Food #6: The True Journey of Soul- "The Solitude of Self"
An American Statement of Human Rights Which is as Important as the Declaration or Constitution!
"The point I wish plainly to bring before you is the individuality of each soul. It combines our American Protestant idea, the right of individual conscience and judgment, and our republican idea, individual citizenship.
In discussing the rights of woman (same as the rights of man), we are to consider what belongs to her as an individual, in a world of her own, the arbiter of her own destiny, an imaginary Robinson Crusoe on a solitary island. Her rights under such circumstances are to use all her talent for her own safety and happiness.
The isolation of every human soul and the necessity of self-dependence must give each individual the right, to choose his own surroundings. "Nature never repeats herself, and the possibilities of one human soul will never be found in another."
The strongest reason for giving woman all the opportunities for higher education, for the full development of her faculties, forces of mind and body; for giving her the most enlarged freedom of thought and action; a complete emancipation from all forms of bondage, of custom, dependence, superstition; from all rippling influences of fear, is the solitude and personal responsibility of her own individual life.
The strongest reason why we ask for woman a voice in the government under which she lives; in the religion she is asked to believe; equality in social life, where she is the chief factor; a place in the trades and professions, where she may earn her bread, is because of her birthright to self-sovereignty; because, as an individual, she must rely on herself.
No matter how much women prefer to lean, to be protected and supported, nor how much men desire to have them do so, they must make the voyage of life alone, and for safety in an emergency they must know something of the laws of navigation. To guide our own craft, we must be captain, pilot, engineer; with chart and compass to stand at the wheel; to match the wind and waves and know when to take in the sail, and to read the signs in the firmament over all.
It matters not whether the solitary voyager is man or woman. Nature having endowed them equally, leaves them to their own skill and judgment in the hour of danger, and, if not equal to the occasion, alike they perish. They appreciate the importance of fitting every human soul for independent action.
Think for a moment of the immeasurable solitude of self.
We come into the world alone, unlike all who have gone before us; we leave it alone under circumstances peculiar to ourselves. No mortal ever has been, no mortal over will be like the soul just launched on the sea of life. There can never again be just such environments as make up the youth and adulthood of each one.
No one has ever found two blades of ribbon grass alike, and no one will never find two human beings alike. Seeing, then, what must be the infinite diversity in human, character, we can in a measure appreciate the loss to a nation when any large class of the people in uneducated and unrepresented in the government.
We ask for the complete development of every individual, first, for his own benefit and happiness. In fitting out an army we give each soldier his own knapsack, arms, powder, his blanket, cup, knife, fork and spoon (see Rules for Being Human). We provide alike for all their individual necessities, then each bears his own burden.
We ask complete individual development for the general good; for the consensus of the competent on the whole round of human interest; on all questions and here each one must bear their share of the burden. It is sad to see how soon friendless children are left to bear their own burdens before they can analyze their feelings; before they can tell their joys and sorrows, they are thrown on their own resources.
The great lesson that nature seems to teach each and every one of us at all ages is self-dependence, self-protection, self-support.
In the hours of our keenest sufferings all are thrown wholly on themselves for consolation. In youth, our most bitter disappointments, our brightest hopes and ambitions are known only to ourselves, even our friendship and love we never fully share with another; there is something of passion in every situation we conceal.
Even so in our triumphs and our defeats. The solitude of the king on his throne and the prisoner in his cell differs in character and degree, but it is still solitude.
We ask no sympathy from others in the anxiety and agony of a broken friendship or shattered love. When death sunders our nearest ties, alone we sit in sorrow wrapped in the shadows of our affliction. Alike mid the greatest triumphs and darkest tragedies of life we walk alone. On the divine heights of human attainments, eulogized and worshiped as a hero or saint, we stand alone.
In ignorance, poverty, and vice, as a pauper or criminal, alone we starve or steal; alone we suffer the sneers and rebuffs of our fellows; alone we are hunted and hounded through dark courts and alleys, in by-ways and highways; alone we stand in the judgment seat; alone in the prison cell we lament our crimes and misfortunes; alone we expiate them on the gallows.
In hours like these we realize the awful solitude of individual life, its pains, its penalties, its responsibilities; hours in which the youngest and most helpless are thrown on their own resources for guidance and consolation. Seeing then that life must ever be a march and a battle, that each soldier must be equipped for his own protection, it is the height of cruelty to rob the individual of a single natural right.
To throw obstacles in the way of a complete education is like putting out eyes; to deny the rights of property, like cutting off hands. To deny political equality is to rob the ostracised of all self-respect; of credit in the market place; of payment in the world of work; of a voice among those who make and administer the law; a choice in the jury where they are tried, and in the judge who decides their fate.
