ANY one who has been called upon, in the course of a busy life, to
induce people to work with him or at least to keep from hindering the
task in hand, must have had daily occasion for observing--to his immense
irritation, sorrow, or disgust--individuals who seem to suffer from a
more or less complete paralysis of will.
Such experiences are so frequent in the ordinary executive's life that
he ends by building up a museum of psychological types inside his mind,
grouping his past tormentors according to their similarities or
variations, and recognising new ones at a glance--marking them with
appropriate labels in order to govern his attitude toward them
Here, for instance, is the 'Visionary," the "day-dreamer"--the
individual who is always having big ideas. He impresses us with his
glowing exposition of the first one; but we soon find there is nothing
in it. He comes back with a second, and again we listen to him.
hopefully. Finally after repeated disappointments we set him down in our
minds as a person who is never to be taken seriously.
This man is a man whose brain is fertile in plans, schemes, intentions;
but when he has made those plans, elaborated those schemes, announced
those intentions, talking of them as though they were imminent
realities, he suddenly forgets all about them; or, indeed, if he does go
so far as to attempt to carry them out, he shortly finds that they are
not so glorious as he had thought, loses interest in them, throws them
aside, to come back with another set of plans, schemes, and intentions,
which he puts forward with the same results. If we, for our part, soon
lose faith in this person, he never loses faith in himself; so
over-bubbling, so irrepressible, so uncontrollable is this faculty he
has for conceiving grand conceptions and dreaming great dreams.
Here again is another sort of person--the timid, over-cautious
individual, the man who is never sure of himself, the man who never gets
anything done; because, when he sets out to do a piece of work, he finds
his mind obsessed with all the possible consequences of the steps he is
about to take, tries to guard against them all; and, since such
possibilities are infinite in number, shifts uneasily from fear to fear,
till he ends by never starting.
Or still again we meet the "broken spirit," the "discouraged man," the
person who seems bound to a past that will never return, who cannot
adapt himself to the present, and is ever helpless and inactive before
the problem of the moment.
One could think of numberless other "types"; but these three will be
sufficient for our purposes. What is the matter with such people? The
first, we might say, lacks "executive ability," practical insight into
things--in the language of the philosopher, concreteness; the second
lacks courage, determination, initiative; the third lacks enthusiasm,
buoyancy, healthy interest in life.
What I am going to say, however, is that they are all three deficient in
the same thing: they are all deficient in will--in the will that means
concreteness, means courage, means interest in life. And what, we may
further ask, do they have to compensate for their deficiency? They
have nothing--or to use philosophical terms again, they have Non-being
itself; and that is the terrible thing about their anguish, as well as
the reason for it.