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Chapter 4 THE CULT OF PLEASURE

  • Certain predictions in the foregoing chapter will have suggested to all wh_ccept them that the cultivation of pleasure must occupy a large part of th_nergy of the new age. From the moment when men, sufficiently astute an_urposeful to accumulate enormous fortunes if they were permitted to do so,
  • are required by law to desist from useless and injurious money-getting, a vas_mount of ingenuity will be diverted to the development of the useless. Th_kill expended upon money-making—and let it be admitted frankly that, howeve_nscrupulous one may be, it is not easy to become a millionaire—will be turne_o the task, almost equally difficult, of spending it satisfactorily. We ma_onsider it as practically certain that the pleasures of the new age will b_argely intellectual in their nature. The stupidity of merely sensua_leasures will revolt the intelligence of the future. Athletic sports of som_ind, facilitated by certain inventions which can easily be foreseen, will n_oubt be a source of much enjoyment, though the growing gentleness of mankin_ill abolish, as barbarous, games which take the form of modified assault, a_ootball, boxing, wrestling, fencing and the like. We shall certainly acquir_ great distaste for fighting in any form when growing humanitarianism shal_ave put an end to war—a development which may confidently be predicted fo_he present century. Similarly—"Am I God, to kill and to make alive?"—we shal_ease to take life for our amusement; as, for sentimental and other reasons,
  • it has been shown that we shall cease to kill for food.
  • What then will be our games ? One of the most likely instruments of sport wil_o doubt be the small flying-machine. It is not in the least probable, so fa_s can at present be foreseen, that purely aerial and self-directed vehicle_or purposes of travel or transportation will be a feature of the ne_ivilisation. The dangers and inconvenience of large aerostats are les_ccidents of imperfect invention than inherent difficulties of the subject. I_s very probable that some means of propelling self-supported vehicles betwee_uideways may be discovered. But, as it is not at all likely that any means o_uspending the effect of air-resistance can ever be devised, a flying-machin_ust always be slow and cumbersome. Travel and transportation, to b_ttractive in the new age, must be rapid in the extreme. Ships no doubt wil_kim the surface of the sea instead of resting upon it. But air-ships are no_ery likely to be anything but a sort of vast toy, within, at all events, th_ext hundred years.
  • But, as a means of amusement, the idea of aerial travel has great promise.
  • Small one-man flying-machines, or the aerial counterpart of tandem bicycles,
  • will no doubt be common enough. We shall fly for pleasure; and just a_housands of working: men and women now take a Saturday-afternoon spin on _icycle, so they will go for a sky-trip, and visit interesting mountain-top_or (non-alcoholic) picnics. The bicycle or the motor-cycle will perhaps b_he point of development. It is quite certain that within the next ten o_ifteen years some means will have been discovered by which we can ride on _ingle wheel. The saving of weight thus effected will go a long way toward_urmounting the flight problem. Then, when motor-unicycles are presentl_ropelled by force transmitted (in the same way as Marconi's telegrams) from _ixed power-house, the difficulty of flight will be within sight of an eas_olution. Any competent mechanician of the present day could design a flying-
  • machine if the mere weight of the motive appliance could be overcome. When th_otor is fixed on _terra firma_ , and the vehicle only needs to carry a devic_or utilising the aetheric waves which the source of power wirelessl_ransmits, flight will be at least as simple a matter as wireless telegraph_s to-day.
  • When it is possible to cross the Atlantic in a day by means of surface-ridin_hips, propelled, like the flying-machines, by setheric force, the field o_musement will be vastly increased, and although (as I shall show) it will n_onger be necessary to travel in order to " see the sights " of any part o_he world, the pleasure of being present at the actual events of life i_ifferent countries will probably never pall. So long as any parts of th_orld remain comparatively unfamiliar, young men and maidens will love travel.
  • When it is possible, wrapped in warm woollens and provided with portabl_eating-appliances, to pay a short visit to the Arctic circle and enjoy th_atchless spectacle of the Aurora Borealis amid the awe-compelling obscuritie_f the Polar night: when, with even less inconvenience, we can take a trip t_he tropics and witness, here the unchangeable processes of Nature'_uxuriance, there the perhaps immutable conservatism of the East, the ne_eisure of the coming time will have great stores of recreation for thos_appy enough to live in the dawning twenty-first century.
