The Garden of Survival HTML version

Chapter 5
WHAT I have told you so far concerns a growth chiefly of my inner life that was almost a new
birth. My outer life, of event and action, was sufficiently described in those monthly letters you
had from me during the ten years, broken by three periods of long-leave at home, I spent in that
sinister and afflicted land. This record, however, deals principally with the essential facts of my
life, the inner; the outer events and actions are of importance only in so far as they interpret
these, since that which a man feels and thinks alone is real, and thought and feeling, of course,
precede all action.
I have told you of the Thrill, of its genesis and development; and I chose an obvious and rather
banal instance, first of all to make myself quite clear, and, secondly, because the majority were
of so delicate a nature as to render their description extremely difficult. The point is that the
emotion was, for me, a new one. I may honestly describe it as a birth.
I must now tell you that it first stirred in me some five years after I left England, and that during
those years I had felt nothing but what most other men feel out here. Whether its sudden birth
was due to the violent country, or to some process of gradual preparation that had been going
forward in me secretly all that time, I cannot tell. No proof, at any rate, offered itself of either. It
came suddenly. I do know, however, that from its first occurrence it has strengthened and
developed until it has now become a dominating influence of a distinctly personal kind.
My character has been affected, perhaps improved. You have mentioned on several occasions
that you noted in my letters a new tenderness, a new kindness towards my fellow-creatures, less
of criticism and more of sympathy, a new love; the "birth of my poetic sense" you also spoke of
once; and I myself have long been aware of a thousand fresh impulses towards charity and
tolerance that had, hitherto, at any rate, lain inactive in my being.
I need not flatter myself complacently, yet a change there is, and it may be an improvement.
Whether big or small, however, I am sure of one tiling: I ascribe it entirely to this sharper and
more extended sensitiveness to Beauty, this new and exquisite receptiveness that has established
itself as a motive-power in my life. I have changed the poet's line, using prose of course: There is
beauty everywhere and therefore joy.
And I will explain briefly, too, how it is that this copybook maxim is now for me a practical
reality. For at first, with my growing perception, I was distressed at what seemed to me the lavish
waste, the reckless, spendthrift beauty, not in nature merely but in human nature, that passed
unrecognized and unacknowledged. The loss seemed so extravagant. Not only that a million
flowers waste their sweetness on the desert air, but that such prodigal stores of human love and
tenderness remain unemployed, their rich harvest all ungathered--because, misdirected and
misunderstood, they find no receptacle into which they may discharge.