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“What are you doing?” said a neighbor to a man who stood with a hose pouring the water upon a pile of dishes on his lawn. “I am cleaning up, the missus comes home to-morrow.” He was no artist. He was working under compulsion.
The ideal sweeper sees the clean room under the dirt—the desk as a clean place for work, not for chaos and litter. (I am glad the reader cannot see my desk at this time).
Old Teufelsdroeckh was wrong. Dirt and confusion in a room where one works are a hindrance, not a help. “ Art,” somebody has said, “is the removal of rubbish.”
A wise man understood the matter perfectly when he said to a literary worker, “ Your illusion of overwork is due to such a vast number of unfinished things around you. Take hold of one thing and stick to it until it is finished. Then you will feel rested and like a new man. Nothing else will help you.”
The true artist sees the beautiful book that is to come forth from a vast number of scratched and dirty sheets.
Life is the greatest of all the arts, and expression is next to it because action and voice modulations, the true natural languages, are the direct signs of the motive springs of life. Tones and actions in their unity as interpreting words are closer to nature than is possible for any other art.
There is an element of truth in what some people say, that vocal expression is not art at all, that action of the body and the modulations of the voice are too near to Nature, that they cannot be sufficiently objectified to make art. They are only the material of art.
All art, however, is near to nature, the nearer the
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better. It is not the objectifying of art that makes it art. Nor is it the permanent record of expression. Art is art on account of the depth of our experience it expresses and the truthfulness of its revelation, whether it lives a thousand years or dies the moment it is born.
We must, however, recognize that it is through the glory of these languages and their artistic control that we do get so close to Nature. But for this very reason there is great danger of violating artistic principles.
The other arts are a little more artificial and objective, and external. Even song, though having a normal basis, has modulations of pitch which are not found in the more natural modulations in speech.
The other arts are, therefore, reflections or records of expression. They are human endeavors to embody objectively and permanently the processes and modes of expression in Nature.
Hence, the laws of the arts are found, as I say again and again, in some natural expression, such as the smile. Expression is the direct effect of the activity of being upon the action of the body.
The more immediately the emotion causes the outward motion, the greater the significance or expressiveness.
This is what the smile teaches us regarding expression. It manifests directly-immediatelythe true understanding of the nature of human life; a certain sense of gladness to meet even difficulties,-to regard the hill of difficulty before us not as an obstacle but an opportunity; and a teachable and receptive attitude toward life.
The walk that is a deep co-ordination of joy and expansion expresses courage and the fact that at every moment there is breathed into the man the breath of life,-that his creation is an eternal act of an eternal being, that he moves forward with confidence and strength.
Human art must reflect this intimacy between cause and effect. In proportion as it does so, will it produce the desired impression, not only to entertain, but to arouse and inspire.
It seems a most commonplace assertion to say that in all the arts, man must find their central laws and principles in the most direct of all modes of expression.
THE SMILE AND SUCCESS
This is the age for books on success. Everybody has to get off some kind of lecture on efficiency or write a work on salesmanship. By accident I made an investigation of one of the most illustrious schools of salesmanship in the country. I saw advertised a little book which I wished, and as I looked up and saw the sign in a large city I thought I would go in and purchase it. I was also a little curious at the moment to see what the institution was like, and to have a practical example of their marvellous theories.
I entered the door and was met by a handsome attendant; I asked for the book, or if she could tell me in what department I might find it. The attendant did not know of any such department, but talked about the greatness of the institution, and called a gentleman to whom I repeated my simple request. He told me about their methods of teaching salesmanship and of the great work they were doing for people. To them I was only an applicant-a supposed victim. I tried to disabuse his mind by telling him I simply called to purchase a book, but he turned me over to another gentleman who began a similar talk about the institution and the efficiency of their methods of teaching salesmanship. For the third time I stated my errand, and he turned from me a little disgusted and called another gentleman who came up and started to give me another lecture on the sub
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ject of efficiency. A little impatiently I inquired whether they had the book that was advertised. He looked at me in disgust, and I was about to pass out, when a young clerk arose in a very simple manner and said he would try to find the book. He returned in a few moments with it, and I went out a sadder but a wiser man.
With the exception of the humbler clerk-a stenographer or typewriter or bookkeeper-it was really the worst example of salesmanship that I ever saw, and I have seen some pretty bad examples in different cities of the world.
What is the real secret of salesmanship? It is no affected grin, no artificial or affected manner. It is no tremendous theories. It is a readiness to serve, simple attention and listening to what the other says, sympathetically endeavoring to give the person what he wishes. If we realize that, we can give him the information that he seeks. It is a question of coming into sympathetic touch with other men. The whole secret of it is found in the simplicity, sincerity and genuineness of the human smile.
If anyone can be taught to come into sympathetic touch with his fellow-men, and be able to think with them, to offer his services and listen to what another has to say, if he can be taught to smile genuinely, sincerely and naturally, he will get more of a key to salesmanship than all these profound courses and exaggerated theories can give. In our day we have so overworked the word “efficiency” that some people say they wish they might never hear it again.
The one secret of success is simplicity. Not a conventional smile, one that has lost its meaning, but one resulting from a sincere desire to serve.