The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Sensations Feelings Emotions
by The Editor [Charlotte Mason]
Children whose parents have little theoretic knowledge of the values of the various food-stuffs are often thoroughly nourished; their parents rely on what they call common sense; and the result is, on the whole, better than if scientific consideration were given to the family dietary. But this common sense has usually scientific opinion for its basis, though the fact may be forgotten, and when scientific opinion has become the ground-work of habit it is of more value, and works in a more simple way, than while it is still in the stage of experiment. In the same way it is a good thing to have such an acquaintance with the functions of human nature that we act on our knowledge unconsciously, and do not even know that we possess it. But if we have no such floating capital of cognizance we must study the subject, even if we have to make experiments. Most people suppose that the sensations, feelings and emotions of a child are matters that take care of themselves. Indeed, we are apt to use the three terms indiscriminately, without attaching very clear ideas to them. But they cover, collectively, a very important educational field, and though common sense, that is to say judgments formed upon inherited knowledge, often helps us to act wisely if we act reasonably.
Let us consider, first, the subject of sensations. We speak of sensations of cold, and sensations of heat, and sensations of fear and sensations of pleasure, and we are commonly wrong. The sensations have their origin in impressions received by the several organs of sense--eye, tongue, nostrils, ear, the surface of the external skin--and are conveyed by the sensory nerves, some to the spinal cord and some to the lower region of the brain. Many sensations we know nothing about; when we become aware of our sensations it is because communications are sent by nerve fibres, acting as telegraph wires, from the sensorium to the thinking brain, and this happens when we give our attention to any one of the multitudinous messages carried by the sensory nerves. The physiology of the senses is too complicated a subject for us to touch upon here, but it is deeply interesting, and perhaps no better introduction exists than Professor Clifford's little book, Seeing and Thinking (Macmillan). Now the senses are "The Five Gateways of Knowledge," to quote the title of a little book which many of us have used in early days; and a person is intelligent or otherwise in proportion as he is aware of an capable of forming judgments upon the sensations he receives. One caution is necessary: from the very first a child's sensations should be treated as matters of objective and not of subjective interest. Marmalade, for example, is interesting, not because it is "nice"--a fact not to be dwelt upon at all--but because one can discern in it different flavours and the modifying effect of the oil secreted in the rind of the orange. We shall have occasion to speak more of this subject later; but a very important piece of education is this of centring a child's interest in the objects which produce his sensations and not in himself as the receiver of these sensations.
The purpose of so-called object lessons is, to assist a child, by careful examination of a given object, to find out all he can about it by the use of his several senses. General information about the object is thrown in and lodges only because the child's senses have been exercised, and his interest aroused. Object lessons are a little in disfavour, just now, for two reasons. In the first place, miserable fragments are presented to the children which have little of the character of the object in situ, and are apt to convey inadequate, if not wrong, ideas. In the next place, object lessons are commonly used as a means to introduce children to hard words, such as opaque and translucent, which never become part of their living thought until they pick them up for themselves incidentally as they have need of them. But the abuse of this kind of teaching should not cause us to overlook its use. No child can grow up without daily object teaching, whether casual or of set purpose, and the more thorough this is the more intelligent and observant will he become. It is singular how few people are capable of developing an intelligent curiosity about the most attractive objects; except as their interest is stimulated from without. The baby is a wonderful teacher in this matter of object lessons. To be sure his single pupil is his own small self, but his progress is amazing. At first he does not see any difference between a picture of a cow and the living animal; big and little, far and near, hard and soft, hot and cold are all alike to him; he wishes to hold the moon in his pinafore, to sit on the pond, to poke his finger into the candle, not because he is a foolish little person, but because he is profoundly ignorant of the nature of the contents of this unintelligible world. But how he works! he bangs his spoon to try if it produces sound; he sucks it to try its flavour; he fumbles it all over and no doubt finds out whether it is hard or soft, hot or cold, rough or smooth; he gazes at it with the long gaze of infancy, so that he may learn the look of it; it is an old friend and an object of desire when he sees it again, for he has found out that there is much joy in a spoon. This goes on with great diligence for a couple of years, at the end of which time baby has acquired enough knowledge of the world to conduct himself in a very dignified and rational way.
