My Deal-Me-In Challenge has been going the way of my other challenges this year, but I thought with a few months left in the year, I might try to resurrect it and at least finish well. We’ll see …. In any case, I drew the queen of Spades, which gave me an essay entitled, What I Demand of Life by Frank Swinnerton.
At the age of 40, Swinnerton is evaluating his life: what he has experienced and musing on the years to come. While men can be failures in a number of ways, few fail from aiming too high, yet many aim amiss or do not aim at all and are like parasites on others. These men should be pitied. Swinnerton then lists things he does not want:
- a life of gaiety
- innumerable acquaintances
- people to sing “for he’s a jolly good fellow”
Wealth has no value and breeds insincere friends. Fame lacks privacy, brings judgement and breeds pomposity and tyrants. Poverty gave Swinnerton a good spirit and he was able to land a job with a publish company, J.M Dent and Co., a job which honed his insights into human character. He realized his dreams about living in a cottage, writing “goodish” novels and marrying for love. He has good friends, the best, in fact, a good nature and because he is not labelled among the popular authors, is able to write what he wants.
Now we get to the title. What does Swinnerton demand of life?
- moderate security
- affections of those dear to him
- some leisure
“That is the whole point. No man can be satisfied with his attainment, although he may be satisfied with his circumstances …… I have been returning thanks to good fortune. I have been betraying perhaps, a readiness to be pleased with small results.”
“I do not demand to be happy, because I expect — on a basis of experience — to be happy. Is not happiness the most satisfactory of all possessions? …. when I come to die I shall be able — in spirit at least — to repeat the memorable last words of William Hazlitt ….. ‘Well, I’ve had a happy life.’ Which of us — uncertain travellers as we are upon uncharted ways — can ask to say more? Not I.”
I supposed the fewer expectations we have, the less chance of being disappointed. There is something to be said for appreciating our lives as they are. However, I’m not certain if I am in complete agreement with Swinnerton’s approach to life. What about you? Is it better to accept mediocrity and be happy or to strive for higher ideals and perhaps encounter more dissatisfaction and strife but also maybe experience more intense joy and satisfaction?
Deal Me In Challenge 2018 #2 ~ Queen of Spades