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Human Conduct

The tremendous moral significance of all conduct will be brought out more clearly if we consider the events of a single day, and especially the small events.

We waken in the morning. The room in which we find ourselves is full of moral significance. Have we slept with the window open or closed? Is the air in the room sweet and wholesome, or stuffy and vitiated?

We are still in bed. Is the bed hygienically constructed, or is it not? Is it health-giving or health-taking? Is the pillow so high as to induce curvature of the spine, or so low as to encourage the rush of blood to the head? Are the covers suitable, not heavy enough to weaken and not light enough to expose? How is the body encased, is it suffocated in heavy flannels, which are to be worn continuously throughout the ensuing day, or is some thought given to the skin and its needs?

One is still in bed. Shall one get up at once, or shall one lie abed? Shall one be content idly to dream, half awake and half asleep, or shall one arouse oneself mentally and work out some problem of the daily life, some aspect of individual duty?

And then, when you are up, what alternatives present themselves at every step! Is the furniture of your bedroom convenient, does it allow you to carry on the several activities of the toilet with little friction, or is it clumsy and ill arranged, abounding in dust-harboring contrivances, and so stacked as to impede all wholesome movements? Is the room clean? Are the floor coverings and wall paper and windows hangings reasonably free from germs and poisons? What of the bath, shall it be hot or cold, and what clothing shall be worn? When you are dressed, is it better to go directly downstairs to the family group, or to stop awhile with yourself, repeating aloud, or in your own heart, the hope and aspiration of the day? If you decide to stop, will the spirit be more refreshed by a few pages of good news, or by saluting the morning and the universe from your own window?

We do not commonly think of all these matters as having to do with the moral life, with the quest of that good fortune which bears inspection, but my including of them here is not at all fanciful. Each element that I have just named conditions the health and the spirit, gives color to the ensuing day, makes possible sound judgment, generous action, right relations, or makes them impossible. So deeply laden with consequences are these simple actions of the daily life that it would be irrational in the last degree to deny them a moral significance. On the contrary, their chief content is moral.—From The Children of Good Fortune, by C. Hanford Henderson.

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Charles Hanford Henderson

  • Born on December 30, 1861 in Philadelphia and died on January 2, 1941
  • American educator and author
  • Graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1882
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