Baltimore Evening Sun (30 January 1913): 6.
With the receipt of Black Hand letters by the Rev. Dr. John Roach Straton the Vice Crusade takes on an air of mellow low comedy. One pictures the bartenders or the Red Light district writhing under the excoriations of the learned doctor. Messengers run from kaif to kaif: “Stra.ton is at it again!” Quick the reply: “He must be put down! One more such sermon and we are lost! Up, guards, and at him!” So scriveners are called in and a threat of death is composed. As an earnest thereof his automobile is stolen. Next his windows will be broken and his dog poisoned. Finally, a posse of thugs will waylay and massacre him--and Vice, set free, will once more rear her hideous head. Thus perished Savanarola.
Far be it from me to afflict the reverend clergy with suggestions, but I can’t help saying that a sermon by the Rev. Dr. Straton on affairs in the City Hall would please me well. Let him tell us what he thinks as a licensed theologian of the custom of training city paving inspectors in Paving Bob’s finishing school. Let him discuss, from the standpoint of the higher ethics, the relations between the August One and the Hot Towel. Let him treat city banking, job juggling. Let him lay down general principles of official morality.
Here he will be on safe ground. When it comes to Vice he must depend upon hearsay, for his congregation is made up entirely of men who hate it and flee it. But when it comes to the old-fashioned theory of government, he has an accomplished professor right under his nose. I allude, of course, to the zealous superintendent of his Sunday-school, the Right Hon. Samuel Summers Field, K. T., LL. D.
The Hon. Clarence Stone, in a late communication to the hospitable editor of The Evening Sun, describes the two great schools of philosophy that divide mankind and brings against me the accusation that I belong to the least romantic one. The accusation is apt, apposite and true; I admit it freely. What is more, I admit it proudly, grandly, whoopingly, and herewith pronounce a curse upon any man who questions it.
But why such heat? Why so vociferous about it? Simply because it is not always easy to stick to my guns, and so I must work up my courage by bellowing, just as soldiers cheer in battle and the super-Mahon blisters the firmament with his laryngeal blasts. It is easy enough, so long as the furnace is drawing nicely and there is Pilsner in the ice-box, to preach and practice the philosophy of reality. But let the fire go out or a tooth begin to jump, and at once all nature cries for a rock and a refuge.
Here we behold the origin and secret of philosophy. It is a deduction from mankind’s experience of life. That experience, taking one year with another, is probably much the same for all men. Life is a meaningless jumble of cruelties and absurdities, a harrowing running of the gauntlet, one d----d thing after another. There is no man in the world who can say that it has wholly satisfied him. There is no man who can wholly envy another. Even the dullest man must realize he can never attain to a perfect estate.
Such is life. Such is the curse laid upon the human race. All men suffer alije. But all men do not react alike to the suffering. Some, when the rollers begin to revolve beneath them, throw up their hands and bawl for help. Others make a gallant, if somewhat ludicrous, effort to save themselves. The first are romanticists, idealists. They read Emerson and Hegel and believe in brotherhood, poltergeists and psychotherapy. Some of them even believe in philosophy itself. The others are realists, materialists. They read Huxley, Spencer and the advertisements of Dr. Munyon, and believe in money, alcohol, laparotomy and castor oil.
Thus all men are divided into two classes. But to fix rigid limits for those classes would be absurd. No man belongs wholly to one. No man belongs wholly to the other. I myself, as I have said, am normally a realist. I esteem a single dose of diphtheria antitoxin above the whole works of Dr. Orison Swett Marden. The antitoxin will actually cure me; Marden merely kids me. But there come times in life when a cure is not at hand. There come times when reality fades into a disordered dream. And then all of its, including even the toughest of us, turn on the music. If I were to be hanged at 3 o’clock this afternoon I should not send out for five cents worth of potassium chlorate tablets. Not at all. My œsophagus would be beyond the help of potash. What I should send out for would be a brass band to play me “Funiculi-Funicula,” or my fiancee to kiss me good-by, or the Bentztown Bard to read me a soothing limerick. In brief, I should try to escape from reality, seeing its futility. I should be willing to hear and believe anything, provided only it were pleasant.
But the idealist is no better than I am here. Just as I sometimes find that materialism will not work, so the idealist finds at times that idealism has its limits. It is all well enough to read Emerson--but chloroform remains a better remedy for jigger bites. It is all well enough to talk about the Oversoul, Mind and the All--but a dollar remains a dollar. Even Emerson himself had to be shaved with a razor. Even Mrs. Eddy sensed the genuine difference between 5 per cent. and 6 per cent. Even the suffragettes, dreaming their roseate dreams, turn anon to the crude methods and weapons of minor surgery. There never lived an idealist who could see Jean Paul’s “fair and luminous world” while suffering from sciatica. Not even Bergson, I daresay, would care to match his intuition against the kick of a mule.
So ist das Leben. Every idealist is 49.9 per cent materialist; every materialist is 49.99999999̷ per cent. idealist. But as a man leans, so he preaches. If he is on the idealist side, then he tries to throw a sentimental glamour about even the lowliest things. And it he is on the materialist side, then he tries to convince you that even his loftiest dreams are mere phenomena of physiology. In brief, his inherent bias is converted into a conscious philosophy, and he tries to live up to it. In the end, perhaps, he brings himself to believe that his bias is the mere child of his philosophy. When he reaches that stage he is a professional philosopher.
Naturally enough, he tries to defend himself from attack. If that attack comes from without, say from an opponent of the opposite school, he disposes of it by questioning the intelligence, the virtue, and, in the end, the ordinary sanity of the said opponent. And if it comes from within, in the form of sneaking doubts, he disposes of it by roaring the true
[Continued later on.]