The chief source of voluntary interest lies in desire

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Unformatted text preview: nciple of activity. At the outset of life interest is in the main involuntary and is aroused by the sights, sounds and happenings of the outer world. As time goes on, as the organism develops, as memories of past experiences become active, as peculiarities of personality develop, and as instincts reach activity, interest commences to take definite direction, to become canalized, so to speak. In fact, the development of interest is from the diffuse involuntary form of early childhood to a specialization, a condensation into definite voluntary channels. This development goes on unevenly, and is a very variable feature in the lives of all of us. Great ability expresses itself in a sustained interest; a narrow character is one with overdeformed, too narrow interest; failure is often the retention of the childish character of diffuse, involuntary interest. And the capacity to sustain interest depends not only on the special strength of the various abilities of the individual, but remarkably on his energy and health. Sustained "voluntary" interest is far more fatiguing than involuntary interest, and where fatigue is already present it becomes difficult and perhaps impossible. Thus after much work, whether physical or mental, during and after illness--especially in influenza, in neurasthenic states generally, or where there is an inner conflict--interest in its adult form is at a low ebb. There are two main directions which interest may take, because there are two worlds in which we live. There is the inner world of our feelings, our thoughts, our desires and our struggles,[1]--and there is the outer world, with its people, its things, its hostilities, its friendships, its problems and facts, its attractions and repulsions. Man divides his interest between the two worlds, for in both of them are the values of existence. The chief source of voluntary interest lies in desire and value, and though these are frequently in coalescence, so that the thing we desire is the thing we value, more often they are not in coalescence and then we have the divided self that James so eloquently describes. So there are types of men to whom the outer world, wheth...
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