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twentieth to his ruin or disadvantage ? But because the mind cannot be always in its fervours, nor strained up to a pitch of virtue, it is necessary to find out proper employment for it in its relaxations.
The next method therefore that I would propose to fill up our time, should be useful and innocent diversions. I must confess I think it is below reasonable creatures to be altogether conversant in such diversions as are merely innocent, and have nothing else to recommend them, but that there is no hurt in them. Whether any kind of gaming has even thus much to say for itself, I shall not determine; but I think it is very wonderful to see persons of the best sense passing away a dozen hours together in shuf. fling and dividing a pack of cards, with no other conversation but what is made up of a few game phrases, and no other ideas but those of black or red spots ranged together in different figures. Would not a man laugh to hear any one of this species complaining that life is short
The stage might be made a perpetual source of the most noble and useful entertainments, were it under proper regulations.
But the mind never unbends itself so agreeably as in the conversation of a well-chosen friend. There is indeed no blessing of life that is any way comparable to the enjoyment of a discreet arid virtuous friend. It eases and unloads the mind, clears and improves the understanding, engenders thoughts and knowledge, animates virtue and good resolutions, soothe; and allays the passions, and finds employinent for most of the vacant hours of life.
Next to such an intimacy with a particular person, one would endeavour after a more general conversation with such as are able to entertain and improve those with whom they converse, which are qualifications that seldom go asunder.
There are many other useful amusements of life which one would endeavour to multiply, that one might on, all occasions have recourse to something, rather than suffer the mind to lie idle, or run adrift with any passion that chances to rise in it,
A man that has a taste in music, painting, or architecture, is like one that has another sense, when compared with such as have no relish of those arts. The florist, the planter, the gardener, the husbandman, when they are only as accomplishments to the man of fortune, are great reliefs to a country life, and many ways useful to those who are possessed of chein.
But of all the diversions of life, there is none sa proper to fill up its empty spaces as the reading of useful and entertaining authors. But this I shall only touch upon, because it in some measure interterés with the third method, which I shall propose in another paper, for the employment of our dead uactive hours, and which I shall only mention in general to be the pursuit of knowledge.
N° 94. MONDAY, JUNE 18, 1711.
MART. Epig. xxiii. 10.
By looking back with pleasure to the past.
He last method which I proposed in my Saturday's paper, for filling up those empty spaces of life which are so tedious and burdensome to idle
people, is-the employing ourselves in the pursuit of knowledge. I remember Mr. Boyle, speaking of a certain mineral, tells
a man may consume his whole life in the study of it, without arriving at the knowledge of all its qualities. The truth of it is, there is not a single science, or any branch of it, that might not furnish a man with business for life, though it were much longer than it is.
I shall not here engage on those beaten subjects of the usefulness of knowledge, nor of the pleasure and perfection it gives the mind; nor on the me
thods of attaining it, nor recommend any particular branch of it; all, which have been the topics of many other writers : but shall indulge myself in a speculation that is more uncommon, and inay there- . fore perhaps be more entertaining.,
I have before shewn bow the unemployed parts of life appear long and tedious, and shall here endeavour to shew how those parts of life which are exercised in study, reading, and the pursuits of know: ledge, are long, but not tedious, and by that means discover a method of lengthening our lives, and at the same time of turning all the parts of them to our advantage.
Mr. Locke observes, " That we get the idea of time or duration, by reflectiog on that train of ideas which succeed one another in our minds : that for this reason, when we sleep soundly without dreaming, we have no perception of time, or the length of it whilst we sleep; and that the moment wherein we leave off to think, till the moment we begin to think again, seem to have no distance.? To which the author adds, and so I doubt not but it would be to a waking man, if it were possible for him to keep 01ly one idea in his mind, without variation, and the succession of others; and we see, that one who fixes his thoughts very intently on one thing, so as to take but little notice of the succession of ideas that pass in his mind whilst he is taken up with thaë earnest contemplation, lets slip out of his account a good part of that duration, and thinks that time shorter than it is*.!
We might carry this thought further, and consider a man as, on one side, shortening his time by thinking on nothing, or but a few things; so on the other, as lengthening it, by employing his thoughts on many subjects, or by entertaining a quick and constant succession of ideas. Accordingly, monsieur Mallebranche, in his Inquiry after Truth, (which was published several years before Mr. Locke's Essay on Human Understanding) tells us, that it is
o * Essay on Human Understanding, b. ii. ch. xiv. sect. 4.
possible some creatures may think half an hour as long as we do a thousand
that space of duration which we call a minute, as an hour, a week, a month, or a whole age.'
This notion of monsieur Mallebranche is capable of some little explanation from what I have quoted out of Mr. Locke ; for if our notion of time is produced by our reflecting on the succession of ideas in our mind, and this succession may be infinitely accelerated or retarded, it will follow, that different beings may have different notions of the same parts of duration, according as their ideas, which we suppose are equally distinct in each of them, follow one another in a greater or less degree of rapidity.
There is a famous passage in the Alcoran, which looks as if Mahomet had been possessed of the notion we are now speaking of. It is there said, that the Angel Gabriel took Mahomet out of his bed one morning to give him a sight of all things in the seven licavens, in paradise, and in hell, which the prophet took a distinet view of; and after having held ninety thousand conferences with God, was brought back again to his bed. All this, says the Alcoran, was trausacted in so small a space of time, that Mahomet at his return found his bed still warm, and took up an earthen pitcher, which was thrown down at the very instant that the Angel Gabriel carried him away, before the water was all spilt*.
There is a very pretty story in the Turkish tales which relates to this passage of that famous impostor, and bears some affinity to the subject we are now upon. A sultan of Egypt, who was an infidel, used to laugh at this circumstance in Mahomet’s life, as what was altogether impossible and absurd: but conversing one day with a great doctor in the law, wlso had the gift of working miracles, the doctor told
* The Koran (Al Koran) has been searched for this passage; but no such relation is to be found in it. In a Life of Mahomet (London, 8vc. 1712) we find a passage something similar, but rather less extravagant, as it extends the duration of the journey to a “ tenth part of the night."
him he would quickly convince him of the truth of this passage in the history of Mahomet, if he would consent to do what he would desire of him. Upon this the Sultan was directed to place himself by a huge tub of water, which he did accordingly; and as he stood by the tub amidst a circle of his great men, the holy man bid him plunge his head into the water and draw it up again. The king accordingly thrust his head into the water, and at the same time found himself at the foot of a mountain on a seashore. The king immediately began to rage against his doctor for this piece of treachery and witchcraft; but at length, knowing it was in vain to be angry, he set himself to think on proper methods for getting a livelihood in this strange country. Accordingly he applied himself to some people whom he saw at work in a neighbouring wood; these people conducted him to a town that stood at a little distance from the wood, where, after some adventures, he married a woman of great beauty and fortune. He lived with this woman so long, that he had by her seven sons and seven daughters. He was afterwards reduced to great want, and forced to think of plying in the streets as a porter for his livelihood, One day as he was walking alone by the sea-side, being seized with many melancholy reflections on his former and his present state of life, which had raised a fit of devotion in him, he threw off his clothes with a design to wash himself, according to the custom of the Mahometans, before he said his prayers.
After his first plunge into the sea, he no sooner raised his head above the water but he found himself standing by the side of the tub, with the great men of his court about him, and the holy man at his side. He immediately upbraided his teacher for having sent him on such a course of adventures, and betrayed bim into so long a state of misery and servitude; but was wonderfully surprised when he heard the state he talked of was only a dreamy and delusion; that he had not stirred from the place