Robbed of her natural rights, handicapped by law and custom at every turn, woman is yet compelled to fight her own battles, and in the emergencies of life to fall back on herself for protection.
The girl of sixteen, thrown on the world to support herself, to make her own place in society, to resist the temptations that surround her and maintain a spotless integrity, must do all this by native force or superior education. She does not acquire this power by being trained to trust others and distrust herself.
If she wearies of the struggle, finding it hard work to swim upstream, and allow herself to drift with the current, she will find plenty of company, but not one to share her misery in the hour of her deepest humiliation. If she tried to retrieve her position, to conceal the past, her life is hedged about with fears lest willing hands should tear the veil from what she fain would hide. Young and friendless, she knows the bitter solitude of self.
How the little courtesies of life on the surface of society, deemed so important from man towards woman, fade into utter insignificance in view of the deeper tragedies in which she must play her part alone, where no human aid is possible.
The young wife and mother, at the head of some establishment with a kind husband to shield her from the adverse winds of life, with wealth, fortune and position, has a certain harbor of safety, occurs against the ordinary ills of life. But to manage a household, have a desirable influence in society, keep her friends and the affections of her husband, train her children and servants well, she must have rare common sense, wisdom, diplomacy, and a knowledge of human nature. To do all this she needs the cardinal virtues and the strong points of character that the most successful statesman possesses.
An uneducated woman, trained to dependence, with no resources in herself must make a failure of any position in life. Society says women do not need knowledge of the world, the liberal training that experience in public life must give, all the advantages of college education; but when for the lack of all this, the woman's happiness is wrecked, alone she bears her humiliation; and the attitude of the weak and ignorant is pitiful in the wild chase for the price of life, they are ground to dust.
In age, when the pleasures of youth are passed, children grown up, married and gone, the hurry and hustle of life in a measure over, when the hands are weary of active service, when the old armchair and the fireside are the chosen resorts, then men and women alike must fall back on their own resources.
If they cannot find companionship in books, if they have no interest in the vital questions of the hour, no interest in watching the consummation of reforms, with which they might have been identified, they soon pass into their dotage. The more fully the faculties of the mind are developed and kept in use, the longer the period of vigor and active interest in all around us continues.
If from a lifelong participation in public affairs a woman feels responsible for the laws regulating our system of education, the discipline of our jails and prisons, the sanitary conditions of our private homes, public buildings, and thoroughfares, an interest in commerce, finance, our foreign relations, in any or all of these questions, here solitude will at least be respectable, and she will not be driven to gossip or scandal for entertainment. "Whatever the theories may be of woman's dependence on man, in the supreme moments of her life, he can not bear her burdens."
The chief reason for opening to every soul the doors to the whole round of human duties and pleasures is the individual development attained, the resources provided under all circumstances to mitigate the solitude that must come to everyone.
When one becomes acquainted with themselves and their own inner resources, they create a world of their own, a vast empire, that no jailer or king can invade. Such is the value of liberal thought and broad culture when shut off from all human companionship, bringing comfort and sunshine within the four walls of a prison.
As women often share a similar fate, should they not have all the consolation that the most liberal education can give? Their suffering in the prisons of St. Petersburg; in the long, weary marches to Siberia, and in the mines, working side by side with men, surely call for all the self-support that the most exalted sentiments can give.
When suddenly roused at midnight, with the startling cry of "fire!" to find the house over their heads in flames, do women wait for men to point the way to safety? And are the men, equally bewildered and half suffocated with smoke, in a position to do more than try to save themselves?
At such times the most timid women have shown a courage and heroism in saving their husbands and children that has surprised everybody. Inasmuch, then, as woman shares equally the joys and sorrows of time and eternity, is it not the height of presumption in man to propose to represent her at the ballot box as at the throne of grace as it is to do her voting in the state or her praying in the church.
Nothing strengthens the judgment and quickens the conscience like individual responsibility. Nothing adds such dignity to character as the recognition of one's self-sovereignty; the right to an equal place, every where conceded; a place earned by personal merit, not an artificial attainment, by inheritance, wealth, family, and position. Seeing that responsibilities of life rests equally on man and woman, that their destiny is the same, they need the same preparation for time and eternity.
The talk of sheltering woman from the fierce sterns of life is the sheerest mockery, for they beat on her from every point of the compass, just as they do on man, and with more fatal results, for he has been trained to protect himself and survive.
Such are the facts in human experience, such are the responsibilities of individual. Rich and poor, intelligent and ignorant, wise and foolish, virtuous and vicious, man and woman, it is ever the same, each soul must depend wholly on itself.
