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controlling a dozen and one other matters, from the way one enters a room to the way one leaves it. The
savage is unrefined, say we, though he has his own standards of refinement. An American is a boor if he tucks
his napkin in at the neck and uses bread to sop up the gravy on his plate, whereas Italians find it perfectly
proper to do these things and find the bustle of the American life totally unrefined.
That refinement and developed taste are matters of convention and entirely relative is not a new thesis; it is an
old accepted truth. What I wish to point out is this, that every development in refinement adds some new
pleasure to the world but subtracts some old ones. He who develops his musical tastes from ragtime to the
classics finds joys he knew not of, but is offended and disgusted whenever he visits friends, attends a movie or
a theater. When people ate with their fingers there was little to be disgusted at in eating; when people need
spotless linen and eight or ten forks, knives, and spoons for a meal, a single disarrangement, a spot on the
linen, is intolerable. The higher one builds one's needs and tastes, the more opportunities for disgust,
disappointment and discontent.
Most of the people of the world have never understood this. To the majority, acquisition, the multiplication of
needs, desires and tastes constitute progress and seem to be the roads to happiness. Get rich, have horses,
autos, beautiful things in the house, servants, go where you please and when you please,--this is happiness.
The rich man knows it is not, and so does the wise man. Desires grow with each acquisition, the capacity for
satisfaction diminishes with every gratification, novelty disappears and with the growth of taste little
disharmonies offend deeply.
Some men have reacted in this way against gratification and satisfaction, against the building up of needs and
tastes, and in every age we hear of the "simple life," the happy, contented life, where needs are few and things
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- Spring '11