One of the problems propounded by the old schoolmen of the Middle Ages was, What would happen if an irresistible force encountered an immovable mass? We need not trouble ourselves as to how these philosophers resolved the difficulty: for people like us, who are fighting the battle of life in the twentieth century (perhaps they had to fight it in the fifteenth also), it seems sufficient to say that either the hypothesis of the irresistibleness of the force or the hypothesis of the immobility of the mass must be abandoned. One of the two must give way before the other, and the only question is which it is to be.
Probably none of our readers would care to pose as a mere lump of inertia, and therefore I may assume that man is the force; and if man is the force, then the circumstances by which he finds himself surrounded are the mass, and the problem to be solved is which of the two will survive the impact of the force upon the mass. At first sight the odds seem to be in favor of the mass. We may detach a few fragments from it here and there and alter their arrangement, but the mass as a whole towers above us, huge, stern, immovable; and we feel that if man be a force, it is a force utterly insignificant in comparison with the mass to which it finds itself opposed. And if, after all, the truth should be that the mass is not really immovable, then how stupendous must be the force required to disperse it—an irresistible force indeed; and where is this irresistible force to be found? Our past experience shows both ourselves and others swept to and fro in a tumultuous sea of circumstances, battling against currents of whose origin and tendency we are alike ignorant, and only too thankful if, by taking advantage of some unexpected swirl of the waters in the right direction, we can get ourselves carried a little nearer to our wished-for goal. It is true that one here and there seems to have the faculty of drawing the good towards himself; but these are exceptions, and we attribute their success to luck, which may turn against them at any moment. This is what we have drawn from our past experience; and the facts, as we know them, lead to the inevitable conclusion that it is the mass which is immovable and not the force that is irresistible. And with this conclusion we become prisoners of an iron destiny, call it by what name we will, which sports with us and does us good or evil at its caprice. But if we accept this position, then farewell hope, farewell kindness, farewell truth—all that is left is to snatch whatever advantage we can at the moment it drifts by, regardless whom we thrust under in our eagerness to seize it. It is a position whose ultimate logical result can only be a fierce struggle for existence in which no weapons will avail but the unscrupulous resort to force and fraud, rendering the whole earth one hellish scene of internecine strife in which the light of humanity must be extinguished in unutterable darkness. This is what must surely happen if we cannot find the irresistible force which is able to mould the seemingly immovable mass, and change the mountain that threatens to crush us by its fall, into fruitful fields and smiling clustering homes.
We have longed to find this force, we have searched for it diligently, and all our past experience proclaims that the search has been in vain. What are we to do? There is only one method: we must transcend all our past experiences. They have been limited because our view of ourselves has been limited. The only true use of our past experiences is to show us that so long as we think limitation we create limitation. Otherwise than this they help us not a step forward, but only serve to retard us. For the future we must rely, not on our past experience, but on that within us which outruns experience. Hitherto our experience has been only negative. What we want now is to give a free rein to the affirmative expression of the living power which we are.
Life is affirmative, not negative; and this life is in us, and not a galvanic current sent through us like automata at the will of some operator from without. Man, know thyself. Man, be thyself. Know that thou art an exhaustless fountain of life, which nothing can close up save ignorance and distrust of in the divine fullness of thine own being. Have you been worsted by circumstances in the past? That was because you thought of them as the immovable mass and of yourself as a crawling pigmy. Reverse this conception and you will find the conditions reversed. Think of the mass as having substance only that it may minister material for your use, and of yourself as the irresistible force that can use it for whatsoever good purpose you will. Then we shall see all the old fancied limitations vanish; we shall find that no good need be snatched from our brother to make it our own, but that there is within us a limitless power which will create the good; that we desire, not in niggardly sort, but abundantly, so that besides satisfying ourselves to the full it will overflow to others, making our riches, whether mental or material, a source of wealth to all around. This is the optimism of Nature, Nature which exists in all its opulence at the center of each man's being; but which can be drawn forth only by the talisman of confidence—confidence that the good is the true, and confidence that I myself—each of us—am the expression of the good and the true. This belief in the good and the true is the is only antidote to the pessimism that results in universal ruin; the firm belief of each man that the good which is the true exists limitless within himself and that only as he affirms this in his thought and in his life he truly lives. Let this creed spread from man to man, the creed of helpfulness and hopefulness, and instead of a world threatened with devastation there will emerge a new creation, a brighter heaven and a fairer earth than ever yet entered a poet's imaginings.
Who among us will help in the glorious work of bringing in the golden age by strenuously affirming, both by word and deed, that man, in his recognition of himself as a being centered in love and wisdom, is the irresistible force, and that the seemingly immovable mass, whatever form it take, must inevitably yield before the steady outflowing it of that power which lies hidden in the heart it of every human being?
—R. Dimsdale Stocker