This is what happens under Nature's teaching, and for the first five or six years of his life everything, especially everything in action, is an object of intelligent curiosity to the child--the street or the field is a panorama of delight, the shepherd's dog, the baker's cart, the man with the barrow, are full of vivid interest. He has a thousand questions to ask, he wants to know about everything; he has, in fact, an inordinate appetite for knowledge. We soon cure all that: we occupy him with books instead of things; we evoke other desires in place of the desire to know; and we succeed in bringing up the unobservant man (and more unobservant woman), who discerns no difference between an elm, a poplar and a lime tree, and misses very much of the joy of living. By the way, why is it that the baby does not exercise with purpose his organ of smell? He screws up a funny little nose when he is taught to sniff at a flower, but this is a mere trick; he does not naturally make experiments as to whether things are odorous, while each of his other senses affords him keen joy. No doubt the little nose is involuntarily very active, but can his inertness in this matter be an hereditary failing? It may be that we all allow ourselves to go about with obtuse nostrils. If so, this is a matter for the attention of mothers, who should bring up their children on only to receive, which is involuntary and vague, but to perceive odours from the first.
Two points call for our attention in this education of the senses; we must assist the child to educate himself on nature's lines, and we must take care not to supplant and crowd out nature and her methods with that which we call education. Object lessons should be incidental; and this is where the family enjoys so great an advantage over the school. It is almost impossible that the school should give any but set lessons, but this sort of teaching in the family falls in with the occurrence of the object. The child who finds that wonderful and beautiful object, a wasp's nest, attached to a larch-twig, has his object lesson on the spot from father or mother. The grey colour, the round symmetrical shape, the sort of cup and ball arrangement, the papery texture, the comparative size, the comparative smoothness, the odour or lack of odour, the extreme lightness, the fact that it is not cold to the touch. These and fifty other particulars the child finds out unaided, or with no more than a word, here and there, to direct his observation. One does not every day find a wasp's nest, but much can be got out of every common object, and the commoner the better, which falls naturally under the child's observation, a piece of bread, a lump of coal, a sponge. In the first place it is unnecessary in the family to give an exhaustive examination to every object; one quality might be discussed in this, another quality in that. We eat our bread and milk and notice that bread is absorbent, and we overhaul our experience to discover other things which we know to be absorbent also, and we do what we can to compare these things as to whether they are less absorbent or more absorbent than bread. This is exceedingly important: the unobservant person states that an object is light and considers that he has stated an ultimate fact: the observant person makes the same statement, but has in his mind a relative scale, and his judgment is of the more value because he compares it silently with a series of substances to which this is relatively light. It is important that children should learn to recognise that high, low, sweet, bitter, long, short, agreeable, etc., etc., are comparative terms, while square, round, black, white, are positive terms, the application of which is not affected by comparison with other objects. Care in this matter makes for higher moral, as well as intellectual development: half the dissensions in the world arise from an indiscriminate use of epithets. "would you say your bread, (at dinner,) was light or heavy?" The child would probably answer, "rather light." "Yes, we can only say that a thing is light by comparing it with others; what is bread light compared with?" "A stone, a piece of coal, of cheese, of butter of the same size." "But it is heavy compared with?" "A piece of sponge cake, a piece of sponge, of cork, of pumice," and so on. "What do you think it weighs?" "An ounce, an ounce and a half." "We'll try after dinner; you had better have another piece and save it," and the weighing after dinner is a delightful operation. The power of judging of weight is worth cultivating. We heard the other day of a gentleman who was required at a bazaar to guess the weight of a monster cake; he said it weighed twenty-eight pounds fourteen ounces, and it did, exactly. Caeteris paribus, one has a greater respect for the man who made this accurate judgment than for the well-intentioned but vague person, who suggested that the cake might weigh ten pounds. Letters, book parcels, an apple, an orange, a vegetable marrow, fifty things in the course of the day give opportunities for this kind of object teaching, i.e., the power of forming accurate judgments as to the relative and absolute weight of objects by their resistance, which is perceived by our sense of touch, though opposed to our muscular force. By degrees the children are trained to perceive that the relative weights of objects depend upon their relative density, and are introduced to the fact that we have a standard of weight.
