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The University of Hard Knocks - Chapter 10
Going Up Life's Mountain
The Defeats that are Victories
HOW often we say, "I wish I had a million!" Perhaps it is a blessing that we have not the million. Perhaps it would make us lazy, selfish and unhappy. Perhaps we would go around giving it to other people to make them lazy, selfish and unhappy.
O, the problem is not how to get money, but how to get rid of money with the least injury to the race!
Perhaps getting the million would completely spoil us. Look at the wild cat and then look at the tabby cat. The wild cat supports itself and the tabby cat has its million. So the tabby cat has to be doctored by specialists.
If the burden were lifted from most of us we would go to wreck. Necessity is the ballast in our life voyage.
When you hear the orator speak and you note the ease and power of his work, do you think of the years of struggle he spent in preparing? Do you ever think of the times that orator tried to speak when he failed and went back to his room in disgrace, mortified and broken-hearted? Thru it all there came the discipline, experience and grim resolve that made him succeed.
When you hear the musician and note the ease and grace of the performance, do you think of the years of struggle and overcoming necessary to produce that finish and grace? That is the story of the actor, the author and every other one of attainment.
Do you note that the tropics, the countries with the balmiest climates, produce the weakest peoples? Do you note that the conquering races are those that struggle with both heat and cold? The tropics are the geographical Gussielands.
Do you note that people grow more in lean years than in fat years? Crop failures and business stringencies are not calamities, but blessings in disguise. People go to the devil with full pockets; they turn to God when hunger hits them. "Is not this Babylon that I have builded?" says the Belshazzar of material prosperity as he drinks to his gods. Then must come the Needful and Needless Knocks handwriting upon the wall to save him.
You have to shoot many men's eyes out before they can see. You have to crack their heads before they can think, knock them down before they can stand, break their hearts before they can sing, and bankrupt them before they can be rich.
Do you remember that they had to lock John Bunyan in Bedford jail before he would write his immortal "Pilgrim's Progress"? It may be that some of us will have to go to jail to do our best work.
Do you remember that one musician became deaf before he wrote music the world will always hear? Do you remember that one author became blind before writing "Paradise Lost" the world will always read?
Do you remember that Saul of Tarsus would have never been remembered had he lived the life of luxury planned for him? He had to be blinded before he could see the way to real success. He had to be scourged and fettered to become the Apostle to the Gentiles. He, too, had to be sent to prison to write his immortal messages to humanity. What throne-rooms are some prisons! And what prisons are some throne-rooms!
Do you not see all around you that success is ever the phoenix rising from the ashes of defeat?
Then, children, when you stand in the row of graduates on commencement day with your diplomas in your hands, and when your relatives and friends say, "Success to you!" I shall take your hand and say, "Defeat to you! And struggles to you! And bumps to you!"
For that is the only way to say, "Success to you!"
Go Up the Mountain
O UNIVERSITY OF HARD KNOCKS, we learn to love you more with each passing year. We learn that you are cruel only to be kind. We learn that you are saving us from ourselves. But O, how most of us must be bumped to see this!
I know no better way to close this lecture than to tell you of a great bump that struck me one morning in Los Angeles. It seemed as tho twelve years of my life had dropped out of it, and had been lost.
Were you ever bumped so hard you were numb? I was numb. I wondered why I was living. I thought I had nothing more to live for. When a dog is wounded he crawls away alone to lick his wounds. I felt like the wounded dog. I wanted to crawl away to lick my wounds.
That is why I climbed Mount Lowe that day. I wanted to get alone.
It is a wonderful experience to climb Mount Lowe. The tourists go up half a mile into Rubio Canyon, to the engineering miracle, the triangular car that hoists them out of the hungry chasm thirty-five hundred feet up the side of a granite cliff, to the top of Echo Mountain.
Here they find that Echo Mountain is but a shelf on the side of Mount Lowe. Here they take an electric car that winds five miles on towards the sky. There is hardly a straight rail in the track. Every minute a new thrill, and no two thrills alike. Five miles of winding and squirming, twisting and ducking, dodging and summersaulting.
There are places where the tourist wants to grasp his seat and lift. There is a wooden shelf nailed to the side of the perpendicular rockwall where his life depends upon the honesty of the man who drove the nails. He may wonder if the man was working by the day or by the job! He looks over the edge of the shelf downward, and then turns to the other side to look at the face of the cliff they are hugging, and discovers there is no place to resign!
