER. THE soul of man is elastic — it can expand, it can contract Either susceptibility is as exquisite and subtle as it is unlimited. This tendency is not so dependent on circumstances as we are apt to im- agine. There is scarcely a pursuit which may not di- late the character ; there is rarely one which can not cramp it. There is no little circumstance impinging the life which does not leave its imprint — like the touch of a linger on your arm. There is no such paleness of pressure, into which the retreating blood does not bound again with more vehemence. And 208 COTRACTIO AD EXPASIO. it sometimes seems as if there were only a tidal life in human character, an ebb and flood flow of thought, as regular in its returns as it is mysterious in its or- igin, so that you can tell when certain powers will be in full play, and when certain passions will subside ; when certain dispositions will show themselves, and where certain traits will trace their lines, just as you tell on the beach at what hour the high-water-mark will be touched, at what point the shells and the sea weeds will be stranded ; when to iay your nets, and when to lift them. The spirits of men are heaving in their bosoms, like their lungs. The lungs ply in sleeping and in waking life, and the world is full of spiritual undulations, that sink and swell not only in the struggles of conscious- ness and the excitements of endeavor, but in the calm of repose and the slumbrous dreamings of forgetful-
 
ness ; not only in brief aspects of present condition, but in shapings for a changeless condition — a last shape to which each soul shall substantiate itself and stand solid and stiff. For ages the mountains and the valleys of this earth have stood — the cavernous ravine and the spreading table land. Once they were only bubbles, — waves and ripples of the liquid earth, the boiling granite,— or floating, fluttering fringes in chaotic gloom. So is soul life liquid now, and fluent, only that it may as- sume its final shape. OOTBlCTIO and EXPASIO; 209 The laws of expansion are laws of vital conse- quence. A true liberty of soul is an uncommon attainment. Only a soul at liberty can be a liberal soul. That is not a genuine enlargement which is developed on one side. That is more properly a bulging and misshapen condition. You would not pronounce that the growth of a man which should dislocate his joints ; nor that the growth of a tree which should lift its roots out of the ground. ow it is the disproportion between the human spirit, and its limited sphere of mortal exist- ence, which restrains and so distorts its powers : the struggle of the finite after the infinite in the midst of the finite. The attempt of every mind to substantiate infinity to itself, and realize its ideal in some present comprehension, issues in the contraction of the very being. Such a contraction must induce deformity, because the being was made to be a conductor of infinity, to dwell at large in the immensity of God. The soul is flattened or sharpened, or somehow twisted out of
 
its original pattern. And this is not a matter of cir- cumstance. We are apt to concede that some em- ployments benumb the mind, and that some positions dwarf it. On the other hand we claim circumstantial advantages, as of education, society or pursuit, — as if there were better facilities in these for development. The polished citizen takes it for granted that the mind 210 COTRACTIO AD EXPASIO. of the untutored clown is narrower than his own. The man of large commercial dealings or political af- fairs would spurn the close sphere of a mechanic, A delicate and dainty damsel, bedecked and bepraised in a bright parlor, may stare compassionately on the plying housewife or the busy dairy-maid. Again, however, we are startled by the discovery of charac- ters that thrive under disadvantages, as the grass grows under the tread. We see strength and beauty springing in the wilds of life, as one finds choicest flowers in the woods. We set these down as excep- tions, puzzling ourselves to find their secrets and their specialities. But the matter becomes more profound when we recognize the historic fact which shapes it- self into a law, that almost all greatness rises from obscurity, like the moon from the shadows of the evening; that almost all success grows out of disad- vantage, as trees yield the richest fruitage around whose roots the rankest decay has spread. A close look establishes the fact that while an external con- dition warps the being on one side, it can enlarge it on the other. While the mind of the rustic is wrinkled in some aspects by his rough life, as his hands grow hard with toil, — in others it is pulpy and blooming, like his cheek, beyond that of the student, clearer than that of the author, and as sensitive as that of the poet.

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