In the same way children should be taught to measure objects by the eye. How high is that candle-stick? How long and broad that picture-frame? and so on--verifying their statements. What is the circumference of that bowl? of the clock-face? of that flower-bed? How tall is so and so, and so and so? How many hands high are the horses of their acquaintance? Divide a slip of wood, a sheet of paper into halves, thirds, quarters by the eye; lay a walking stick at right angles with another; detect when a picture, curtain, etc., hangs out of the perpendicular. This sort of practice will secure for children what is called a correct or true eye.
A quick and true ear is another possession that does not come by nature, or anyway, if it does, it is too often lost. How many sounds can you distinguish in a sudden silence out of doors. Let these be named in order from the less to the more acute. Let the notes of the birds be distinguished, both call-notes and song-notes; the four or five distinct sounds to be heard in the flow of a brook. Cultivate accuracy in distinguishing footfalls and voices; in discerning, with their eyes shut, the direction from which a sound proceeds, in which footsteps are moving. Distinguish passing vehicles by their sounds; as lorry, broughan, dog-cart. Music is, no doubt, the instrument par excellence for this kind of ear culture. Our readers will probably recollect an article, entitled A Musical Baby, which appeared in the Parents' Review. This little boy seemed to the present writer a most interesting object lesson, himself, as illustrating what can be done by ear culture. Mrs. Curwen's Child Pianist puts carefully graduated means for this kind of culture into the hands of parents; and, if a child never become a performer, to have acquired a cultivated and correct ear is no small part of a musical education.
We do not attach enough importance to the discrimination of odours, whether as a safeguard to health, or as a source of pleasure. Half the people one knows have nostrils which register no difference between the atmosphere of a large, and so-called "airy," room, whose windows are never opened, and that of a room in which a through current of air is arranged for at frequent intervals; and yet health depends largely on a delicate perception as to the purity of the atmosphere. The odours which result in diphtheria or typhoid are perceptible, however faint, and a nose trained to detect the faintest malodorous particles in food, clothing, or dwelling, is a panoply against disease to the possessor. Then odours enter more into those
which add so much to the sum of our happiness, because they unite themselves so readily with our purely incorporeal joys by links of association. "I never smell woodruff without being reminded--" is the sort of thing we hear and say continually, but we do not trouble ourselves to realise that we owe a double joy to the odour of the woodruff (or it may be, alas! a reflected sorrow)--the joy of the pleasant influences about us when we pluck the flower, and the possibly more personal joy of that other time with which we associate it. Every new odour perceived is a source, if not of warning, of recurrent satisfaction or interest. We are acquainted with too few of the odours which the spring-time offers. Only this spring the present writer learned two peculiarly delightful odours quite new to her, that of young larch twigs, which have much the same kind and degree of fragrance as the flower of the syringa, and the pleasant musky aroma of a box-hedge. Children should be trained to shut their eyes; for example, when they come into the drawing-room and discover by their nostrils what odorous flowers are present, should discriminate the garden odours let loose by a shower of rain--
"Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded with perfumes, I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it.
* * * * *
The atmosphere is not a perfume, it has no taste of the distillation, it is odourless, It is for my mouth for ever, I am in love with it.
* * * * *
The sniff of green leaves, and dry leaves, and of the shore, and dark-coloured sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn."
--The American poet has, perhaps, done more than any other to express the pleasure to be found in odours. This is one direction in which much remains to be done; we have not yet arrived even at a scale of odours, as of sound and of colour.
Flavour, again, offers a wide range for delicate discrimination. At first sight it would appear difficult to cultivate the sense of flavour without making a child more or less of a gourmand, but the fact is that the strong flavours which titillate the palate destroy the power of perception. The young child who lives upon milk-foods has, probably, more pleasure in flavour than the diner-out, who is au fait with the confections of a cordon bleu. At the same time one would prefer to make flavour a source of interest rather than of sensuous pleasure to children: it is better that they should try to discern a flavour with their eyes shut, for example, than that they should be allowed to think or say that things are "nice" or "nasty." This sort of fastidiousness should be cried down. It is not well to make a child eat what he does not like, as that would only make him dislike that particular dish always, but to let him feel that he shows a want of self-control and manliness when he expresses distaste for wholesome food is likely to have a lasting effect.
