Edwin Markham has supplied me with such an excellent antidote to the poison of envy that I cannot resist using it in the column. Since I quote from memory, perhaps there will be no copyright difficulties. Anyway, here's about what he said:
"He drew a circle that shut me out; Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. But love and I had the wit to win; We drew a circle that took him in."
Believe it or not, that is a "quatrain"; which in this case means four pills to be taken in one gulp. The chief symptom is a lump in the throat, and the medicine immediately effects a soothing internal amusement.
There is another slant to envy which does not involve the personal snub element. That is, envy of the other fellow's possessions, or health, or social status. Are you sure his car and house are not mortgaged, or his business worries do not hound him day and night, or that he won't have an emergency operation next week, or that his daughter is not flirting with the chauffer? No amount of riches can purchase peace of mind--the world's greatest treasure. Nine times out of ten if we can get under the shell of the favored few, we find we are better off than they. And the tenth time we may discover some justification for envy, but only in the sense that we have discovered a person who has learned the art of overcoming the same difficulties we encounter; and we have an example worth following. In a more limited sense, there is no one who does not possess some individual characteristic which we would do well to emulate.
But let's get back to Markham. This grand old boy--for he is the incarnation of perennial youth--was 83 years old when he lectured in Keokuk two years ago. After the main show, which was attended by all the quasi-cultured who attend such things (I was there), the poet was persuaded to recite his "Man with a Hoe" to an informal gathering. In the midst of the confusion of trying to make the distinguished guest comfortable, someone turned on a 200 watt lamp within three feet of the bard's silvery pate. Obviously he was annoyed, but when apologies were attempted he snapped out "That's alright; I like everything that happens!" In other words he not only refuses to make mountains out of mole hills, but he can dispose of mole hills so quickly he is scarcely aware of them. Serenity is disturbed by attention to petty annoyances, and is achieved by mental ducking. So everybody join in the chorus: Never touched me that time.
Now let's jump from the sublime to the insecure. In accordance with the law I applied for registration under the Social Security Act the other day, and now find I have a dark brown taste in my mouth. The literature handed out in exchange for my signature is full of pretty sounding justifications for the thing. Ponder that, if you will: the government is trying to sell us something after compelling us to buy it. And if we question its wisdom, the bureaucrats come back at us with raised eyebrows and "How unpatriotic of you to even hint at any lack of integrity on the part of your government". My answer is: the government has absolutely no business prying into my personal affairs as long as I am a self-respecting citizen who recognizes the rights of other citizens. And get the fundamental philosophy of the thing. Uncle Sam now tells the twenty-five million or so workers not to mention the other producers arbitrarily left out of the picture who are the backbone of the country--he tells them, "not one of you is capable of planning your personal old age security; let Uncle Sam be your insurance man; that's a nice boy, you'll learn to like it." If I am uncomplimentary to the Washington regimentalists, what would you call their attitude toward John Citizen. Help the needy--yes. Paternalism, and patronizing politics--No.
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