Although I’m opposed to Victorian commitment to progress and improvement, sometimes their fervent commitment seems utterly unbelievable, even impressive. It makes me think of running a 5k with my sister who kept saying that she was tired. I assured her that we’d be able to take a nap after we finished, declaring, “We run so we can sleep!” John Stuart Mill would have nothing of this logic, insisting:
“If there is anything certain in human affairs, it is that valuable acquisitions are only to be retained by the continuation of the same energies which gained them. Things left to take care of themselves inevitably decay. Those whom success induces to relax their habits of care and thoughtfulness, and their willingness to encounter disagreeables, seldom long retain their good fortune at its height” (Considerations on Representative Government, 220).
Too true, Mill, too true. And, yet, I wonder about my continued willingness “to encounter disagreeables” and I haven’t even made any “valuable acquisitions” to leave to inevitable decay.