We have barely touched on the sorts of Object Lessons, appealing now to one sense and now to another, which should come incidentally every day in the family. We are apt to regard a Red Indian as a quite uneducated person; he is, on the contrary, highly educated in so far as that he is able to discriminate sensory impressions, and to take action upon these in a way which is bewildering to the book-learned European. It would be well for parents to educate a child, for the first half-dozen years of his life at any rate, on "Red Indian" lines. Besides the few points we have mentioned, he should be able to discriminate colours and shades of colours; relative degrees of heat in woolen, wood, iron, marble, ice; should learn the use of the thermometer; should discriminate objects according to their degrees of hardness; should have cultivated eye and touch for texture; should, in fact, be able to get as much information about an object from a few minutes' study as to its form, colour, texture, size, weight, qualities, parts, characteristics, as he could learn out of many pages of a printed book. We approach the subject by the avenue of the child's senses rather than by that of the objects to be studied, because just now we have in view the occasional test exercises, the purpose of which is to give thorough culture to the several senses. An acquaintance with nature and natural objects is another thing, and is to be approached in a slightly different way. A boy who is observing a beetle does not consciously apply his several senses to the beetle, but lets the beetle take the initiative, so to say, which the boy reverently follows: but the boy who is in the habit of doing daily sensory gymnastics will learn a great deal more about the beetle than he who is not so trained. Definite Object Lessons differ from these incidental exercises in that an object is in a manner exhausted by each of the senses in turn and every atom of information it will yield got out of it. A good plan is to make this sort of a lesson a game, pass your object round--piece of bread, for example--and let each child tell some fact that he discovers by touch, another round by smell, again by taste, and again by sight. Children are most ingenious in this kind of game, and it affords opportunities to give them new words, as friable, elastic, when they really ask to be helped to express some discovery they have made. The children learn to think with exactitude too, to distinguish between friable and brittle for example, and any common information that is offered to them in the course of these exercises becomes a possession for ever. A good game in the nature of an object lesson, suitable for a birthday party, is to have a hundred small objects arranged on a table, unknown to the children, then lead the little party into the room, allow them three minutes to walk round the table and then, when they have left the room, let them write, or tell in a corner, the names of all the objects they recollect. Some children will easily get fifty or sixty.
No doubt the best and happiest exercise of the senses springs out of a loving familiarity with the world of nature, but the sorts of gymnastics we have indicated render the perceptions more acute and are greatly enjoyed by children. That the sensations should not be permitted to minister unduly to the subjective consciousness of the child is the great point to be borne in mind.
SENSATIONS, FEELINGS, EMOTIONS Part II Pgs 614-621
"These beauteous Forms,
Insight--the so to speak scientific grip of a great poet--is amongst those "more things" in heaven and earth than our philosophy has dreamed of. Wordsworth tells us that after the lapse of years, "these beauteous Forms" (of Tintern Abbey) gave him sensations. Now we are apt to think that sensations can only be immediate, perceived on the instant that the object is present to the senses; but the poet is, as usual, absolutely right: we may have, so to speak, reflected sensations, as well as those that are immediate, because a conscious sensation depends upon the recognition of an impression in the sensory centres, and this recognition may be evoked, not only by a repeated sensation, but by an association which recalls the image once permanently impressed by the original sensation. Wordsworth is exquisitely right when he speaks of the repeated enjoyment of "sensations sweet." "In lonely rooms and 'mid the din of towns and cities" some sudden touch of the chords of association has brought to him the soothing joy of a picture--"Forms" with every grace of symmetry, harmony, venerable antiquity, in the fresh and gracious setting of a beautiful landscape. The eye of his mind is infinitely gladdened; the ear of his mind, no longer conscious of the din of cities, hears the chord struck by the Wye in its flow, and the notes of the birds and the lowing of the cattle and the lower notes of the insect world. Again he perceives the odours of the meadow-sweet, he touches the coolness of the grass: and all these are as absolutely sensations as when they were for the first time conveyed to his consciousness by the sensory organs.