  • The more distinctively intellectual pleasures of the new age will be muc_ubserved by one class of invention, of which the rudiments already exist. B_eans of the phonograph we are able, not very perfectly, to reproduce as ofte_s we desire sounds created in favourable circumstances. By various kinds o_ineto-scope we can reproduce a rudimentary sort of picture of an event whic_as taken place in a good light. But when the phonograph has been developed,
  • when moving pictures have been perfected, what a vast implement of amusemen_ay be foreseen! Each of these inventions is comparatively new. If we imagin_he discovery of means, developed from the phonograph, by which any sound_hich have once existed in the presence of a recording machine can b_eproduced at will, not in a makeshift sort of way, but without any loss o_imbre and quality, with perfect articulation where articulation is necessary,
  • with exactly correct time-regulationautomatically determined by the firs_nunciation, and all this cheaply and compendiously, what vast resources o_ultured enjoyment are offered to the lover of music! How many people, denie_he pleasure of learning to understand good music by the difficulties an_xertion attendant upon our infrequent and expensive concerts, will becom_rue lovers and appreciators of it! For music is only to be really enjoyed b_he average man when it is repeatedly heard, repeatedly considered. Certainl_he people of the new age will be epicures of the emotions which comprehende_usic is so nobly capable of stirring.
  • No doubt the new age will have solved, in a far more satisfactory way than w_ave been able to solve as yet, the problem of chromatic photography. Whe_olour influences photographic plates or some contrivance substituted fo_hem, not indirectly by a mechanical Sorting-out of tints, but by affectin_irectly the optical properties of the plates or whatever may succeed plates,
  • we shall have marvellously accurate pictures. [[6]](footnotes.xml#footnote_6)
  • Nor is this all. The kinetoscope, as at present exhibited under variou_npleasing names, is imperfect in two ways : first because it is powerless t_eproduce colour, and secondly because it o-ives at best a mere magic-lanter_icture violently out of focus, and by its pulsatory motion horribl_istressing to the eyes. Chromatic photography will overcome the forme_ifficulty. When we find out how to increase greatly the receptive rapidity o_hotographic emulsion without spoiling what photographers call the "grain" o_t; or when we have improved, as we every year are improving, the optica_ualities of lenses, we shall be able to have our pictures in focus. Th_istressing flicker of moving pictures is an objection purely mechanical i_ts cause. But when, as they will be in a few years, all these objection_xcept the first have been removed, and even when we have colour-photograph_n a true sense of the word, there will still remain one field to conquer. W_ust have, instead of moving pictures, something which represents all object_s solid. The difference is the difference between an ordinary photograph an_ highly-improved stereoscopic picture magnified to life-size. When thes_dvantages are attained it will be possible to represent, exactly as i_appened, any event which has been suitably photographed.
  • The utility of this as a means of intelligent amusement will be at onc_erceived. Imagine the theatre of the future. Probably it will not be beyon_he means of the rich, even when restrained from over-possession as it i_vident that they must be, to have theatre-rooms in their own houses. But th_asses will no doubt go to the theatre much as they do now. Only instead o_eeing a company of actors and actresses, more or less mediocre, engaged i_he degrading task of repeating time after time the same words, the sam_estures, the same actions, they will see the performance of a complete "star"
  • company, as once enacted at its very best, reproduced as often as it may b_anted, the perfected kinetoscope exhibiting the spectacle of the stage, th_alking machine and the phonograph (doubtless differentiated) renderin_erfectly the voices of the actors and the music of the orchestra. There wil_e no need for the employment of inferior actors in the small parts. As th_roduction of any play will only demand that it be worked up to the point o_erfection and then performed once, there will be no difficulty in securin_he most perfect rendering that it is capable of. The actor's art will b_mmensely elevated, not only by his relief from the drudgery of repeate_erformance and by the leisure thus afforded him for study and reflection, bu_lso by the removal of what is keenly felt by all players of sensibility an_mbition as one of the greatest drawbacks of the stage. We are accustomed t_he actor's complaint that whereas the author, the sculptor, the painter, th_omposer of music, makes for himself a fame imperishable as the products o_is art, the actor frets his hour and disappears from the stage, to b_romptly forgotten by an ungrateful public. Well, the actor's art, like th_rt of the executant musician, will have the endowment of permanency. An_here will be a magnificent opportunity for the actor as artist, in that h_ill be able to compare himself and his fellows with the actors who are dea_nd can act no more. It is probably true that Irving is the greatest acto_ince Garrick, but who can prove it ? The actor's art is transient to-day : i_ill be permanent, it will be classical, in the next century. By this fact no_nly will the pleasures of the theatre be made cheap, convenient and varied,
  • but the art of the theatre will be vastly improved.
  • Just as the actor will be spared the drudgery of mechanical, parrotlik_epetition, so the indifferent maidens of the new age will have no need t_aste their time in learning to play upon musical instruments more or les_mperfectly. No doubt some who are not professional musicians will do so fo_heir own pleasure. But the professional executant himself will cease, lik_he actor, to rank as a sort of superior harlequin or performing animal,
  • exhibiting his powers for the diversion of an assembled public. What he ha_nce played can, if he choose, be constantly repeated. The executant will b_aid by a royalty on each reproduction, when he is wise. Less prudent artist_ill sell their records for a lump sum, just as the unthrifty author sells hi_opyrights. But let it be noted that, on the assumption that the reproductio_s perfect, the evolution above predicted is a highly artistic one. Instead o_he executant or singer being judged by his performance on an occasion whe_atigue, illness or unfavourable circumstances may militate against hi_erfect success, when the nerve-shattering conditions of the platform probabl_n any case offend his susceptibilities and detract from the perfection of hi_erformance, he will be able to found his reputation upon the very bes_erformance he is capable of. He will be able to try and try again in th_rivacy of his study. When he has satisfied himself, and then alone, will h_ublish his artistic effort to the world. He can destroy as man_nsatisfactory records as he pleases, just as the sculptor can break up hi_lay when he has not succeeded, just as the painter can paint out his pictur_hen it has not pleased him, and be judged only by his best.
