This, then, is the character of the religious man today, as I conceive him.
Unlike the typical medieval saint, he makes no attempt to leave the beauties and attractions of the visible world unseen, to subdue the flesh and curb the mind; unlike the primitive Christian, he is moved by no fantastic expectations; unlike the children of his age he is fascinated by no hope of a Good Time Coming. The world’s ideal is achievement, it asks for accomplishment, and regards each life as a mere contribution to some far-off result. The past reaches up to the future, and the present, and all sense and feeling for the present, is lost. From all these the religious man seeks nothing but escape; they are forms of the secularism which is the death of religion. He will keep in age youth’s refusal to take life as it is, and the present condition of society will always cause him discontent. What governs him is not the world’s ideal of visible achievement; life, for him, will mean more than a career, and he will not measure his success by the place he fills in some hypothetical development of evolution. The world and its ‘careerist’ ideal presents a whole miscellany of possible purposes for life, but all these the religious man will view as no more than distractions from its real business.
Is full of voices, man is call’d and hurl’d
but the religious man, undazzled by these glories and unimposed on by these values, seeks freedom, ‘freedom from all embarrassment alike of regret for the past and calculation on the future,’ freedom from the encumbrance of extraneous motives and parasitic opinions, which is the sole condition of the intellectual integrity he values more than anything else. Life to him is not a game of skill, people and events are not counters valued for something to be gained, or achieved, beyond them. In the extemporary life he deserves to live, nothing is of final worth except present insight, a grasp of the thing itself, and the only failure to fall back on that ‘anodyne of muddledom’ by which men seek to substitute mere extent of knowledge, or a career, or this idea of a contribution, for the too difficult task of attaining a personal sensibility.
Memento vivere is the sole precept of religion; and the religious man knows how easy it is to forget to live. But he has the courage to know what belongs to life, and, with it, steps outside the tedious round of imitation by which the world covers up it ignorance of what it is alive for…