We have in these few lines a volume of reasons why we should fill the storehouse of memory for the children with many open-air images, capable of giving them reflected sensations of delight. Our care all the time must be to secure that they do look, and listen, touch, and smell; and the way to this is by sympathetic action on our part: what we look at they will look at; the odours we perceive they too will get. We heard, the other day, of a little girl who traveled in Italy with her parents, in the days of dignified family traveling-carriages. The child's parents were conscientious, and time was precious, not by any means to be wasted on the mere idleness of traveling; so the governess and the little girl had the coupé to themselves, and in it were packed all the paraphernalia of the school-room, and she did her sums, learned her geography, probably the counties of England, and all the rest of it, with the least possible waste of time in idle curiosity as to what the "faire londes," through which she was passing, might be like. A story like this shows that we are making advances; but we are still far from fully recognising that our part in the education of children, should be thoughtfully subordinated to that played by Nature herself.
To continue our study of this amazingly accurate, as well as exquisitely beautiful, psychological record:--the poet goes on to tell us that these sensations sweet are "felt in the blood and felt along the heart"--a statement curiously true to fact. A pleasurable sensation causes the relaxation of the infinitesimal nerve fibres netted around the capillaries; the blood flows freely, the heart beats quicker, the sense of well-being is increased; gaiety, gladness supervene; and the gloom of the dull day, and the din of the busy city exist for us no more. That is to say, memories of delight are, as it were, an elixir of life capable, when they present themselves, of restoring us at any moment to a condition of physical well-being. But even this is not the whole. Wordsworth speaks of these memories as "passing into my purer mind with tranquil restoration "--purer because less corporeal, less affected by physical conditions, but all the same so intimately related to the physical brain, that the condition of the one must rule the other. Mind and brain perhaps have been alike fagged by the insistent recurrence of some one line of thought, when suddenly there flashes into the "purer mind" the cognition of images of delight, re-presented in consequence of a touch to some spring of association: the current of thought is diverted into new and delightful channels, and weariness and brain-fag give place to "tranquil restoration."
If mere sensations are capable of doing so much for our happiness, our mental refreshment, and our physical well-being, both at the time of their reception and for an indefinite number of times afterwards, it follows that it is no small part of our work as educators to preserve the acuteness of the children's perceptions, and to store their memories with images of delight.
The poet pursues the investigation and makes a pointed distinction; he not only recovers "sensations sweet," but "feelings, too, of unremembered pleasure." Very few persons are capable of discriminating between the sensations and the feelings produced by an image recovered by some train of association. Wordsworth's psychology is not only delicately nice, but very just, and the distinction he draws is important to the educator. The truth is "the feelings" are out of fashion at present; The Man of Feeling is a person of no account; if he still exists he keeps in the shade, being aware, through a certain quickness of perception which belongs to him, that nay little efflorescence proper to his character would be promptly reduced to pulp by the application of a sledge hammer. The Man of Feeling has himself to thank for this; he allowed his feelings to become fantastic; his sweet sensibilities ran away with him; he meant pathos and talked bathos; he became an exaggerated type; and in self-preservation Society always cuts off the offending limb, so The Man of Feeling is no more. Nor is this the only charge that "the feelings" have to sustain. So long as the feelings remain objective they are, like the bloom to the peach, the last perfection of a beautiful character; but when they become subjective, when every feeling concerns itself with the ego, we have, as in the case of sensations, morbid conditions set up; the person begins by being "over sensitive," hysteria supervenes, perhaps melancholia, an utterly spoilt life. George Eliot has a fine figure which aptly illustrates the subjective condition of the feelings. She tells us that a surface of a mirror or of a steel plate may be covered with minute scratches going in every direction, if you hold a lighted candle to the surface all these random scratches appear to arrange themselves and radiate from the central flame: just so with the person whose feelings have been permitted to minister to his egoistic consciousness: all things in heaven and earth are "felt" as they affect his own personality.