  • It would be ignoring the most obvious characteristics of mankind to suppos_hat the pleasures of the new age will be limited to a mere mechanica_evelopment of those which we enjoy at present. There can be no doubt that ne_elights will be invented. With a general improvement in intelligence and i_he standard of comfort; with a moneyed class compelled, by the enactment_hich we have imagined, to enjoy a considerable accession of leisure ; wit_onditions which will, as we have hoped, reduce materially the necessary hour_f labour for the worker ; with some of the most engrossing amusements of th_resent age abolished for sentimental reasons ; we may take it for grante_hat a great demand for new recreations will develop. Some of thes_onsiderations might easily give us pause. We might perhaps fear tha_ice—either the extension of existing vices or (if that indeed be possible)
  • the invention of new ones—might be a terrifying problem of the next century,
  • if we had not foreseen, concurrently with the other developments anticipated,
  • a marked moral improvement in human nature. There is in the calculations o_he pessimist and the reactionary no fallacy more mischievous than the oft-
  • recited aphorism that human nature is the same in all places and at all times.
  • That is precisely what human nature is not. Spectacles which delighted ancien_ome would revolt modern civilisation. Spectacles which are still keenl_njoyed in Spain would revolt England or the United States, and probabl_waken the activity of the police. Human morality has demonstrably advanced i_istoric time : it has very perceptibly advanced, as I showed in an earlie_hapter,[[7]](footnotes.xml#footnote_7) during the nineteenth century. But th_mprovement in this respect which the next hundred years will show must, i_ll human probability, greatly excel that of the past time. And thus, though _ane and reasonable anticipation will not exclude the possibility o_egrettable accidents in the future moral history of mankind, it will als_egard them as probably transient. The vices regarded as incident t_omplicated civilisations have perhaps been too hastily considered by-
  • despairing moralists. Vice is essentially stupid. It is only in occasional, i_poradic instances that we are presented with the terrible spectacle of grea_ntelligences depraved by gross immorality and animalism : and even then, thi_ombination is only possible where a high degree of culture is in contact wit_ widespread unintelligence. Most likely it will be found, when the abstrac_aws of vice come to be mapped out with more exactness than, so far as I a_ware, they have yet been, that the degeneracies and immoralities of greatly-
  • civilised ages are in reality only the product of luxury seated upo_egradation. The French moralists of the eighteenth century had a glimmerin_f this in their idyllic pictures of reformed society, when the old moralit_f the simple life was to return with the abolition of oligarchic splendou_nd popular misery.
  • In one direction we may see means by which intelligent recreation may b_upposed capable of vast developments. Already the study of the psychical sid_f man has been the means of extraordinary discoveries. Our knowledge o_ypnotism, suggestion, thought-transference and similar psychological wonders,
  • obscured though it has unhappily been by charlatanism and the importation int_he subject of irrelevant follies, has great promise for the future man, whos_sychical faculties will unquestionably develop at the expense of his anima_nstincts. It is hardly possible to limit our conception of the means by whic_hought will be communicated in the next century, but we may see just wher_he change will probably come. A printed essay, such as this, is obviously _uccessive translation of thought into words (in the brain), then of the word_nto letters, and then of letters into type, which is picked up by the eye,
  • retranslated into words by one part of the brain, and finally transmuted int_hought again in another part. If some method can be discovered of abolishin_ne or more of these processes, thought can be conveyed from brain to brain a_n enormously increased pace, and with a delicacy of which we have no presen_onception. This development is not so inconceivable as it at first appears.
  • We know as yet almost nothing of the processes by which (for instance)
  • vibration, accepted by the ear as sound, is, in the brain-cells behind th_ar, converted into thought. Speech and writing are purely conventiona_evices. If, instead of using these conventions, we can learn to transmi_deas immediately from brain to brain, the next step may be an extraordinar_evelopment of intellectual pleasures, in the case of those individuals whos_astes are capable of thus being ministered to. But to say this is not t_mply that the ordinary means of human intercommunication will be dispense_ith. For most occasions, and for all but the subtlest and most refine_ecessities of thought, no doubt books, newspapers and letters will remain _eature of everyday life—though of course with such modifications as th_rogress of the century will have called forth. The future of the newspaper i_articular is a subject of such great importance that It requires to b_iscussed In detail.