The Confessions of a Beachcomber, by E. J. Banfield

Chapter IV

And this Our Life

“I would admonish the world that all persons, indifferently, are not fit for this sort of diversion.”

Whereas the average town-dweller could not endure the commonplaces of Nature which entertain me, rouse my wonder, enliven my imagination, and gratify my inmost thoughts, so his pursuits are to me devoid of purpose, insipid, dismally unsatisfactory. To one whose everyday admission (apology if you like) is that he is not as other men are — fond of society and of society’s occupations, pastimes, refinements, and (pardon) illusions — the unsoiled jungle is more desirable than all the prim parks and clipped gardens; all this amplitude of time and space than the one “crowded hour.” Here I came to my birthright a heritage of nothing save the most glorious of all possessions: freedom — freedom beyond the dreams of most men in its comprehensiveness and exactitude. These few haphazard notes refer to the exercise of rare independence. They cannot be otherwise than trivial and dull, but they at least fulfil the purpose to which I was pledged. They reveal my puny efforts to be none other than myself. So tranquil, so uniform are our days, that but for the diary — the civilised substitute for the notched stick — count of them might be lost. And this extorts yet another confession. One year, Good Friday passed, and Easter-time had progressed to the joyful Monday, ere cognisance of the season came. Speedy is the descent to the automaton. A mechanical mis-entry in the diary threw all the orderly days of the week into a whirling jumble. We knew not Wednesday from Thursday, nor Thursday from Friday, though we calculated and checked notes of the transactions and traits of successive days. To what purpose was the effort to memorise one day from another when all were precisely alike in colour and uneventfulness? Each day had been blue — radiantly blue — nothing more. And the entries in the diary set at naught dogmatic assertions of disproof. But the steamer cuts a deep weekly notch. We jolted into it and became harmonised once more with the rigid calendar of the workaday world.

Thus we keep the noiseless tenor of our way, finding in life if not great and gaudy pleasures, at least content and relief from many of the vexations that gnaw away the lives of the multitude. Though it was acknowledged a long time ago to be — indecorous — an abominable thing for a man to commend his ways; though his mode of living may not commend itself to others; though it may seem blank and colourless, thin and watery, devoid of expectation, and the hope of fame, name, and that kind of success which comes of the acquirement of riches, yet — and in a spirit of thankfulness be it said — the obscure and minor part the writer plays in the tragic-comedy of life affords gratification. He does what he likes to do. He frankly confesses that he sought isolation because of the lack of those qualities which make for dutiful citizenship, because of indifference to the ordinary enchantments of the kaleidoscopic world, not because of any lack of appreciation of the wisdom of the majority. He has dared to be what he is, rather than submit to be pulled this way and that on the rack of fashion and custom.

Remember that “the measure of choosing well is whether a man likes what he has chosen.” Other men have other ranks to take, other fates to command. Do not politicians and publicists; professional men and princes of trade; those who toil for others, with brain or hands; the charitable and the miserly; those who pine if removed from the noise and breath of the crowd; those who spend their days in meditation and study; those who live conscientiously every moment in “the gateway of the life eternal”; those who are at enmity to law and order; the honest toiler and the impostor, the thief and the rogue, each and all respectively find pleasure in the particular walk of life he elects to take? “Each to the favourite happiness attends.” When God gave manna to His people, every Israelite found in it what best pleased him. “The young tasted bread, the old honey, and the children oil.” No doubt an expert burglar feels as keen a sense of joy in the planning and execution of a deed of darkness demanding originality, skill, daring and resourcefulness, as does the humane surgeon in the performance of an operation for the salvation of a valuable life, or as does his lordship the bishop in the delivery of a homily overflowing with persuasive eloquence. The burglar has his appreciation of pleasure, and the others theirs; and so long as the pleasures of the individual are not immoral and dishonourable, do not trespass upon the rights and liberties of others, let each pursue that which allures.

In the long run he will find himself responsible to himself; and if his days have been ill spent, and his opportunities slighted, his the punishment and the remorse. But —

“If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal — that is your success.”

This web edition published by:

eBooks@Adelaide
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/banfield/ej/b21cn/chapter11.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:32