What are the feelings? Perhaps they are best expressed in Coleridge's phrase of "a vague appetency of the mind"; but we may do something to clear our thoughts by a negative examination. The feelings are not sensations, because they have no necessary connection with the senses; they are to be distinguished from the two great affections (of love and justice) because they are not actively exercised upon any objects; they are distinct from the desires because they demand no gratification; and they are distinguishable from the intellectual operations which we call thought, because while thought proceeds from an idea, is active, and arrives at a result, the feelings arise from perceptions, are passive, and not definitely progressive! Every feeling has its positive and its negative, and these in almost infinitely varying degrees: pleasure, displeasure; appreciation, depreciation; anticipation, foreboding; admiration, contempt; assurance, hesitancy; diffidence, complacency; and so on through many more delicate nuances of feeling that are nameable; and yet more so delicate that language is too rough an instrument for their expression. It will be observed that all these feelings have certain conditions in common: none are distinctly moral or immoral; they have not arrived at the stage of definite thought; they exist vaguely in what would appear to be a semi-conscious intellectual region. Why then need we concern ourselves about this least known tract of that terra incognita which we call human nature? This "why" is the question of the prose-philosopher; our poet sees deeper. In one of the most exquisitely discriminating passages in the whole field of poetry, he speaks of feelings of unremembered pleasure as having no slight or trivial influence on a good man's life, as the source of "little nameless unremembered acts of kindness and of love." Even the feeling of "unremembered pleasure"-for it is possible to have the spring of association touched so lightly that one recovers the feeling of former pleasure without recovering the sensation, or the image which produced the sensation, but merely just the vague feeling of the pleasure, as when one hears the word Lohengrin and does not wait, as it were, to recover the sensation of musical delight, but just catches a waft of the pleasure which the sensation brought-intangible, indefinite as they are, produce that glow of the heart which warms a good man to "acts of kindness and of love," as little, as nameless and as unremembered as the feelings out of which they spring. Nameless as they are, our poet does not hesitate to rank these trifling acts as the "best portion of a good man's life." But it is only out of the good man's heart that these good issues come, because, as we have said, the feelings are not in themselves moral, they act upon that which is there, and the point brought before us is that the influence of the feelings is as powerful as it is indirect. Why should the recollection of Tintern Abbey cause a good man to do some little kind thing? We can only give the ultimate answer "that God has made us so," that a feeling of even unremembered pleasure prompts the good man to give forth out of the good treasure of his heart in kindness and in love. We have but to think of the outcome of feelings at the negative pole to convince ourselves of the nice exactitude of the poet's psychology. We are not exactly displeased, but unpleased, dull, not quickened by any feeling of pleasure: let us ask ourselves if, in this condition of our feelings, we are prompted to any outpouring of love and kindness upon our neighbours.
This is an aspect of the feelings of very great importance to us who have the education of children.
"I do not like you Doctor Fell,
is a feeling we all know well enough, and is, in fact, that intuitive perception of character--one of our finest feelings and best guides in life--which is too apt to be hammered out of us by the constant effort to beat down our sensibilities to the explicit and definite. One wonders why people complain of faithless friends, untrustworthy servants, and disappointed affections. If the feelings were retained in truth and simplicity, there is little doubt that they would afford for each of us such a touchstone of character in the persons we come in contact with, that we should be saved from making exigeant demands on the one hand, and from suffering disappointment on the other. The public orator plays, by preference, upon the gamut of the feelings. He throws in arguments by the way; brightens his discourse with graphic word-picture, metaphor, simile; but, for his final effect he relies upon the impression he has been able to make upon the feelings of his audience, and the event proves him to be right.
Not only our little nameless acts but the great purposes of our lives arise out of our feelings. Enthusiasm itself is not thought, though it arises when we are
"Stung with the rapture of a sudden thought;"
it is a glowing, malleable condition of the forces of our nature, during which all things are possible to us, and we only wait for a lead. Enthusiasm in its earliest stage is inconsequent, incoherent, devoid of purpose, and yet is the state out of which all the great purposes of life shape themselves. We feel, we think, we say, we do; this is the genesis of most of our activities.
