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 There is, however, a third form of the fundamental question which is less unanswerable than the two forms already mentioned. The plain man may be excused for his remarkable1 indifference2 as to what his labour and his tedium3 will gain for him “later on,” when “later on” means beyond the grave or thirty years hence. But we live also in the present, and if proper existence is a compromise between the claims of the present and the claims of the future the present must be considered, and the plain man ought surely to ask himself the fundamental question in such a form as the following: “I am now—this morning—engaged in something rather tiresome4. What do I stand to gain by it this evening, to-morrow, this week—next week?” In this form the fundamental question, once put, can be immediately answered by experience and by experiment.  
But does the plain man put it? I mean—does he put it seriously and effectively? I think that very often, if not as a general rule, he does not. He may—in fact he does—gloomily and savagely6 mutter: “What pleasure do I get out of life?” But he fails to insist on a clear answer from himself, and even if he obtains a clear answer—even if he makes the candid7 admission, “No pleasure,” or “Not enough pleasure”—even then he usually does not insist on modifying his life in accordance with the answer. He goes on ignoring all the interesting towns and oases8 on the way to his Timbuctoo. Excessively uncertain about future joy, and too breathlessly preoccupied9 to think about joy in the present, he just drives obstinately10 ahead, rather like a person in a trance. Singular conduct for a plain man priding himself on common sense!
For the case of the plain man, conscientious11 and able, can only too frequently be summed up thus: Faced with the problem of existence, which is the problem of combining the largest possible amount of present satisfaction with the largest possible amount of security in the future, he has educated himself generally, and he has educated himself specially12 for a particular profession or trade; he has adopted the profession or trade, with all its risks and responsibilities—risks and responsibilities which often involve the felicity of others; he has bound himself to it for life, almost irrevocably; he labours for it so many hours a day, and it occupies his thoughts for so many hours more. Further, in the quest of satisfaction, he has taken a woman to wife and has had children. And here it is well to note frankly13 that his prime object in marrying was not the woman’s happiness, but his own, and that the children came, not in order that they might be jolly little creatures, but as extensions of the father’s individuality. The home, the environment gradually constructed for these secondary beings, constitutes another complex organization, which he superimposes on the complex organization of his profession or trade, and his brain has to carry and vitalize the two of them. All his energies are absorbed, and they are absorbed so utterly14 that once a year he is obliged to take a holiday lest he should break down, and even the organization of the holiday is complex and exhausting.
Now assuming—a tremendous assumption!—that by all this he really is providing security for the future, what conscious direct, personal satisfaction in the present does the onerous15 programme actually yield? I admit that it yields the primitive16 satisfaction of keeping body and soul together. But a Hottentot in a kraal gets the same satisfaction at less expense. I admit also that it ought theoretically to yield the conscious satisfaction which accompanies any sustained effort of the faculties17. I deny that in fact it does yield this satisfaction, for the reason that the man is too busy ever to examine the treasures of his soul. And what else does it yield? For what other immediate5 end is the colossal18 travail19 being accomplished20?
Well, it may, and does, occur that the plain man is practising physical and intellectual calisthenics, and running a vast business and sending ships and men to the horizons of the earth, and keeping a home in a park, and oscillating like a rapid shuttle daily between office and home, and lying awake at nights, and losing his eyesight and his digestion21, and staking his health, and risking misery22 for the beings whom he cherishes, and enriching insurance companies, and providing joy-rides for nice young women whom he has never seen—and all his present profit therefrom is a game of golf with a free mind once a fortnight, or half an hour’s intimacy23 with his wife and a free mind once a week or so, or a ten minutes’ duel24 with that daughter of his and a free mind on an occasional evening! Nay25, it may occur that after forty years of incessant26 labour, in answer to an inquiry27 as to where the genuine conscious fun comes in, he has the right only to answer: “Well, when I have time, I take the dog out for a walk. I enjoy larking28 with the dog.”
The estimable plain man, with his horror of self-examination, is apt to forget the immediate end of existence in the means. And so much so, that when the first distant end—that of a secure old age—approaches achievement, he is incapable29 of admitting it to be achieved, and goes on worrying and worrying about the means—from simple habit! And when he does admit the achievement of the desired end, and abandons the means, he has so badly prepared himself to relish30 the desired end that the mere31 change kills him! His epitaph ought to read: “Here lies the plain man of common sense, whose life was all means and no end.”
A remedy will be worth finding.

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