The car is five thousand feet high where it stops on that last shelf, Alpine Tavern. One cannot ride farther upward. This is not the summit, but just where science surrenders. There is a little trail that winds upward from Alpine Tavern to the summit. It is three miles long and rises eleven hundred feet.
To go up that last eleven hundred feet and stand upon the flat rock at the summit of Mount Lowe is to get a picture so wonderful it cannot be described with this poor human vocabulary. It must be lived. On a pure, clear day one looks down this sixty-one hundred feet, more than a mile, into the orange belt of Southern California. It spreads out below in one great mosaic of turquoise and amber and emerald, where the miles seem like inches, and where his field-glass sweeps one panoramic picture of a hundred miles or more.
Just below is Pasadena and Los Angeles. To the westward perhaps forty miles is the blue stretch of the Pacific Ocean, on westward the faint outlines of Catalina Islands. The ocean seems so close one could throw a pebble over into it. How a mountain does reduce distances. You throw the pebble and it falls upon your toes!
And Mount Lowe is but a shelf on the side of the higher Sierras. The granite mountains rise higher to the northward, and to the east rises "Old Baldy," twelve thousand feet high and snow eternally on his head.
This is one of the workshops of the infinite!
All alone I scrambled up that three-mile trail to the summit. All alone I stood upon the flat rock at the summit and looked down into the swimming distances. I did not know why I had struggled up into that mountain sanctuary, for I was not searching for sublimity. I was searching for relief. I was heartsick.
I saw clouds down in the valley below me. I had never before looked down upon clouds. I thought of the cloud that had covered me in the valley below, and dully watched the clouds spread wider and blacker.
Afterwhile the valley was all hidden by the clouds. I knew rain must be falling down there. The people must be saying, "The sun doesn't shine. The sky is all gone." But I saw the truth--the sun was shining. The sky was in place. A cloud had covered down over that first mile. The sun was shining upon me, the sky was all blue over me, and there were millions of miles of sunshine above me. I could see all this because I had gone above the valley. I could see above the clouds.
A great light seemed to break over my stormswept soul. I am under the clouds of trouble today, BUT THE SUN IS SHINING!
I must go on up the mountain to see it.
The years have been passing, the stormclouds have many times hidden my sun. But I have always found the sun shining above them. No matter how black and sunless today, when I have struggled on up the mountain path, I have gotten above the clouds and found the sun forever shining and God forever in His heavens.
Each day as I go up the mountain I get a larger vision. The miles that seem so great down in the valley, seem so small as I look down upon them from higher up. Each day as I look back I see more clearly the plan of a human life. The rocks, the curves and the struggles fit into a divine engineering plan to soften the steepness of the ascent. The bumps are lifts. The things that seem so important down in the smudgy, stormswept valley, seem so unimportant as we go higher up the mountain to more important things.
Today I look back to the bump that sent me up Mount Lowe. I did not see how I could live past that bump. The years have passed and I now know it was one of the greatest blessings of my life. It closed one gate, but it opened another gate to a better pathway up the mountain.
Late that day I was clambering down the side of Mount Lowe. Down in the valley below me I saw shadows. Then I looked over into the southwest and I could see the sun going down. I could see him sink lower and lower until his red lips kissed the cheek of the Pacific. The glory of the sunset filled sea and sky with flames of gold and fountains of rainbows. Such a sunset from the mountain-side is a promise of heaven.
The shadows of sunset widened over the valley. Presently all the valley was black with the shadow. It was night down there. The people were saying, "The sun doesn't shine." But it was not night where I stood. I was farther up the mountain. I turned and looked up to the summit. The beams of the setting sun were yet gilding Mount Lowe's summit. It was night down in the valley, but it was day on the mountain top!
Go on south!
That means, go on up!
Child of humanity, are you in the storm? Go on upward. Are you in the night? Go on upward.
For the peace and the light are always above the storm and the night, and always in our reach.
I am going on upward. Take my hand and let us go together. Mount Lowe showed the way that dark day. There I heard the "sermons in stones."
Some day my night will come. It will spread over all this valley of material things where the storms have raged.
But I shall be on the mountain top. I shall look down upon the night, as I am learning to climb and look down upon the storms. I shall be in the new day of the mountain-top, forever above the night.
I shall find this mountain-top just another shelf on the side of the Mountain of Infinite Unfolding. I shall have risen perhaps only the first mile. I shall have millions of miles yet to rise.
This will be another Commencement Day and Master's Degree. Infinite the number on up. "Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him."
We are not growing old. We are going up to Eternal Life.
Rejoice and Go Upward!