But our feelings, as our thoughts, depend upon what we are; we feel in all things as "'tis our nature to," and the point to be noticed is that our feelings are educable, and that in educating the feelings we modify the character. A pressing danger of our day is that the delicate task of educating, shall be exchanged for the much simpler one of blunting the feelings. This is the usual result of a system where training is given en masse, but not the necessary result, because the tone of feeling of a head master or mistress is conveyed, more or less, to a whole school. Still, perhaps, the perfect bloom of the feelings can only be preserved under quite judicious individual culture, and, therefore, necessarily devolves upon parents. The instrument to be employed in this culture is always the same--the blessed sixth sense of Tact. It is possible to call up the feeling one desires by a look, a gesture; to dissipate it by the rudeness of a spoken word. Our silence, our sympathy, our perception, give place and play to fit feelings, while they discourage, and cause to slink away ashamed, the feeling which should not have place. But let us beware of words; let us use our eyes and our imagination in dealing with the young; let us see what they are feeling and help them by the flow of our responsive feeling. Words, even words of praise and tenderness, touch this delicate bloom of nature as with a hot finger, and behold! it is gone. Let us consider carefully what feelings we wish to stimulate, and what feelings we wish to repress in our children, and then, having made up our minds, let us say nothing. We all know the shrinking, as of a sore place, with which children receive some well-meant word from a tactless friend.
The sense of spiritual touch is our only guide in this region of the feelings, but with this alone we may tune the spirits of the children to great issues, believing that they are capable of all things great. We wish them to revere. Now, reverence is a feeling before it becomes a thought or an act, and it is a communicable feeling, but communicable like the flame of a torch, only by touch. The sentiment of reverence fills our own souls when we see a bird on its nest, an old man at his cottage door, a church in which have centred the aspirations of a village for many an age; we feel, and the children feel our feeling, and they feel too: a feeling is communicated by sympathy, but perhaps in no other way. The ignoble habit of depreciation is in the first place a feeling. It is quite easy to put the children into that other attitude of feeling called forth by the fitness and goodness of the thing regarded, and we all know that it is easy to appreciate or depreciate the same thing. These opposed feelings illustrate the importance of the delicate culture we have in view, for among the minor notes of character none tend more to differentiate persons than this of perceiving cause of dissatisfaction in the same object or person. An appreciative habit of feeling is a cause of tranquil joy to its possessor, and of ease and contentment to the people connected with him. A depreciative habit, on the contrary, though it affords a little pleasurable excitement because it ministers to the vanity of the ego (I dislike this person or this thing, therefore I know better or am better than others), disturbs tranquility and puts the person out of harmony with himself and with his surroundings; no stable joy comes of depreciation. But even in dealing with feelings of this class we must remember that tact, sympathy and communicable feeling are our only implements; the feelings are not thoughts to be reasoned down; they are neither moral nor immoral to challenge our praise or our blame; we cannot be too reticent in our dealings with them in children, nor too watchfully aware that the least inadvertence may bruise some tender blossom of feeling. This is the risk which attends the habit of persiflage and banter in the family talk; a little thoroughly good and wholesome, but this kind of play should be used with very great tact especially by the elders. Children understand each other so well that there is far less risk of hurt feelings from the tormenting school-boy, than from the more considerate elder.
There is only one case in which the feelings may not have free play, and that is when the reflect the consciousness of the ego. What are commonly called sensitive feelings--that is, susceptibility for oneself and about oneself, readiness to perceive neglect or slight, condemnation or approbation--though belonging to a find and delicate character, are in themselves of a less worthy order, and require very careful direction lest morbid conditions should be set up. To ignore wisely is an art, and the girl who craves to know what you thought of her when she said this or did the other, need not be totally brutally that you did not think of her at all; it is quite enough for her to perceive that your regard is fixed upon something impersonal both to her and you; she takes the hint and looks away from herself, and nothing is said to cause her pain. It appears to be an immutable law that our feelings, as our sensations, must find their occupation in things without; the moment they are turned in upon themselves harm is done. The task of dealing with the susceptibilities of young people is one of the most delicate that falls to us elders, whether we be parents or friends. Undiscriminating sympathy is very perilous, and bluntness of perception is very damaging; we are between Scylla and Charybdis and must needs walk humbly and warily in this delicate work of dealing with the feelings of children and young people. Our only safeguard is to cherish in ourselves "the soft, meek, tender soul," sensitive to the touch of God and able to deal in "soft, meek, tender ways" with children, being of find and delicate mould as they are.
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