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Hawthorne – The Iron Rule of Our Day

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It is the iron rule in our day to require an object and a purpose in life. It makes us all parts of a complicated scheme of progress, which can only result in our arrival at a colder and drearier region than we were born in. It insists upon everybody’s adding somewhat–a mite, perhaps, but earned by incessant effort–to an accumulated pile of usefulness, of which the only use will be, to burden our posterity with even heavier thoughts and more inordinate labor than our own. No life now wanders like an unfettered stream; there is a mill wheel for the tiniest rivulet to turn. We go all wrong, by too strenuous a resolution to go all right.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Marble Faun, ch. 26 (1860) in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Novels p. 1050 (Library of America ed. 1983)

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