THE DÆMONS OF INTELLECT
Inertia will not let us begin.—Like the Body, the Mind, too, has his Dæmons. The two which beset Intellect are, first, a sort of sloth or inertia which makes us unwilling to begin to think of anything but the small matters of everyday life. If we will only begin, Intellect bestirs himself, strong and eager for his work:—
“Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute;
What you can do, or dream you can, begin it;
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!
Only engage, and then the mind grows heated;
Begin it, and the work will be completed.”
We are delighted, and time flies; yet the next time we come to the same fence, Intellect jibs and we have to spur him to the leap; then all goes well. It is well to bear this in mind, because if we give way Intellect will again pull up before a little difficulty.
Habit goes always over the same Ground.—The other Dæmon of Intellect is Habit. Now Habit, as you know, is, whether for body or mind, a good servant and a bad master. It is when he is allowed to play the bad master and override Intellect that he spoils and narrows life. Under Habit, Intellect
cannot be said to be slothful; he goes briskly enough, but he goes over the same ground, day after day, year in, year out. The course may be a good one and it may be quite necessary to follow it. The mistake is to keep always on the same beaten track. It may be quite necessary to follow it. The mistake is to keep always on the same beaten track. It may be the mechanical round of lessons, without a thought of what it is all about. It may be housekeeping, business, hunting, shooting, dress—things well enough in their way; but to confine Intellect to them is like harnessing a race-horse to a coster’s barrow.
We may not stay in one Field of Thought.—Nor is it only the affairs and interests of daily life which deprive the Mind of its proper range of interests and occupations. It is possible for a person to go into any one of the great fields of thought we have considered, and to stay there with steady work and constant delight until he becomes incapable of finding his way into any other of these great fields. The greatest man of science of our age had this misfortune. He lost himself, so to speak, in Science, and in the end he could not read poetry, look at picture, could not even think upon God, because he could not turn his mind out of the course he had exercised it in all his life. The people who lived when, perhaps, the greatest things were done, the greatest pictures painted, the greatest buildings raised, the greatest discoveries made, were very particular on this point. The same man was an architect and a painter, a sculptor and a poet, and a master of much knowledge besides; and all that he did, he did well; all that he knew was part of his daily thought and enjoyment.
Vasari, his biographer, says of Leonardo da Vinci, the great painter:—“Possessed of a divine and marvellous intellect, and being an excellent geometrician,
he not only worked at sculpture, . . . but also prepared may architectural plans of buildings, and he was the first, though so young, to propose to utilise the Arno to make a canal from Pisa to Florence. He made designs for mills and other engines to go by water, and as painting was to be his profession, he studied drawing from life.”
A Magnanimous Mind.—It is a mistake, perhaps, to think that, to do one thing well, we must just do and think about that and nothing else all the time. It is our business to know all we can and to spend a part of our lives in increasing our knowledge of Nature and Art, of Literature and Man, of the Past and the Present. That is one way in which we become greater persons, and the more a person is, the better he will do whatever piece of special work falls to his share. Let us have, like Leonardo, a spirit ‘invariably royal and magnanimous.’