Whatever the theories may be of woman's dependence on man, in the supreme moments of her life he can not bear her burdens. Alone she goes to the gates of death to give life to every man that is born into the world. No one can share her fears, on one mitigate her pangs; and if her sorrow is greater than she can bear, alone she passes beyond the gates into the vast unknown.
Humanity has not yet risen to the point of self-sacrifice. Even if willing, how few the burdens are that one soul can bear for another. In the highways of Palestine; in prayer and fasting on the solitary mountain top; in the Garden of Gethsemane; before the judgment seat of Pilate; betrayed by one of His trusted disciples at His last supper; in His agonies on the cross, even Jesus of Nazareth, in these last sad days on earth, felt the awful solitude of self. Deserted by man, in agony he cries, "My God! My God! Why hast Thou forsaken me?"
And so it ever must be in the conflicting scenes of life, on the long weary march, each one walks alone. We may have many friends, love, kindness, sympathy and charity to smooth our pathway in everyday life, but in the tragedies and triumphs of human experience each mortal stands alone.
When all artificial limits are removed, and women are recognized as individuals, responsible for their own environments, thoroughly educated for all the positions in life they may be called to fill; with all the resources in themselves that liberal though and broad culture can give; guided by their own conscience and judgment; trained to self-protection by a healthy development of the muscular system and skill in the use of weapons of defense, and stimulated to self-support by the knowledge of the business world and the pleasure that financial independence must ever give; when women are trained in this way they will, in a measure, be fitted for those hours of solitude that come alike to all, whether prepared or otherwise.
As in our extremity we must depend on ourselves, the dictates of wisdom point of complete individual development. When women show their heroism, what special school of training could have prepared these women for this sublime moment of their lives? In such times, humanity rises above all college training and recognizes that nature is the greatest of all teachers in the hour of danger and death.
The truth is women are already the equals of men in the whole of ream of thought, in art, science, literature, and government. With telescopic vision, they explore the starry firmament, and bring back the history of the planetary world. With chart and compass, they pilot ships across the mighty deep, and with skillful fingers send electronic messages around the globe.
In art galleries, the beauties of nature and the virtues of humanity are immortalized by them on their canvas and by their inspired touch dull blocks of marble are transformed into angels of light. In music, they speak again the language of Chopin, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, and Schumann, and are their worthy interpreters.
The poetry and novels of the century are theirs, and they have touched the keynote of reform in religion, politics, and social life. They fill the editor's and professor's chair, and plead at the bar of justice, walk the wards of the hospital, and speak from the pulpit and the platform.
Such is the type of womanhood that an enlightened public sentiment welcomes today, and such the triumph of the facts of life over the false theories of the past.
Is it, then, consistent to hold the developed woman of this day within the same narrow political limits as the dame with the spinning wheel and knitting needle occupied in the past? No! no! Machinery has taken the labors of woman as well as man on its tireless shoulders; the loom and the spinning wheel are but dreams of the past; the pen, the brush, the easel, the chisel, have taken their places, while the hopes and ambitions of women are essentially changed.
We see reason sufficient in the outer conditions of human being for individual liberty and development, but when we consider the self dependence of every human soul, we see the need of courage, judgment, and the exercise of mind and body, strengthened and developed by use, in woman as well as man.
Whatever may be said of man's protecting power in ordinary conditions, mid all the terrible disasters by land and sea, in the supreme moments of danger, alone, woman must ever meet the horrors of the situation.
The Angel of Death makes no royal pathway for her. Man's love enters only into the sunshine of our lives. In that solemn solitude of self, that links us with the immeasurable and the eternal, each soul lives alone forever.
And yet, there is a solitude, which each and every one of us has always carried with him, more inaccessible than the ice-cold mountains, more profound than the midnight sea; the Solitude of Self .
Our inner being, which we call ourself, no eye nor touch of man or angel has ever pierced. It is more hidden than the caves of the gnome; the sacred adytum of the oracle; the hidden chamber of eleusinian mystery, for to it only omniscience is permitted to enter. Such is individual life. Who, I ask you, can take, dare take, on himself the rights, the duties, the responsibilities of another human soul?"
Here I will answer Mrs. Stanton. The answer is the "no one" can dare take upon themselves the "rights, the duties, the responsibilities of another human soul".
This was best summed up by Queen Elizabeth I of England when she said "I thank God I am endued with such qualities that if I were turned out of the realm in my petticoat, I were able to live any place in Christendom".
If you cannot say the same about yourself, then I ask you to take Elizabeth Cady Stanton's words about the "Solitude of Self" to heart.
Credits: abridged from Elizabeth Cady Stanton's "Address Delivered to Committee of the Judiciary of the US Congress" on Monday, January 18, 1892.
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